Mitchell’s Plain pupils shared their experiences of receiving an Oaky book and how reading has inspired them to rise above their challenges, when non-profit literacy organisation Read to Rise celebrated their 10th anniversary last week.
Pupils and teachers from 47 primary schools in the area attended the event at West End Primary School on Tuesday September 19.
Over the last decade, volunteers from the organisation have visited 6852 classes and interacted with 300 000 pupils, sharing the life story of Oaky, who was once an acorn and grew into a “big oak tree”.
West End Primary School pupil Imaan Dire said books and reading about Oaky, a character in a series of books written by Westridge-raised author Athol Williams and illustrated by his wife Taryn Lock, had truly changed her life.
“When you came to my class and I was given this book my face lit up like a candle in the dark. Filling with light from the inside out,” she said.
Imaan said it encouraged her to read more and that books transported her into another world, experiencing the different adventures, like the characters, and widened her vocabulary.
“I hope one day when I become an author I may be able to write alongside such esteemed authors,” she said.
Caradale Primary School pupil Dakhile Mthandana said the sequel taught about daily life.
“This book taught me that we are created in so many different ways.
“God created me the way that I am.
“God created you the way that you are and we should not try to be someone else,” she said.
Dakhile was in Grade 2 when she received Oaky the happy tree and recalled the song taught to the class by the Read to Rise team.
She was joined by the audience in singing: “I’m Oaky the happy tree. I am strong and I am free. I am happy as I can be. I am happy as I can be.”
Seaview Primary School principal Erfaan Dollie said Mr Williams was a superhero and that pupils needed more role models like him.
The organisation is the brainchild of Mr Williams and his wife Ms Lock.
Mr Williams, who was a witness in the state capture inquiry, has left South Africa, saying that his life is in danger.
He testified against global consulting company Bain & Company at the inquiry last year.
In his absence, his brother and organisation programme manager Roscoe Williams read a poem written by Ms Lock, which was published in an anthology by young leaders, from across the continent, entitled A Better World: Hope from Africa.
He said it was fitting because it explained what Read to Rise was about.
The poem called Blue Skies reads:
“I dream of a better world
Where every child can read
A nation of inspired readers
Who persevere and succeed
Let’s build a thriving nation
A humanity that withstands.
I believe we are the ones
The future is in our hands.”
He also read a message from the author: “At Read to Rise we believe firmly in the power of stories and believe that we can spark a child’s flame for greatness.”
He said that they share their excitement for life, learning and reading with the pupils, when they visit schools, interact with pupils, hand each of them their own book and read with them.
Mr Williams thanked the principals for welcoming them into their schools to share their passion for reading.
“Our work is about reading but more importantly our work is about rising.
“This is our hope for every learner with whom we interact. That they might develop the love for reading and that they may keep rising,“ wrote Mr Williams.
Read to Rise received a donation of 10 000 books, which they will be distributing to each of the 47 primary schools and three high schools in Mitchell’s Plain. Each school will receive 200 books to be used in the library or in class.
West End Primary School principal Clive Arries thanked the organisation for their service to all Mitchell’s Plain schools.
“We pledge R15 000 to supplement our library resources and books for our learners to read. Read to Rise provides books for learners which they take home.
“Our school will purchase books from Read to Rise to supplement our library resources,” he said.
Read to Rise will be hosting its third annual Cape Flats Book Festival at West End Primary School, in Lentegeur, on Saturday November 4 and Sunday November 5.