Learning, Libraries and Laughter – how does that work?


Children learn best when they are happy. This is why Nal’ibali, South Africa’s reading-for-enjoyment-campaign, and Clowns Without Borders South Africa (CWBSA) have partnered for the second year in a row to tour their libraries roadshow aimed at building literacy bridges between schools and libraries.

The tour includes a theatre performance based on three Nal’ibali characters and the full show comprises storytelling, physical theatre, clowning and circus skills to break down stereotypes around reading and who may or may not access a library.

Timed to coincide with South African Library Week, the first leg of the tour will take place in the Western Cape from 16 – 22 March and will be supported by the City of Cape Town’s Library and Information Services Department as part of the provincial celebration.

A lack of access to books is a key contributor to South Africa’s literacy crisis and choice is an essential driver of reading for enjoyment. Libraries, therefore, can play a critical role in turning the country’s literacy emergency around, however, they remain an unknown and underutilised resource in many communities.

To ensure the tour reaches those that need it most, the partners have purposefully selected schools without libraries for inclusion in the programme. Learners at these schools will be treated to a short teaser performance in the morning and a full show at their local library in the afternoon.

‘Reading is a wonderful experience that every child should have access to so that they have the opportunity to learn new skills.  Reading should be fun and accessible to all. The City’s Library and Information Services support programmes that will empower children through reading’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.

The show will demonstrate the benefits of joining the library, reading and how to take care of books. And, the attending children will be encouraged to sign-up for library membership cards. Further, the educators who attend with them will be urged to sign-up for block-loan library cards. These special cards allow teachers to take out up to 25 books at a time to support pupils whose caregivers are unable to supply the documents needed to qualify for library membership.

Says Bulelani Futshane, Western Cape Provincial Support Coordinator at Nal’ibali: “Beyond encouraging children to sign up for library membership cards, we want to connect learners, educators and library staff on a personal level. It’s important that we start to nurture the social bonds that will allow reading communities to flourish.”

“And, if we want children to become life-long readers excelling at school and in life, children need to experience reading as fun. Partnering with Clowns Without Borders South Africa has been ideal – it has certainly changed the way children experience books and libraries and has become another way for more children and adults to connect with the Nal’ibali campaign.”

Last year, Nal’ibali and CWBSA successfully toured Limpopo, Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. A total of 45 events were held across the four provinces and a total of 22 385 participants were reached. The demand from schools and libraries for additional performances has fueled this year’s tour. The dates for which are:

  • 16 – 20 March: Western Cape (SA Library Week)
  • 18 – 22 May: Gauteng
  • 17 – 21 August: Mpumalanga
  • 19 – 23 October: Free State

The clowns will also perform at Gugulethu Library, Weltervreden Library, Kulani Library and Harare Library at 15:00 on the 16, 17, 19 and 20 March respectively.

“We are excited to be raising awareness around an area of such importance in South Africa,” adds Suzan Eriksson, CWBSA Development Director. “Our experience shows us that the performing arts can be used to mobilise children and families in very effective ways. And, the 40-minute show is certainly full of surprises!”

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of SA languages, visit www.nalibali.org and www.nalibali.mobi or find them on Facebook and Twitter: @nalibaliSA.