Congratulations to Canon Collins scholar Hlengiwe Ndhlovu (PhD Industrial Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand) whose “Reading for Tomorrow” project, which seeks to encourage South African children from all backgrounds to develop their literacy skills and to read for pleasure, was selected by her fellow-scholars as the winner of this year’s Impact Award.
Since 2015, scholars have had the opportunity to pitch their social justice initiatives to their peers at our annual Scholars’ Conference, with the project receiving most votes awarded R30, 000 in funding from the Trust. The award is always extremely competitive and this year was no different with a number of deserving projects from across the southern African region submitted for consideration.
The “Reading for Tomorrow” project brings together young children from primary and high schools in Johannesburg, from both privileged and disadvantaged homes, to read and discuss novels. The project, started in October 2016, was inspired by Hlengiwe’s own experiences of struggling with reading when she first entered university, having lacked access to novels when growing up. She aims to promote a culture of reading for pleasure, while learners also develop their basic literacy skills and become more familiar with African literature. The Impact Award funding will assist in expanding the library so that they can buy more books and reach out to a wider network of children. Hlengiwe also has plans to expand the project to the Eastern Cape.
“I did not grow up reading for pleasure because we did not have any novels at home and we never had that reading culture instilled in us. After struggling with reading after starting university, I realized that I could have benefited if I had developed my reading skills at an earlier age. I decided to start a reading project to help kids acquire and develop their reading skills while they are still young.
I do not believe that reading has a particular background. Children, whether rich or poor, all need to be encouraged develop their reading skills.
It is important that children of Africa are exposed to African literature so that they will gain greater understanding of African histories, cultures and social practices. This is particularly important now as we are grappling with issues of patriarchy and colonial forms of oppression. Also in decolonizing our system of education, young children need to be made aware that Africans, and women in particular, are, and have always been knowledge producers and story tellers.
The Impact Award funding will make a big contribution towards expanding the project library. We will be able to buy many more books and therefore can invite several more children to join the reading club in Johannesburg. Additionally, we plan to expand the project to the informal settlement of Duncan Village, East London, where I am doing my fieldwork. I have recruited two volunteers to run this reading group and we will be exchanging the books between the two provinces. Thanks to the Canon Collins Impact Award for making this possible.”