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Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 2.01.39 PMAt the World Book Day celebrations in Gauteng a message from the Deputy President will be read22 April 2015 – The annual World Book Day promotes reading, publishing and copyright. The South African celebrations will take place in Gauteng with a Door-to-Door reading awareness campaign, book donations and a special message from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The value and joy of reading is an issue close to the Deputy President's heart. In a speech earlier this year he expressed his concern that South Africa is a nation that doesn't read while reading is a gateway to a different, better future.

He urged the social partners that already work to encourage reading to keep growing readership through a national youth book club and the use of information technology and social media.


World Book Day 2015

Since 1995 World Book Day promotes reading, publishing and copyright annually on 23 April, a date selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

As Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO states in her message on the occasion of World Book Day 2015: "World Book and Copyright Day is an opportunity to recognise the power of books to change our lives for the better and to support books and those who produce them. As global symbols of social progress, books – learning and reading -- have become targets for those who denigrate culture and education, who reject dialogue and tolerance. In recent months, we have seen attacks on children at school and the public burning of books. In this context, our duty is clear – we must redouble efforts to promote the book, the pen, the computer, along with all forms of reading and writing, in order to fight illiteracy and poverty, to build sustainable societies, to strengthen the foundations of peace."

Ms Bokava calls on the international community to "join together to celebrate books as the embodiment of creativity, the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding, dialogue and tolerance."


Local celebrations

The World Book Day celebrations in South Africa are coordinated by the Centre for the Book, the outreach unit of the National Library of South Africa. This organisation raises awareness about the importance of reading, reaches out and gives people access to books, educates people to take care for their library facilities and celebrates books.

For World Book Day the Centre coordinates a nationwide poster campaign involving schools, libraries and bookshops and encourages events all over South Africa. The theme for 2015 is 'Come read with me'.

The World Book Day celebrations will be held in Gauteng. A Door-to-Door reading awareness campaign takes place in Greenspark and Kokosi in Foschville, Merafong Municipality on 22 April. Books will be donated to high schools, primary school, pre-schools and old age centres. The Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture will preside over this programme that closes at the Krugersdorp Correctional Centre where books will also be donated. Over 300 people are expected to attend, including librarians, writers, community members and politicians.

The actual World Book Day is on 23 April. The Minister of Arts and Culture will preside and read a message from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. More than 1000 people are expected to attend. The event will take place at the Boksburg Civic Centre in Ekurhuleni District Municipality.


National reading club

The message from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa could very well include the announcement of the national reading club that he already spoke about in his speech for the Youth Engagement Harare Library in Khayelithsha on 11 February of this year.

He expressed his concern that South Africa is a nation that doesn't read with only 14% active book readers and just 5% of parents that read to their children.

The Deputy President stated that: "Books are essential for freedom. They allow a person to break free from the chains of ignorance and intolerance. They allow a society to free its people to develop, prosper and advance. Literature is a powerful tool for social dialogue, cohesion and nation building. It is a means to better understand the human condition. Our capacity to create and to write shows that we can be greater than our pain and suffering. Books turn wounds into wisdom. They turn despair into hope."


Growing readership through technology

Reading in a mobile eraA UNESCO study found that mobile phones empower people to read books and storiesIn his speech the Deputy President thanked the social partners in government, business, civil society and the education sphere who are working to encourage reading. He also indicated that he would like to see a discussion on how information technology and social media can be used to grow readership in urban and rural settings.

The 2014 UNESCO Reading in the Mobile Era report states that millions of people in developing countries are empowered to read books and stories on their phones according to a recent UNESCO study in 7 countries.

South Africa is not included in this UNESCO study but it does have its own popular initiatives that drive the 'mobile reading revolution'.  

The Wikipedia page Mobile Literacy in South Africa shows the existing ecosystem of organisations that promote, support and enable access to literature and literacy projects on mobile devices, especially mobile phones. One of the positive developments mentioned is the growing availability of e-content but a big challenge is the fact that most of the projects that make content available for free rely on funding from NGOs and are therefore often not sustainable.

Some of the content projects active in this space include:

African Storybook Project: Founded in 2013, the African Storybook Project has published numerous openly licensed illustrated children's stories for 2 to 10-year-olds in a variety of African languages and English on line. The site has tools for the creation, translation and adaptation of stories. The project is an initiative of the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE).

Book Dash: Book Dash was founded in 2014 to create new, African storybooks for young children, published under a Creative Commons Attribution licence. On Book Dash Days, volunteer writers, illustrators and designers work together to create complete books in just one day. These are then made available as print-ready and mobile-ready files.

Bookly: 2013 Bookly was launched by NATIVE VML. It encourages teenagers to read some of the 450 stories available via the Mxit platform and write their own short stories.

FunDza: FunDza aims to encourage teenagers to read for pleasure. The FunDza Literacy Trust was founded 2011 by Cover2Cover Books. As of January 2015, 50,000 teenagers were reading FunDza stories via their mobile phone every month. Additionally, readers are encouraged to comment on what they read and to write their own stories. FunDza publishes stories in all eleven official languages.

Nal'ibali: Primarily aiming at adults, Nal'ibali provides children's stories parents can read to their children. It was funded by PRAESA (The Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa), Times Media, and the DG Murray Trust in 2012 and focuses on 'reading for pleasure'. Nal'ibali publishes stories in all of the eleven official languages of South Africa.

Worldreader: Worldreader was founded 2010 and makes commercial e-books available in developing countries at largely discounted prices. It is accessible in 50 countries, 10 of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the launch of the project Worldreader has made 15,519 books available via mobile phones.



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