Fellow literacy NGO Help2read works with primary school children. Besides volunteers who read with the children on an individual basis, they also have literacy facilitators who spend a year working in schools using their programme. FunDza ran a workshop for 11 of these young adults in Alexandra, Gauteng, showing them exciting reading material and writing activities for their own enjoyment, so that they can ‘practise what they preach’ and also gain the many benefits of reading and writing for pleasure. The workshop was run by Sonja Kruse and Baeletsi Tsatsi. This is what Sonja had to say about it:

I realised it was like preaching to the converted – each one of these young facilitators is already an avid reader. So instead of highlighting all the research on the benefits of reading, I asked the participants to explore what it is that they love about reading, For some it was to gain new knowledge, for others the pleasure was about escaping daily pressures or about being taken on a journey where anything is possible.

One of the exercises took them on an imaginary journey where, with eyes closed, they had to imagine walking into the biggest library in the world. So big, in fact, that it had every book ever written on its shelves. What would a space like that even look like? They were told to explore the library, to make it their own. Then I asked them to imagine that there was one book in this library waiting… just for them! What would it be? A sci-fi novel? A vintage, collectable world atlas guiding them to it by the nose? Or maybe a Harmony High novel? Or a book written by themselves?

They were invited to imagine taking the book by the spine. Was it on the top shelf? Did they have to stand on tippy-toes? I watched the students grab in the air for their imaginary books. We explored the senses and asked them to open the book up, open their eyes and free write about the book for eight minutes. They were free to write whatever came to mind, be it the experience of being in this kind of a library or what the book was about or even the first page in the book. The participants took flight with this. We had love stories, philosophy, poetry, stories about stories, and lots of applause for the places that each one took us.

In another activity we read the first chapter of Sugar Daddy and asked the literacy facilitators to either come up with a piece of writing or to act out a short drama of what they thought would happen next in the story. ‘What happens next’ is a very useful activity to help participants engage with the characters in a story. Once they are invested they are more likely to read the rest of the story to see what actually happens. Well, these youngsters really got into character as can be seen in this short video.

It was an honour to be with these dedicated young reading champions who are going out to primary schools in Gauteng and working their magic and igniting the imagination of children.

Thank you help2read for inviting us to be part of the experience. It was such a pleasure.