Family Literacy Project encourages to read together

(… by Lynn Stefano, director of family literacy project in kwazulu, south africa. It is material for the early literacy education-conference next week (12-14/3/13) in leipzig, here for the panel social parameters (13/3/13 10 a.m.) for reading and writing. See also posts below about the example of india and discussion points of the panelists.)

The Family Literacy Project works in 15 deeply rural villages in the Sisonke District. We facilitate adult literacy groups, as well as groups for teens and foundation phase children.

family literacy project in kwazulu
family literacy project in kwazulu

We encourage participants to develop a love of reading and books, to engage in discussions on topics that are important to them, and to bring about positive change in their daily lives. Other important aims are to encourage families to read together, and to build the confidence of parents to help their children develop their early literacy skills even if the parents have low literacy themselves. All of this is done in a relaxed a fun way, with lots of interesting games, songs and dance to make the session lively and physical.

Book Clubs to borrow reading stuff

The book clubs came about when adults came to the literacy sessions and started telling each other about the books that they had borrowed and read at home. We then started formal ‘book club’ sessions in the literacy groups. Participants are encouraged to borrow books to read for themselves and to read to their children. During literacy sessions FLP facilitators read to the group. We discovered through Elda Lyster and Sonya Keyser how much adults enjoy being read to. It is also important for adults to see and hear good reading modelled for them, so that they in turn can read in ways that is captivating for young children.

"Ask lots of questions to encourage imagination"
„Ask lots of questions to encourage imagination“

We encourage our members to read through our Road to Reading Maps. Once a child has read a prescribed number of books they receive a small gift. The child has to tell the facilitator the story, or draw a picture of the story to show that they have in fact read the book. In the past Mr Price and Exclusive Books have given us prizes. We also raise funds to enable us to buy small gifts. This year we bought hankies from Pep Stores. We were surprised to see that the children were delighted with the hankies, in spite of them having received expensive caps from Mr Price the previous year.

Small Gifts for Readings

Each year we also run a Road to Reading map campaign for adults in September to coincide with Literacy month. If adults have read 10 books to their children during the month they receive a face cloth and bar of soap. When new literacy groups start with us they think 10 books is not achievable, but the groups that have been meeting for a number of years usually read more than 10 books during the month.

Book club sessions include facilitators reading to children, children reading in pairs or in small groups, occasionally we get children to read quietly alone, children draw pictures of the stories they hear. When facilitators read to children they do many of the following activities:

– Show the cover and ask what the children think the story is about
– Explain about the author

Ask lots of questions to encourage imagination, eg what children expect is about to happen, whether they have had similar experiences, whether they know someone who is similar to the hero or villain in the story, etc. Also questions about how they would like the story to end if they could rewrite the story and so on.

It is important to have a good range of books in mother tongue. Books in other languages, for instance English books for Zulu speaking children, are fine but these should not be the only books available. If children and adults have difficulty reading they can tell their own story based on the pictures.
For us the books are not about trying to improve children’s’ reading scores or working hard to improve reading. The books clubs are a time for having fun, enjoying reading together. The emphasis is on people discovering the joy of reading and stories. Our facilitators work is to encourage and support people on this journey.
For more information about our literacy groups and reading clubs, visit