In 2021 Children’s Book Network enters its tenth year of working with children and reading. We aim for it to be a year to celebrate children as well as books. In spite of everything pandemics and economics can throw at us, we will not give up.
There is no question that reading remains the most important educational tool available to change the way we live. Only through reading can our children move on, move up. Only through reading can they educate themselves when systems fail them. Only through reading can they understand, appreciate and empathize with other people … other lives. Only through reading will they ever be able to escape to another world, the world of the imagination.
Ten years has given CBN the opportunity to work with the neediest of South Africa’s children – and to learn from them. Children can do anything, given some help and encouragement.. The word that springs to mind first is fun. We have had fun creating the materials and they have had fun being part of a vibrant reading community.
From the workshops, came the toolboxes and a carefully designed system that can be used by many more facilitators to spread the love of reading. Twenty toolboxes have been distributed so far, and a major project in Mitchells Plain begun with ten of those toolboxes before health issues distracted us all.
From the toolboxes came the online project. The day before lockdown first began, the CBN team met and made an instant decision to provide new, fresh reading materials every week – activities and reading that would keep them occupied for at least some of their time out of school. That decision became Lockdown Learning, a project that segued, after seventeen weeks, into The Happiness Project when restrictions temporarily eased. All of these modules can be found at:
Now, with a new version of the virus, a new lockdown, new delays in schools opening … it is time to consolidate. Currently, we are revising the toolbox material to be less workshop oriented and looking at ways of extending the reach of Children’s Book Network so that more children can benefit. Simultaneously, we are continuing developing final four modules of the Happiness Project.
We need powerful partners to achieve our goals. We need the support and backing of the friends who have sustained us this far. We need to believe that what we are doing is of critical importance. We need help.
In the meantime, we will just get on with it.
Note 1: The weekly distribution of reading packs has been changed to every two weeks – but with more material. This gives the opportunity for a more sustained and focused approach. The Happiness Project will continue until the end of February. We will then revive Lockdown Learning with the revised Toolbox Project material.
Note 2: We have also made all material in Lockdown Learning available, free, online, to anyone who can use it. We will be reviewing these as soon as time permits. They were created from scratch at top speed when lockdown began and there may well be typos or inaccuracies. It will be miraculous if there aren’t! It was a time of emergency.
Pictures of children. Since we began, we have incorporated parental permission to use photographs of the children into our basic permissions form. Now, with lockdown and the wearing of masks compulsory, we can no longer see their faces. Phumlani Siza takes excellent photographs of the masked children, but the sparkle factor just isn’t there. As one way to get round this, we we will featuring the children’s drawings and paintings as well as portraits of them at work.