Clowns who make reading fun

Performers part of Nal’ibali initiative to get children to love literature

Clowns, from left, Gavin Stockden, Sussie Mjwara and Sibusiso Dlamini perform for junior primary children at KwaNobuhle’s Vuba Primary School
Clowns, from left, Gavin Stockden, Sussie Mjwara and Sibusiso Dlamini perform for junior primary children at KwaNobuhle’s Vuba Primary School
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

As the three clowns silently read their books, one shatters the peace with his constant giggling – for which he is shushed a number of times before the group decides to read together.

The clowns, who were visiting a Uitenhage school, are part of an initiative to get children to love literature – a project one principal said had boosted her pupils’ confidence.

The Nal’ibali reading for enjoyment campaign teamed up with Clowns Without Borders South Africa, to produce a series of literacy-focused shows as part of their library activation week in the Eastern Cape.

Their performance series started at Vuba Primary School, in KwaNobuhle, on Monday.

More than 100 junior primary pupils were part of the fun.

Vuba principal Shumikazi Sibhozo said since the school had become part of the VW Community Trust programme in 2016, she had seen a big improvement in the school’s results and in the pupils’ individual performance.

“There are five schools in the VW programme, and when we started we were at the bottom of the batch,” she said.

“By the end of 2017, we had jumped to No 1.

“Our children are constantly reading and they love it because they understand the material.”

Sibhozo said each child had his or her own challenges when it came to reading but, thanks to the literacy centre, by the time they moved off to grade 4 and started other learning subjects, the children were comfortable with their reading.

She said the literacy centre took pupils in groups of five and introduced them to English.

“The best part of the Nal’iBali series is that it comes in both isiXhosa and English, so the children know and fully understand what they are reading.

“Reading goes hand in hand with spelling, and as a result their writing skills and vocabulary have also improved.

“We have also called in our parents and explained that they also have the responsibility [of helping] their children with their homework and their reading,” Sibhozo said.

The reading for enjoyment campaign had also helped the pupils create their own stories.

“The demonstration [by Clowns Without Borders] and Nal’iBali is a real ice-breaker because that’s how they approach reading in class.

“Another big improvement is in the pupils’ creative writing skills, because they learn to interpret pictures in their own way,” she said.

Eastern Cape literacy mentor Madoda Ndlakusa, known as “Dopla the Storyteller”, said the aim of the campaign was to spark children’s potential through reading clubs.

“As a reading for fun organisation, we felt it was only fitting to include Clowns Without Borders, especially for advocacy in the public spaces.

“This merger has worked wonders because as storytellers, we want to emphasise the fun part of it,” he said.

Ndlakuse said the aim behind the partnership between VW and Nal’iBali was to ensure that children were functionally literate at the end of grade 3.

“This is key not only for literacy, but also mathematics.

“We have seen a lot of good results.”

He said there were some cases where a grade R pupil’s reading capabilities were at the same level as a grade 3 pupil.

“The storytelling that we do, as well as the reading aloud sessions, and the one-on-one motivation sessions we have with the learners, has really worked wonders – especially in KwaNobuhle,” Ndlakuse said.

The Nal’iBali library activation will be visiting the following schools and libraries in the Bay this week:

● Tuesday – Fountain of Life at 9am and Uitenhage Library from 2pm until 3.30pm;

● Wednesday – Khulile Primary and Motherwell Library from 2pm;

● Thursday – Charles Duna Primary and New Brighton Library from 2pm:

● Friday – Vusumzi Primary from 9.30am and Addo Library from 2pm; and

● Saturday – Gqebera Library in Walmer from 9am.

The library activations are open to the public.

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