Storytellers, poets and books stacked to the rafters – a reader’s dream – that aptly describes the hive of activity at the launch of the South African Book Fair.
Launched at Constitution Hill Friday, The Book Fair will run until Sunday, which coincides with UNESCO’s International Literacy Day on 8 September 2019.
The day will bring to a close week-long activities that kicked off on 2 September as South Africa marked National Book Week.
The annual National Book Week is an initiative of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture.
National Book Week seeks to encourage the nation to value reading as a fun and pleasurable activity, and to showcase how reading can easily be incorporated into one’s daily lifestyle.
A 2016 South African PIRLS study revealed 78% of grade 4 learners could not read for meaning in any language.
And according to the SABDC, 58% of homes in South Africa do not have a single leisure reading book.
National Book Week serves as a precursor to campaign by government and President Cyril Ramaphosa to instil a culture of reading in the country.
In response to President Ramaphosa’s call to inculcate a culture of reading in the country, the National Education Collaboration Trust, together with the Department of Basic Education’s Read to Lead campaign, launched the National Reading Coalition (NRC).
The National Reading Coalition brings together leaders in education, community, non-profit, government, and the private sector to improve children’s literacy.
Within the NRC, a Presidential outreach programme known as the President’s Reading Circle has been established to instil the love of reading which will be launched in September.
The President’s Reading Circle will also have a web page where President Ramaphosa will update and engage the public on books he is reading.
Through the book week and fair, the SABDC brings together poets, authors, storytellers and readers gather to encourage a culture of reading amongst the young and old.
Renowned multilingual storyteller and poet Gcina Mhlophe was among the storytellers at the book fair who urged South Africans to grab a book and get lost in a world of adventure offered by reading.
“I’m encouraging all South Africans to please take the time to grab a book read a book, sit down and read especially if you can read in your own mother tongue. Readers are great leaders,” said Mhlophe.
With much of Friday dedicated to the school kids programme, the weekend programme will have talks, workshops, topics and activities for visitors from all walks of life.
Authors such as Chris van Wyk of Mr Hare Meets Mandela, Tlalane Mofokeng of Sex talk with Dr T, Adekeye Adebajo of The Pan African Pantheon will engage in discussions with readers.
The book fair is open to all at a general admission fee of R10.