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Building an educated nation through a love for reading

Walk the Line - an editor's perspective on all things newsworthy

Despite the government’s lofty promises for job creation, South Africa’s unemployment rate climbed substantially in the second quarter of 2019.

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey showed that the unemployment rate increased by 1.4 percentage points from 27.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 to 29 per cent in the second quarter of 2019.

Shocking indeed, and yet many still believe in the pie in the sky dreams of the Presidency of creating one million jobs in five years.

Just like so many believe that Eskom will recover from years of looting, corruption and maladministration.

Since it is clear that government cannot create jobs, which is not really the function of the government, it remains imperative for those on the ground to make their own way and for businesses to stimulate economic growth.

But this cannot be done without an educated nation.

An educated nation is one that is literate, knowledgeable and is able to move with the times.

You almost get the feeling the downward spiral of our education system’s quality goes hand in hand with the implosion of our economy.

Education is, therefore, key, but education does not just begin in schools. Education begins by simply reading a book, non-fiction or fiction.

Reading of text messages on your phone or emails is not good enough for the youth of today.

The youth needs to get back to the love and joy of developing their framework of reference through reading.

This is why Caxton Local Media supports the National Book Week and the SA Book Fair in September.

The South African Book Development Council recently reminded South Africans that reading is not a chore, but a pleasure (SABDC).

It, therefore, remains a top priority for the SABDC to ensure greater access to books for children.

“A book takes the reader to a different place. It carries a cultural essence and aids national identity,” said CEO of the SABDC Elitha van der Sandt, who also said in a recent business meeting with stakeholders that 78 per cent of Grade Four learners are unable to read for meaning.

Van der Sandt also said children should have access to books in their home language and not books that were simply translated from English.

This is the only way South Africa can move forward into a new dawn.

Children cannot simply rely on the education system alone. Self-development is critical, and thus the need to read.

Charles William Eliot, an American academic, once said: “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”

In the age of no cellphones and when computers were hardly the power monsters they are today, a hard copy book was often one’s best companion during one’s childhood.

Yes, such days indeed existed, believe it or not; a time when libraries did not merely exist in a virtual realm.

Times have of course changed. To quote the great Charles Dickens, these are the best of times and the worst of times.

Technology is great and has many advantages, granted. Children research for tasks now differently via virtual libraries, but there was something magical in actually visiting a library to find all the books you need to complete your assignment.

Sadly, a generation is growing up with little understanding of the magic of books, and how literacy remains the backbone of our intellectual development.

Sure, there are still plenty of the older generation who loves to read a book, but those days are swiftly being swallowed by the tide of modernism.

Books remain a great source of companionship, of joy and of adventure, yet for the younger generation is has been replaced with the visual world of play consoles and movies that are thin on plot development yet heavy laden with special effects.

With reading, a person can go anywhere in the world or even out of it. The possibilities are endless.

Reading will always remain a key area of development. Studies show that reading for pleasure makes a big difference to children’s educational performance.

Likewise, evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who do not, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures.

In fact, reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.

Reading also develops the imagination and creativity as it shows you nothing is impossible in this world. By reading, you are exploring a different angle to see a thing you’ve known, on how different action leads to different results.

Non-readers never experience these joys to the same extent.

At the end of the day, reading is important because words – spoken and written – are the building blocks of life. Yet words have been submerged in a cacophony.

With reading you learn and grow, and therefore you feel and see from the point of view of the author about everything in life.

Hence you shape a better self.

And this is what is needed in South Africa. Education through a love for reading.

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