Overjoyed at their unexpected success, the ten young pupils who make up Nkanyezi Primary School’s first-ever reading club, Siyafunda, happily accepted the shield announcing their first-place win at the Story Powered Schools interschool-reading-club competition at the Ekuvukeni Community Hall in Uthukela.
Competing against reading clubs from across 12 other primary schools in the second and final round, adjudicators said the level of competition was unexpectedly high, given that this is the first year the contest has been run.
“The confidence in the children and the passion in their teachers shows a lot of what is happening back at the schools. This is remarkable and certainly not what we were expecting,” commented Nontobeko Dlamini, a development practitioner and member of the Uthukela District Municipality.
Not only were the clubs scored on their dedication to reading, writing and storytelling over the year, they were asked to put together displays of their creative work including examples of their writing and drawing; favourite isiZulu and English books; and give literacy-related performances to demonstrate their typical reading-club activities too.
Said Miss Hlatshwayo, a teacher at Nkanyezi Primary School and leader of the winning club: “We did not expect to win! We started the clubs in earlier in the year – it was our first one and it has been a group effort between myself, my colleagues and the community members that support us. But, really, it has been the children who have turned reading into a lifestyle. Their thirst for reading and stories in unstoppable!”
Established by the national Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign’s school’s project, Story Powered Schools, to help root a culture of reading for joy in rural primary schools, the contest is also being run in Ugu, and in Mbizana and Maluti in the Eastern Cape.
Research has shown a direct link between reading for pleasure and children’s school success with children who read on a regular basis doing better in all school subjects including Maths.
Said Michael Cekiso, Story Powered Schools Programme Manager: “A well-rooted culture of reading can be real gamechanger for education in South Africa. We have been working with over 240 rural schools this year to introduce them to the magic and power of reading and storytelling in home languages. The interschool-reading-club competition is a way for these clubs to connect and meet and further inspire each other.”
And the joy of the learners is tangible. Said ten-year-old Alondwe Magudulela: “Our reading club is a fun, free space where we do all our activities in a way we are comfortable in. We won because we love what we do in our club!”
Story Powered Schools is a Nal’ibali initiative endorsed by the Department of Basic Education and made possible by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Story Powered Schools aims to spark learners’ potential and unlock their school success through reading and storytelling by placing stories at the heart of classrooms and schools. For more information about the campaign or the power of reading and storytelling, visit: www.nalibali.org and www.nalibali.mobi.