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    The winner of Joy of Reading award 2019

    Nal'ibali - Reading for Enjoyment Campaign, South Africa


    Director from Nal'ibali received the Joy of Reading Award in Denmark

    woman with a buket of flowers

    “When you work hard and are passionate about a good cause, you often forget to stop and look up to see what’s been accomplished. Winning the Joy of Reading Award was a welcome opportunity to reflect on the results that the many hours, long days and the good teamwork have resulted in,” explained Nal’ibali director Jade Jacobsohn, after receiving the award at the bi-annual international Next Library® conference, in Aarhus, Denmark.

    Nal’ibali means “Here is the story” in isiXhosa – one of the 11 official languages of South Africa.

    The project is based on the fact that everybody has a story to tell – regardless of whether you know how to read or write. And such storytelling is the key to building a strong reading culture. The project therefore focuses on storytelling and reading as natural parts of everyday life.

    Apartheid gave rise to widespread illiteracy

    Nal’ibali produces and distributes stories for children in different languages and enables children and adolescents to participate in one of the 3700 reading clubs the project has established in nine of South Africa’s provinces. By the end of 2018, more than 140,000 children were attending Nal’ibali reading clubs and nearly half a million books had been distributed to children and families via the project.

    Unfortunately, all this is badly needed. The latest study of South African children’s reading skills shows that 78% of all fourth-grade children are unable to read and understand the meaning of a text in any language. Part of the reason, according to Jade Jacobsohn, lies in the legacy of the apartheid regime’s oppression of the African population, including the repression of those cultures and languages.

    Good reading habits start at home

    As the largest reading campaign in south Africa, Nal’ibali makes illustrated stories and audiobooks available online and in print to guide families and caregivers on strengthening storytelling and reading habits in children, adolescents and the family in general.

    “Children are influenced by their parents’ focus and habits in everyday life. Nal’ibali is doing a wonderful job helping families to establish good reading habits as part of their everyday lives. Implementing storytelling and the joy of reading at home will benefit the children greatly throughout their lives,” explains jury chairperson Marian Morgan-Bindon, who is also the head of the libraries in Oxfordshire County Council in the UK.

    The ability to read opens doors

    Danish software company Systematic, one of whose activities involves developing library solutions, is behind the Joy of Reading Award, which was set up to recognise international initiatives that work to spread the pleasure of reading and to bring an end to illiteracy.

    “The ability to read is a door-opener to a wealth of opportunities in life, and it is important that children are told stories and learn to reflect on the stories they are presented with, right from a very young age. Nal’ibali is a very fine example of a reading project with just this kind of focus,” explains Michael Holm, CEO of Systematic.

    The purpose of the Nal’bali - Reading for Enjoyment Campaign is to fundamentally change the reading culture in South Africa – one story at a time. It has been running since 2012, and 20% of all South Africans are thought to have since been in contact with the project.

    28 projects worldwide applied competed to win this year's Systematic - Joy of Reading award, and only six projects were nominated. 

    What made the jury agree on the Na’libali project as the winner of the award?

    The jury especially liked the way this project:

    • Focuses on the parent as a role model for reading
    • Creates conditions for children to develop a love of reading
    • Focuses on all ages, from babies to older high-school children
    • Features a broad conception of material that can stimulate the joy of reading (games, songs and oral storytelling)
    • Recognises the power of communities to make a difference
    • Ensures a sustained impact across a broad spectrum of contexts
    • Focuses on the impact that the social and physical environments have on reading.