Celebrating National Library Week with the Launch of a Delightful Reading Journal for Children

Literacy organisation, the Otto Foundation, is celebrating South African Library Week with the launch of a reading journal called ‘The Reading Journey: A Journal for Your Literary Adventures’. The journal is designed to spark a love of reading in children. The concept and text for the journal was developed by the Otto Foundation Team, and illustrated by team member Xanelé Puren – a child-centered design creative. The journal is also available in Afrikaans, with poems by the renowned South African wordsmith Philip de Vos.

The Otto Foundation creates and manages libraries and reading programmes at a cluster of schools in District Six, Cape Town. At present, the schools predominantly serve children who commute from informal settlements. All District Six schools will also be pivotal in providing access to quality education for children returning to the area as the land restitution process unfolds. The Otto Foundation’s mission is to deepen the culture of reading in these schools, and to foster a love of books that can change children’s lives.

Otto Foundation co-founder, Zephne Ladbrook, explains: “Research indicates that whether or not a child reads for enjoyment can be a more important predictor of their success in education than the socio-economic circumstances that they grow up in. We agree with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education that encouraging reading for pleasure is a social justice issue. We want to put a spotlight on the importance of reading for pleasure during National Library Week. If we want more children to enjoy reading, we need to ensure that more children have access to books. It is therefore no surprise that research shows that access to a school library can offset or balance the effect of poverty on literacy development.”

The important work of the Otto Foundation

National Library Week is celebrated annually in March to commemorate the opening of the first public library in South Africa in March 1818. The week is also planned to coincide with Human Rights Day on 21 March, thus acknowledging that libraries can play an important role in realising basic human rights – such as freedom of access to information and the right to education.

Ladbrook elaborates: “We believe access to beautiful, well-equipped school libraries is particularly important in the South African context where income inequality is high, and education outcomes are so often correlated with household income. Reading for enjoyment can be an equaliser in education. This is why we are investing in creating safe, enjoyable reading spaces and making books available to children who may not have access to engaging reading materials at home.”

“This is also why our team created a reading journal for children, encouraging them to become self-motivated, conscious and curious explorers of the world of words and books”, says Ladbrook.

“…Voluntary reading must be encouraged in school…and must be made possible for children of poverty. The first step in doing this is making sure large numbers of books are easily available, which means a serious and committed investment in libraries.” – Stephen Krashen, April 2015 

The Reading Journey: A Journal for Your Literary Adventures

The Otto Foundation’s reading journal will be launched on 17 March at an event at one of the Foundation’s libraries, the Sunflower Learning Centre, on the grounds of the historic Zonnebloem College in District Six.

The journal takes readers on a ‘reading journey’ through eight book-related themes, including: the Map of Memories, the Book Boat, the Poetry Plane, the Story Sled, the Mountains of Meaning, the Gorge of Gorgeous Words, the Forest of Feelings and the Desert of Dreams.

The themes are introduced through short poems followed by activity pages that strike a balance between instructional scaffolding, open-ended prompts, and space for creative expression – all building blocks of early literacy. “We believe the combination of elements in the journal will encourage both mindful reading and joyous creativity”, says illustrator Xanelé Puren. “The activities do not have predefined ‘correct’ responses, which means that children can plot their own reading journeys – based on their reading choices and what interests them as readers.”

The values and convictions that informed the creation of the journal include:

  • That reading is an activity that deserves to be celebrated.
  • Books can help children to better understand themselves and the world around them.
  • Activities to promote reading should be interactive, inviting children on a journey of exploration and creativity.
  • Children must be celebrated as co-creators by providing them with safe spaces where their creativity, ideas and opinions are valued and cherished.
  • Journaling can help children strengthen their writing abilities and can be both a liberating activity and a catalyst for new ideas and ways of being.

Proceeds from sales of the reading journal will go towards funding the Otto Foundation’s library programmes and will enable the organisation to provide free copies of the journal to learners in under-resourced schools – thus investing in the deepening of the reading culture in South Africa’s school communities.

Practical information: 

The journal can be purchased through Imagnary House (https://imagnaryhouse.com) and will be available nationally at good book stores.

Journalists interested in attending the launch of the journal can contact Karen Breytenbach at karenbrey@gmail.com or 076 280 9411.

Otto Foundation website: www.ottofoundation.org

Follow the Otto Foundation on Instagram: @ottofoundation

Follow the Otto Foundation on Facebook: @ottofoundationSA

Contacts for interviews and further information on the journal or the Otto Foundation: 

Nonikiwe Mashologu – Director: Partnerships

nonikiwe@ottofoundation.org or 082 434 3383

Xanelé Puren – Manager: Design & Placemaking at the Otto Foundation

xanele@ottofoundation.org or 082 924 4684