Simnikiwe Ngcawa is a 21 year old student at False Bay College (Fish Hoek Campus). Simnikiwe and I met in January during the college’s orientation week when FunDza introduced the students to this year’s ‘Reading for Enjoyment’ campaign, which is being run in association with the College and Nal’ibali.
Through this campaign, we’re wanting to instil a love of reading amongst the students in the College and we’re wanting to discover what helps young people to love reading. One of the questions we ask students is whether reading has formed an integral part of their home life previously. For many people in South Africa this isn’t the case. According to the SA Book Development Council’s research 51% of households do not have books that people read for pleasure and a mere 14% of adults consider themselves to be ‘active readers’.
However, in the case of Simnikiwe, books were a big part of her home life. As she explains:
“I got the love for reading from my grandparents. My grandma used to love reading and keeping books in the house. But you know old people, they love reading those love book, you know? The ones where you get the naked guys. Mills and Boon? Yes, she loved having those books around, I used to steal them and read them even though I wasn’t allowed to. And so she stopped getting them. But luckily, sadly for her, but good for me, my aunt decided to get them again. I read them and didn’t understand them, but I was young, not knowing what I was reading, just going through the words.
My mom also loves reading. You can say that we are a home of readers, actually. My siblings also love reading. We also get books from the library – we take out 4 or 5 books each. We have access to a number of libraries on our area, but there is one that has really bad service. You can take books from there and the due date might be in four weeks time, but if you only return the books in a year’s time no one will even notice or give you a fine. They don’t call you. You have to think of other people also. If you keep the book for the whole year, it is not fair if someone else want to read it.”
Simnikiwe says that she used to write but found she struggled with it. So she just stopped. She grew up in both the Eastern and the Western Cape. Her family homes being in East London and Hout Bay. This made for an interesting educational background. During her formative years, Simnikiwe’s first language was isiXhosa whilst in her later years it was Afrikaans. Well, what language does she read in then?
“I prefer to read in English. My Afrikaans and Xhosa is actually really bad. It might have something to do with all the Mills and Boons that I started reading in English at the age of 6 or 7!”
Simnikiwe admits that sometimes she’s too busy or too lazy to read. Or that she would perhaps read a book over the period of a whole month. Sometimes though, it is because the book is not all that interesting. Because if it is, she can finish it in a day. Does she think that the Reading for Enjoyment Campaign is helping her to read more?
“Yes, I think so, because it has ‘forced’ me, in a nice way, to reading throughout the whole year. Where as before, I used to only read when I felt like it. I would have gone 2 or 3 months without reading. Now when I have finished a book, I feel like reading something else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a similar book or something different. I just want to experience something else in that moment.”
She prefers fiction and her favourite genre is actually, wait for it: horror! She says that she likes getting that flow of adrenaline. She reads whilst she travels by train or during the long bus journeys to the Eastern Cape. And the other usual places like the beach, the library and at home.
One of Simnikiwe’s unusual reading quirks is to read the first chapter then flip to the very last page to read that. Then she starts from the beginning again.
“Trust me, this way the book will be more interesting. And if a book was really interesting, then I re-read the last chapter hundreds of times!”