International Literacy Day, introduced by UNESCO over 50 years ago, is an annual celebration to mark the importance of advancing the literacy agenda worldwide.
In a world where literacy continues to present a mounting challenge and is further impacted by the pandemic, which severely disrupted learning opportunities, the focus for 2022 is on Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces. UNESCO is driving this to highlight the need to create collaborative opportunities that ‘’rethink the importance of literacy learning spaces to build resilience and ensure equitable and inclusive education for all.’’
In South Africa, the relevance of this agenda has never been more crucial. Our nation continues to face a literacy crisis, with 80% of Grade 4 learners unable to read for comprehension. This, coupled with the fact that only 2% of children’s books published commercially in South Africa are in local African languages* when 80% of South Africans speak a home language other than English.
According to early literacy specialist, author, and translator, Dr Xolisa Guzula, “The crisis is deepened when schools are reluctant to offer African languages as languages of choice, alongside English and Afrikaans. We need to see more African language literature being made available to ensure it is preserved and embraced by future generations. And that children feel confident to learn and grow in their mother tongue.”
It prompted the launch of the Cadbury Read To Succeed initiative, which, through the collaboration of partners and the South African public, aims to ignite a love for reading amongst the next generation by making more relatable homegrown stories accessible in all 11 South African languages.
“While International Literacy Day presents an opportunity to draw attention to the literacy challenges we face in the country, we are also celebrating the positive impact this journey has yielded to date. We know that access to learning tools leads to change and experts agree that learning to read in your home language aids comprehension and promotes a culture of reading. Thanks to the generosity of the public, over 800 children’s stories are now available, in all South African languages, Cadbury Digital Library. The journey continues as we use this milestone to continue to reach even more children across the country with resources that will impact future generations – one story at a time,” says Lara Sidersky, Mondelez SA Category Lead for Chocolate.
Driving impact in the literacy space
To date, the public has generously shared over 2600 homegrown stories. Local authors have then used these as inspiration to create the new stories available on the Cadbury Digital Library and via QualiBooks’ zero-rated KiBooks online platform.
Chris De Beer, QualiBooks Director and Cadbury Homegrown Stories initiative’s co-authoring partner, adds that these stories have been well received. ‘’Two of the recently added Cadbury Homegrown stories have been trending in the top ten and thirteen in the top 35 on the KiBooks platform, which houses over 3500 children’s stories. This is a testament to the relatability of the stories shared. Stories that reflect a truly local experience for children, with people that look like them, languages they understand, and set in familiar places. This relevance is what we hope helps more children fall in love with reading. We can also monitor behaviour via the platform, which shows that books across languages are being accessed, with kids’ reading after hours and on weekends as well – a very encouraging sign.’’
Accessibility to stories in all African languages is central to creating a real impact in the literacy space. To this end, Cadbury has secured 10 000 KiBooks subscription licenses. These will be donated to select schools and beneficiaries, offering even more children access to the platform to download stories for free in their mother tongue.
Additionally, over 21 000 story books are in the process of being distributed to ensure they reach the children who would benefit the most.
Cadbury has also partnered with the Thuli Madonsela Foundation to identify opportunities to get these stories into the right hands through their affiliates.
“Whether access to quality education alone is sufficient for the economic and social upliftment of our society can be argued but what cannot be disputed is the detrimental pervasive impact of illiteracy across all ages. We cannot sit back and see what happens, we have to play an active role in creating change. Our partnership with Cadbury will allow us to expand on our mission to deepen, strengthen and defend our democracy by sharing resources that make these stories more accessible,” says Khulekile Msimanga from the Thuli Madonsela Foundation.
These activities all form part of a school’s programme, which will be launched in the coming months, that broadens the scope and impact of the Homegrown Stories initiative.
How we all can play our part
International Literacy Day is a reminder that the challenges around reading and early literacy remain but that we can all be a part of creating change in the long term.
Cadbury is calling on the public to continue sharing their homegrown stories and help reach over 1,000 new children’s stories available in all languages by the end of 2022.
Look out for the Cadbury Story Edition packs, scan the QR Code on the pack and share your authentic story to inspire more Homegrown stories for children in all 11 official South African languages.