Every morning, the faces of Grade 2 and 3 children in Litha Primary School, Gugulethu light up as Alithemba Tembani walks into their classrooms, to help the children practice reading and support them through their literacy and language journey.
Alithemba is a volunteer in Shine Literacy’s youth programme, which involves placing unemployed youth in Grade 2 or 3 classrooms for at least six months, where they are exclusively used as Reading Partners. The objective of this programme is to assist schools in establishing a culture of reading by increasing access to exciting books and making reading a daily practice.
As a Reading Partner, Alithemba ensures that each child in the classes has daily individual paired reading sessions. Additionally, she reads a daily story to the class.
When Alithemba walks in a classroom, the children usually holler, “Ma’am, sicela usifundele enye incwasi,” and this when translated means “Ma’am, can you please read another book with us”. This is testament that through the programme, children’s attitude towards reading positively improves as they actively call out for more reading opportunities with their Reading Partner.
“The programme is significant to the children in Gugulethu because not only do they learn how to read but they get to help or teach their brothers and sisters at home on how to read and make reading fun for them too,” said Alithemba.
“It has improved the literacy levels of the children – they are reading has increased and they taking more books home to read with more and bigger words.”
Alithemba attended Kuyasa Combined School, and she describes herself as a strong South African womxn with a unique and creative personality – a personality that comes as an advantage when working with children that have their own unique personalities and learn at their own pace.
“I have enjoyed having my own class to read and share ideas and teaching children how to become better readers. The way the [children pay] attention, participate and have fun when we do shared reading together as a class is the best experience ever,” she added.