The Reading Day event that took place at Confidence College in the Pretoria CBD on Friday, 15 October, was aimed at inspiring learners to read and add meaning to text in an interactive, fun, and creative way. This event was organized by our partner in South Africa, Dr. Mia le Roux (Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, University of Pretoria), the board member of the Gauteng branch of the Literacy Association of South Africa (Litasa) in collaboration with Mrs Anélize van Eeden (principal of Confidence College) and Dr. Renata Eccles (fourth-year Speech-Language Pathology practical module coordinator in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, UP). Dr. Le Roux and Dr. Bernice Badal (English Department, UNISA, and chair of the Gauteng branch of Litasa), attended the event at the school and took part in the activities.
The students of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, UP, facilitated the activities with the grade RR to grade 7 classes. The events per class started with a song, a rhyme or a brief game focused on the story followed by the story being read. The learners then had the opportunity to do various fun educational activities relating to the different stories read.
The characters in the stories came alive amongst drawings, crowns, cowboy hats, hen- and goat masks, spiderwebs, and many more. In turn, the school came alive with splashes of color in different hues flashing by as busy feet, minds, ears, and hands moved to the rhythm and rhyme of the words making them come alive in a memorable way.
The principal, Mrs. Van Eeden, said that “the atmosphere was loaded with excitement since the Monday prior to the actual event”. On Friday, she was wearing a story character dress with drawings made by herself and painted by the learners. The staff and learners dressed up in various costumes each relating to a specific story being read per class. Everybody involved felt that it was a highly successful event. Dr. Badal offered special thanks to the principal and staff “who showed us that growing up does not mean that we need to forget that learning is fun”. She continued to thank the students from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, UP, who prepared and executed all the activities with passion and dedication. She concluded by thanking the sponsors of the event, the World Literacy Foundation (WLF), Sun Books, and Tobias, saying that the Gauteng branch of Litasa is grateful to all the key players that made this day possible and hope that many similar events will take place in future.
Dr. Le Roux mentioned that fostering lifelong literacy is often forgotten in the drive to improve the literacy skills of Foundation Phase learners. However, the need to be competent readers never stops; in fact, it becomes more important as learners enter higher grades and the need for reading and understanding complex academic text increases. This event by the Gauteng branch of Litasa is therefore seen as the first of many, especially as the principal of the school expressed the hope that the Reading Day will be repeated on a yearly basis.
The students involved stated that one must never forget that literacy forms the foundation of academic success. They mentioned that participating in the Reading Day at Confidence College was a privilege and working with the learners was extremely exciting and rewarding. The final year Speech-Language Pathology students also conducted hearing screening on 33 children with the support of a Master’s audiology student. There are plans to conduct hearing screening on more children from Confidence College next year. This community engagement project allowed the students from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, UP, to accumulate much needed practical hours. Dr. Eccles observed that the students had the opportunity to have fun within their professional training. She continued to say that the students “got a chance to remember the reason they do all this hard work and the difference they can make!”.
Finally, Prof Jeannie van der Linde, head of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at UP concluded with the following statement: “As a department, we strive to improve the literacy of our children to ensure that they have the capacity to excel academically. Book reading from an early age is one of the best ways of improving literacy abilities in young children. Fostering a love for reading is, therefore, the name of the game.”