Getting creative in the training workshop. (Note the hospital mask made of earphones and a piece of paper!)

We often get asked by our Family beneficiary groups to host workshops to support them to run their reading groups. Being based in the Western Cape, it is easier to provide training to the groups that are close by but it is far harder for us to do this with groups that are further afield. So, when I went to attend and present at the Eastern Cape English Educators Conference, we thought this was a great opportunity to support reading clubs in that area.

As a result, we offered one-day training on reading and writing for teens in Grahamstown. The Eastern Cape branch of LITASA helped to organise the event (partnerships like this are fantastic, as otherwise it is hard to organise from so far away, and also to access people in the area who we don’t know).

Eight people attended the workshop held in the beautiful Rhodes University Library. There were representatives from the organisations Unako, Ikamva Youth, Nal’ibali, Rhodes Community Engagement Office and a local high school, Nompumelelo. It was a small and committed group of people passionate about literacy.

We looked at the importance of reading for pleasure, then how to structure a reading group session – for example always starting with a fun warm-up activity. We then explored different ways to bring books and stories to life with teen learners.

We used the Activity Books that have been developed to support our latest books, and we hope that beneficiaries will now find the activities accessible and easy to implement, as they have had the space to explore them beforehand. In the afternoon we focused on writing, with participants doing freewriting exercises, and scaffolded poems, as well as some group storytelling.

It was a demanding day, but participants rose to the occasion. They were a wonderful group to work with, responsive and enthusiastic – a facilitator’s dream! The dramas, stories and poems that came out of the workshop were of a high quality.

We hope that this workshop helped with the future programmes of these organisations. Evaluations were positive with comments such as ‘everything helpful’, ‘informative’, ‘successful’, and some requests for follow-up support and resources. Two participants who are also teachers said that they were keen to use the activities in their classrooms as well.