According to a survey conducted by Stats SA in 2011, 7.1% of South Africa’s population could read and write, but this figure was based on the ability to read and write short sentences and fill in forms.
This means that at the time of the survey, 2.643 million South African adults experienced difficulty reading, or could not read at all.
Understanding that reading and literacy can open doors to opportunity, Tebogo Ditshego, chief executive at Ditshego Media, started the South African Reading Foundation in early 2012 to address South Africa’s literacy problem.
“We can become as great as we want to be, but it all starts with a book,” said Ditshego, speaking at the World Book Day Read a Book SA event at the University of the Witwatersrand on 23 April.
Since 1997 World Book Day has celebrated authors, illustrators, and books, and more importantly, reading and its importance in education and literacy.
Organised by the South African Reading Foundation through its Read a Book SA campaign, and in conjunction with Brand South Africa and Play Your Part, the event attracted local personalities to share their love of reading, and inspire a love of reading in others.
Actors Nomzamo Mbatha and Masego “Maps” Maponyane; media personality, Pearl Modiadie; social entrepreneur and One Young World ambassador, Luvuyo Mandela; National Youth Development Agency executive chairperson, Yershen Pillay; and writer and entrepreneur, Kojo Baffoe all contributed their stories on how reading helped mould their intellects, and how important reading is to fulfilling South Africa’s potential.
WHY READING IS IMPORTANT
“Reading and literacy are critically important because they add value and credence to a knowledge economy,” says Brand South Africa’s director of strategic marketing, Wendy Tlou.
“A reading nation is a nation that is informed; it is a nation that is curious; it is a nation that is opinionated; but it is also a nation that does, and moves away from just thinking but actually doing.
“Through this event we aim to help more South Africans discover the joys of reading and further highlight the importance of reading”, she said, adding, “For me reading has been, and still is, the only journey I take when I want to transport myself to a different world.”
At the event she concluded by urging students to “Welcome reading, use reading as a source of strength and a source of confidence, use written words to form and create your opinions because your opinion matters,” adding that “Our struggle is no longer one of political freedom; it’s a struggle for intellectual freedom.”
To learn more about World Book Day and the Read a Book SA campaign, follow the South African Reading Foundation @ReadabookSA on twitter.