Thanks to the funding granted by the Yamada Apiculture Centre through IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People), Biblionef was able to support 14 rural schools just outside East London with a donation of high-quality storybooks and also provided teachers with training on how the storybooks can easily be incorporated into their curriculum.
Biblionef was approached by Hilton Williams, Project Manager at Small Projects Foundation, to support 14 poorly-resourced schools that they are currently working with. The schools are extremely rural and situated approximately 15km away in a township called Mdantsane.
The Small Projects Foundation works with schools in the Eastern Cape and provides them with support on a holistic level. One of their main programmes is the GEM/BEM (Girls & Boys Empowerment Movement) clubs. The GEM/BEM clubs aim to empower girls to participate in leadership activities and to be pro-active in ensuring their own educational progress. Boys who participate in the BEM clubs do so as partners who support the empowerment of both girls and themselves, in order to achieve gender equality in education and in society as a whole. Furthermore, the programme focuses on issues relating to social support, skills development, academic, and environmental care and provides a platform for girl and boy learners to interact with each other and to discuss issues affecting them.
The Small Projects Foundation wanted to improve the learners’ access to quality books at the 14 schools and this is where Biblionef aimed to provide support. It has become extremely important to us to ensure that the books we donate are optimally used to benefit children. For this reason, when funding allows, Biblionef partners with skilled literacy experts to carry out in-depth training sessions with our books to demonstrate ways in which the donation can be incorporated into the school’s curriculum.
A total of 3 788 new isiXhosa and English storybooks were donated to these schools. Biblionef also partnered with childhood literacy specialist Marlene Rousseau to carry out two training sessions on how the books can be used in the classroom and incorporated into teachers’ lessons.
Between the 27th and 31st August 2018, Ms. Rousseau and Biblionef’s Project Assistant (The facilitators) visited the schools to carry out the literacy training and also to provide support to the teachers in the classroom. The facilitators were pleasantly surprised to find that the children from foundation phase classes (Grades 1-3) were able to easily and confidently read simple sentences from the board. This is a testament to the hard work carried out by the principals of the schools, the Small Projects Foundation and a number of external organisations in acknowledging the importance of reading and building a solid literacy base for the learners.
An area of difficulty for the learners was that they were unable to talk about what they had read. It was apparent that the children may not have been exposed to reading for meaning. Research shows that children who are unable to talk about texts will experience extreme difficulty in writing about texts. It is important to note that, in accordance with the research, the learners’ independent writing was weak in all foundation phase classes visited.
As a result of the above finding, the emphasis of the training was focused on ‘Shared Reading’ and how imperative it is for growing learners’ writing and comprehension skills. The facilitators demonstrated how well-chosen books for young children offer both children and teachers (and parents) fabulous opportunities for thinking, talking and writing about books.
At each school, the principal expressed heartfelt appreciation for the donation of books and when the training was complete, the teachers expressed their gratitude of how beautiful the stories are and how easily it can be incorporated into their daily literacy lessons.
Partnering with organisations such as the Small Projects Foundation is extremely exciting for us because we are confident that the books will be optimally used by the teachers to fully benefit their learners. Biblionef aims to visit the schools again in 2019 to determine how the teachers are implementing the new strategies and to provide additional support. We are eager to see the teachers in the new year as we know they are extremely motivated and are striving for only the best for their learners.