Nal’ibali—the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, launched a new billboard campaign to generate awareness and discussion around the power of stories to spark all children’s potential. Building on the simple logic that a well-established culture of reading can be a real game-changer for education in South Africa, the campaign seeks to inspire and motivate parents and caregivers to give their children a head-start in life, by making reading and storytelling a part of daily life.
“Even if you can’t read, you can still tell stories to children. Stories spark those parts of their brains concerned with imagination, emotion, sensation and movement, and create the neural circuits that ultimately enable sophisticated thinking and reasoning,” explains David Harrison, CEO of the DG Murray Trust, which is the primary funder of the Nal’ibali campaign. “As research has shown, children who read for pleasure, perform better in the classroom, and not just in vocabulary and spelling, but also in Maths. And stories are a great way to get children interested in books and reading, starting from birth.”
In calling for parent and caregiver involvement in children’s literacy learning, the new billboard series moves away from the idea that literacy learning can only take place at school – and only in English.
“Many parents and primary caregivers don’t realise how important their teaching role is with their children – they feel it’s the responsibility of school to do all the teaching. Yet sharing stories, which all families can do, is an essential literacy learning building block,” explains Carole Bloch, director of PRAESA, which is driving the Nal’ibali campaign together with partners. In fact, according to the South African Book Development Council, only 5% of parents in South Africa read to their children.
“Making regular story times with children, is an investment in their education and future,” adds Bloch, “Families grow together through their stories, sharing things like values, life lessons, language and knowledge. By reading and sharing stories, a sense of continuity and shared culture happens in stress-free ways while children get to enjoy themselves with the adults they love.”
The series of billboards, illustrated by Rico of ‘Madam and Eve’ fame, depict three scenes that symbolise how helping children to develop an interest in books and reading can not only be enjoyable for adults and children alike, but also can be done with children of every age, including babies. The illustrations tap into the growing body of research that indicates how reading for pleasure can put one on the path to educational success, irrespective of social background and circumstance.
Just over 500 billboards have been erected nationwide, with taglines translated into the predominant languages of the provinces and locations in which they are found. “We are using African languages and English to help ensure everyone appreciates Nal’ibali’s messages,” says Bloch. “Telling stories and reading regularly to children in home languages provides strong foundations not just for learning to read; but for learning another language like English and for ALL learning.”
Aside from featuring in townships, rural areas and cities, the billboards have also been transformed into short animated clips that will be aired daily for the next four months in 10 taxi ranks across the country. The release of the billboards will also be supported by a second season of Nal’ibali radio stories in partnership with SABC Education, a major supporter of the ‘Story Power. Bring it home.’ campaign. The stories are broadcast three times a week in all 11 official languages across SABC public radio stations.
“Reaching beyond the limitations of physical services and centre-based education, radio offers the perfect platform to interact, engage, inform and effectively educate listeners in their first languages, straight into their homes,” says Tshilidzi Davhana, Commissioning Editor of SABC Education. “It is still the most accessible medium for both urban and rural citizens, and with more than 28 million adults listening to these stations weekly, it can therefore assist in making change happen more quickly.”
Finally, the campaign has been designed to connect the public to the Nal’ibali website, mobisite and weekly bilingual newspaper supplement, which provide adults with access to literacy tips, support and activities as well as children’s stories in a range of South African languages. Nal’ibali Literacy Mentors on the ground will also offer ‘Story Power’ workshops, info sessions and community dialogues throughout the duration of the campaign, including the provision of support to the parents of children who attend Nal’ibali’s network of more than 300 reading clubs in 6 provinces.
You can read more about Nal’ibali here.