On 9 April Dorothy and I ran a session at the Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute in Kraaifontein with after school practitioners. The session was part of the After School Game Changer Practitioner course run by the Western Cape Government, along with other partners. The course aims to develop the skills of those who work in after school programmes, and also to ‘professionalise’ this important sector that can help to support and develop learners in all sorts of areas.

Many of the practitioners are not focused on academics directly (there are sports coaches, art programme leaders, dance group teachers). However, as they are mentors to young people, we wanted to encourage them to get their learners reading for pleasure by introducing them to FunDza’s ‘library on a cellphone’. What’s great is that there are so many stories, poems, plays, children’s stories and articles that they can access on this ‘library’ and they can draw on these for use in their own programme.

Dorothy gave a short presentation to the 25 practitioners on this year’s course about the importance of reading for pleasure and how it can really be a ‘gamechanger’ for learners, benefitting them in many aspects of their lives. She highlighted the importance of providing local relevant content that reflects readers’ lives in order to get them excited about reading.

I introduced the concept of freewriting, inviting the participants to write about their first reading experience. Participants then shared these different experiences: from their favourite books, to memories cuddling up with a family member and a book, to visits to the library, and to the first time that the scribbles on the page became letters and words with meaning. Some had stopped reading for pleasure over the years and we talked about what had discouraged them and what would encourage them to start again. We hoped that FunDza stories would get them excited about reading again!

We then gave them a virtual tour of the fundza.mobi site and encouraged them to introduce this to the learners they work with in their after school programmes, and to encourage their learners to start writing and to send in their work to get published as a Fanz writer.

They discussed in groups how they would use FunDza in their sessions, and there were many questions and ideas around this.

We finished by reading them the first few chapters of ‘A New Beginning’ by Nosibusiso Tshetu. This was a short story published on the fundza.mobi site and also published in pocket booklet format. Appropriately to the after school theme of the day, the story is about a young girl who joins a choir. It was one of five FunDza stories written specifically around the topic of after school activities with the aim of getting readers interested and excited in joining after school programmes.

The participants got a taste of FunDza’s style of story – and we got a very enthusiastic response to that. They all received the booklet, so hopefully finished reading the story themselves!