New reading corner launched for Red Cross

JOHN HARVEY

There were smiles, laughter and hugs aplenty at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital last week as the South African Taxi Foundation and iRead Africa launched two new reading corners at the hospital.

To make the occasion even more special for the little ones, well-known Johannesburg author TLB Kruger, of Kruger Publications, was on hand to read from his new book, The Prince of Gold, copies of which were also handed out to the youngsters.

Volunteers helped the children to follow the story, which is illustrated by Riaan Marais, and thanks to Kruger’s wonderful reading style, the boys and girls were soon carried off by the story.

The SA Taxi Foundation is the corporate social investment arm of SA Taxi, responsible for all socio-economic development contributions, partnerships, and initiatives undertaken by the SA Taxi Finance group of companies.

“We were attracted by iRead Africa’s proposal to us for this project because we believe that education is the single most powerful transformational agent,” said SA Taxi Foundation director, Kalnisha Singh. “However, education is impossible without literacy, so inculcating in children a love of reading is profoundly important.

“According to a recent survey, 40 percent of all children in sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 15 cannot read. These children will not be able to enter the modern workplace and the continent’s transformation will be delayed further.

“Our education system is falling short even on the basics, and the vast majority of parents simply don’t have the means to buy literary books for their children. So, children are not being introduced to the wider world – beyond textbooks – of fantasy and imagination and the vast reservoir of humanity’s written creativity. iRead Africa fills that gap.”

iRead Africa, a non-governmental organisation, offers a number of options for children to access literary resources, including assisting government with the establishment of school libraries and creating reading corners in crèches and community centres in underserviced areas.

Lerato Seoposenwe, of the Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association, said the organisation had grown rapidly over the years, and the reading corners were another example of the kind of initiative that was improving the lives of both children and their parents.

“We have a number of projects running now. For example, a photographer now comes once a week to take photographs of the children so that their parents can see their healing over time. Once a month, we are also able to give the children the chance to ride in a limousine, thanks to one of our generous donors,” she said.

“In addition, we have a group of ladies who bake cakes for the children for their birthdays. Some of the patients have never received a birthday cake before, so it really is special for them.”

After Kruger had finished reading, the children had a chance to have their copies of his book signed and they were also given cakes and bags of treats.