South Africa’s annual reading awareness week, National Book Week (NBW), dedicated to encouraging leisure reading and promoting the importance of books has launched an online storytelling event on Facebook. The event, Books Beyond Words, is aimed at bringing parents and children together as a family around a screen to listen to the magic of words.
Hosted every Saturday from 11:00am for 30 minutes on NBW’s Facebook page during the lockdown, the stories are narrated by an invited guest. The event is an effort by National Book Week to provide support for parents who work in their home office and want to find educational and engaging activities for their children.
The lockdown, a first in post-democratic South Africa, is an unprecedented event in the lives of many parents and children and came days after President Cyril Ramaphosa moved to shut all schools, universities and ban large gatherings. South Africans are being encouraged to stay indoors to contain the spread of the coronavirus and flatten the curve.
“Thousands of families across the country are juggling work, care commitments and finding ways to keep children busy at the same. The time spent together, listening to a story, as a family will definitely contribute to alleviating the stress of the coronavirus restrictions,” says Elitha van der Sandt, CEO, South African Book Development Council.
Last week, professional story teller Bongiswa Kotta-Ramushwana, narrated Aesop’s Fables The Ant and The Grasshopper and Sikhalanjalo, a traditional story. Combining her unique skills and brevity to bring the story to life, she ignited the imaginations of many listeners. The pilot broadcast last Saturday was viewed by over 500 families.
According to Kotta-Ramushwana, tuning into a narrative, its pattern and its plot, cultivates a joy of reading. She will be hosting the event once again on 04 April.
“We are aiming for twin objectives, encouraging parents to read with their children during the lockdown and at the same time inspire children through Books Beyond Words to embrace books and stories over watching television or playing video games,” adds van der Sandt.
“As we all commit to stay home and save lives, being active mentally has never been more important. Being cut off from all social interaction can be stressful and enjoying an activity such as the live storytelling allows for enjoyment by adults and children alike.”
While many sources like FunDza have offered access to digital libraries and e-books, reading, especially when you have young and impressionable children is a shared activity so parental involvement is key to making reading fun.
“We have such a rich identity of language and writing, and the event, motivated by less than ideal circumstances hopefully serves to help families discover the joys of books, beat boredom and enjoy being in their enclosed spaces temporarily.”