Birthday celebration for Read to Rise

Pictured, from left, are Read to Rise volunteers Roscoe Williams, programme manager for Mitchells Plain, co-founder and executive director Taryn Lock; co-founder and chairman Athol Williams; business operations manager Madeneya Bardien; programme facilitators Rhonda Carelse and Kercia Petersen, from Rocklands.

They’ve been to 65 schools, conducted programmes in more than 1 600 classes and distributed 80 000 new books over the past four years.

That’s the achievement of Read to Rise, who celebrated their birthday on International Literacy Day on Friday September 8 in Lansdowne.

The NPO’s programmes have been endorsed by the Department of Basic Education and they have worked in 45 primary schools in Mitchell’s Plain and 20 primary schools in Soweto.

Read to Rise was founded in September 2013 by husband-and-wife team Athol Williams and Taryn Lock who are both passionate about literacy and education.

Mr Williams grew up in Westridge and is the first person to have five Master’s degrees from the top universities in the world including Harvard, MIT, London Business School, London School of Economics and Oxford University.

Ms Lock said the organisation aims to inspire children to read. “We believe that children who love to read will excel at school and go on to become constructive members of society. It all starts with reading. Our programmes are based on the Oaky series which each have a positive life lesson. By giving each learner their own new story book to take home, we hope to ignite a love for reading,” she said. “We also believe in community involvement – we have had over 500 volunteers who have given of their time to cover books or read at schools. We currently have nine passionate staff in Mitchell’s Plain and Soweto, and will be going to primary schools in Limpopo later in September,” she said.

Read to Rise offers four class programmes for pupils in the foundation phase. It involves a school visit where they have a fun, interactive session with each class.

They have lessons, read a story, discuss the story, sing a song and give each pupil their own new book to take home.

“Our fourth programme – What is Happening to Oaky? – was launched in August this year – it is an intriguing story involving interactions between Oaky, the oak tree, and his three friends.

“The story teaches us that change is part of life and that change can be good for us.

“We also learn about the value of friendship. Read to Rise also places mini-libraries with 50 new story books in every class so that learners have access to books throughout the year. We also have class reading competitions and reward the top readers at the end of the year,” she said.

Ms Lock said her concern is the lack of resources in schools and that communities like Mitchell’s Plain have many social challenges.

She said parents, teachers and principals play an important role in a child’s life as they are role models which children look up to.

“Therefore, in order to improve literacy levels among youth, it is vital for the community to set a good example and encourage and assist the youth and all those who cannot read, to read,” she said.

Mr Williams said they hope to offer more programmes to excite children about reading.

He said this year they offered two programmes for each pupil. “We believe the additional session will help us have a more meaningful impact and reinforce the learners’ love for reading. We hope to offer programmes to more grades and eventually high schools and other provinces as well. Children of all ages in South Africa need inspiration,” he said.

Mr Williams said the ability to read forms the foundation of learning. He added that through reading and education you invite possibilities into your life.

“We can all achieve our dreams and be great, through reading we can achieve this. We’d like to encourage parents to spend time reading to/with their children and encourage them to read, get an education and dream big.

“We thank all those who have sponsored books or volunteered their time to cover books or read at a school. We thank you all for your support and hope that you continue to assist us to inspire the youth in Mitchells Plain to read,” he said.