Reading benefits the whole community

Reading benefits the whole community

Trice Nukeri is quick to admit she knew “absolutely nothing” when she attended her first Penreach Reading Camp workshop in 2017.  All she knew was that she loved children and wanted to see them progress. Last year, she won the inaugural Val Morris Reading Camp Volunteer of the Year Award at Penreach’s awards ceremony.

Penreach Reading Camps are set against a background where 29% of South African children are considered illiterate in Grade 4 (i.e. they cannot read for meaning and understanding in any language) and an alarming 51% of South African households do not have a single reading book suitable for children in that household. The programme trains volunteers to develop literacy, and makes books available to children, while engaging them constructively and keeping them off the streets.

A Reading Camp can take place on a veranda, under a tree, in a garage, church, shed or on a lawn, depending on available space. The programme contributes to reading improvement in both home and additional languages. Camps are coordinated by volunteers like Trice, who offer their time and space to give children opportunities. A volunteer hosts any number between 20 and 200 children.

The volunteer needs no special qualifications,  except for the ability to read and write. Depending on his or her availability, camps will run at least once a week; sometimes two to three times. Trice opens her doors five times a week. “I’m a hard worker,” she says simply.

Trice is based at Matsulu and has seen her reading camp group grow to almost 50 children (25 boys and 20 girls) from different schools in her area, including Penreach target schools. On a typical day, her charges gather at her house at around 3pm. All the action takes place in her garage and they can’t wait for her to open the door, she smiles.

“Even if I’m not feeling well, they’ll ask me to ‘just open’ and they’ll carry on by themselves.” From 3-4pm they spend their time reading, after which homework is tackled. The older kids become Reading Buddies, and help the younger ones, which works to everybody’s benefit.

A few of them, she says, were unable to read when they first joined her. “Some of the children are vulnerable and I want them to progress and benefit from books,” she says. “That is why I became a reading camp volunteer.” Reading Camp is not only focused on reading, but volunteers allow for playtime as an informal learning method. This is especially significant in rhymes, song and poetry recitation. Children are encouraged to write during the session, while younger children colour and draw, important not only in improving handwriting but in developing fine motor skills.

The feedback she’s receiving from parents and teachers has been tremendously positive, and she knows she’s making a difference. “I used to see these kids hanging around after school, which isn’t safe. Now they all come to me in the afternoon, and they’re improving. Penreach gave me the training on how to handle children and strategies of how to read with them. I want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me, as it benefits not only the children, but the whole community.”