March 2019.

Libraries across our country will be celebrating ‘SA Library Week’, under the theme of ‘Collaborate @ your library’ between 18th and 24th March 2019. It’s not only an opportunity for them to market their services to the broader community but it also make us aware of the important role that libraries play in our lives, especially for youngsters learning to read.

“The importance of having access to a library goes beyond being a good resource for research, it helps children to expand their reading abilities, and exposes them to a broad range of genres of books that they usually wouldn’t come across,” said Robin Nelson, Reading Assistant at Gamtoos Valley Primary School.

Gamtoos Vallei Primary is in the fortunate position to have a library on its doorstep, just fifty metres away to be specific. This is quite unique in any country, offering advantages that not many schools have. It is well recognised that in addition to parents and teachers, libraries play an important role in motivating children to read books by creating a good reading environment which helps in developing their reading habits.

Being a reading assistant, since 2016, at the school, Robin is somewhat of an expert on reading and believes that it is critical for learners to be able to read with understanding for it to begin benefiting other subjects in the school curriculum. “I think reading has a very important impact on the learner’s ability to adapt to other areas of their school work and their lives. Reading has a positive impact on their lives, as it encourages learners and builds confidence,” he explains.

With over three million South Africans still illiterate, according to Statistics South Africa, schools have a mammoth task ahead of them, taking up the challenge to ensure that learners are reading at the level of their age at all grades.
This is one of the primary objectives of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm’s Foundation Phase Reading Coaches Support Programme. The programme, which originated in 2016, includes fourteen reading assistants, across twelve primary schools in Hankey, Patensie, Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp. The Programme incorporates a number of elements, namely employment opportunities, training and resources. In addition to this, schools receive a donation of books.
“Being a reading coach has had a positive impact on my life. It has taught me that every one of our learners is different and unique,” concluded Nelson.

• SA Library Week was officially celebrated for the first time in 2002 and has become a very important date on the national Library and Information Association of South Africa’s (LIASA) calendar.

• SA Library Week was initiated in 2001 to be a commemorative period recognized by government when all types of libraries across the country use it as an opportunity to market their services in an effort to contribute to the understanding of the important role that libraries play in a democratic society, advancing literacy, making the basic human right of freedom of access to information a reality, and to promote tolerance and respect among all South Africans.

• The South African Public Library, now known as the National Library of South Africa (Cape Town Campus) was the first library to be established in South Africa. This was done by a government proclamation on 20 March 1818. The South African Library in fact started off as a true public library and has established itself as a pioneering institution in South African library history.