Help children learn to read

Reading volunteer Veronica Hendricks.

South African non-profit literacy organisation help2read is inviting you back to school to help a child learn to read through its #MyReadingHelper campaign.

Volunteer reading helpers play a crucial role in providing one-on-one reading support to struggling pupils enrolled in help2read’s literacy development programme.

From CEOs to corporate bankers and retired grandmothers, help2read’s volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances.

However, they all recognise that as a literate adult, they can make a difference by volunteering their time to give the gift of reading to a child.

The organisation has also launched its #MyReadingHelper campaign, a video series that showcases the special relationship that is created when a committed, caring and consistent help2read volunteer meets regularly with a child to help them learn to read.

The campaign is part of a broader drive to recognise and thank its active volunteers and to encourage others to join in order to provide more pupils with reading support through the help2read programme.

The literacy intervention programmes are run at public primary schools. Volunteers meet with the same pupils twice a week throughout the school year. This consistent commitment and support helps to build a special relationship between volunteers and their pupils.

Last year more than 2 000 pupils from schools around the Western Cape and Gauteng enrolled in help2read’s reading help programme.

However, the need to more than double this number calls for even more. Volunteers need to be willing to commit to assisting a pupil (or two or three) for at least half an hour twice per week throughout the school year.

Illiteracy is a major concern among primary school goers in South Africa and in November last year the extent of the challenge was evident when Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga released the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results. These results baldly reflect a reality more devastating than previously imagined: 8 out of 10 Grade 4 children in South Africa cannot read for meaning in any language. The real meaning of the 2016 PIRLS report is that if 8 out of 10 children in a classroom at Grade 4 cannot read for meaning, how then can they read to learn?

At school level, help2read aims to address the problems of low student morale as a result of pupil difficulties in understanding and accessing materials which in turn feeds the high observed school drop-out rate; poor academic performance with progressive, entrenched learning backlogs accumulating over time reinforcing problems of low morale and poor achievement; and large school classrooms that are typically under-resourced and without teacher support staff which means pupils receive limited attention and cannot be individually assessed and supported when facing difficulties.

The impact that a volunteer reading helper has extends beyond one life, but goes on to impact a community and the nation. Simply put, helping a child learn to read unlocks the power and potential the country needs to thrive.

Anyone who is able to read and has some time to give has the power to transform the life of a child, a community and a nation.

At the start of a new school year, help2read is inviting you to sign up as a reading helper and give your gift of reading to a child in need.

Call 021 930 3669 or visit www.help2read.org/volunteer