What are Toolboxes For?

78% of South Africa’s children cannot read for either meaning or enjoyment by the age of ten. They are unlikely to proceed any further unless some urgent action is taken.

Even children who can technically read (decipher some basic sentences), are not comfortable with the written word. It is easier to opt out, to stop bothering; to watch television instead. How much they are missing.

The problem is confounded by the fact that imagination often stops when reading does. Reading, writing, and thinking – most of all thinking – lead to a better understanding of the world, of the people in it and of self.

Just as serious is the lack of knowledge in children of anything that is not going to be in an exam. Reading can change this if the right books and ideas are presented in an accessible and exciting format, if there is some encouragement and direction.


Children’s Book Network (CBN) has been working with this critically vulnerable upper primary school group for ten years now. We have seen how dramatically attitudes to reading can be changed. Our workshops and the material we have researched catch the attention of new readers. They become engaged with the topic and read without thinking about it, self-selecting their own reading level, and rapidly improving. It happens quite fast. Present interesting and stimulating books – non-fiction as well as fiction – and you have a child absorbed to the extent that they forget the mechanics and just read. For pleasure as well as information. And for fun.

RED TOOLBOX: 10- year-old children read around the theme of books and stories playing, experimenting, listening, writing simple sentences, and illustrating their work.

GREEN TOOLBOX: 11-year-old readers progress to more exciting non-fiction as well as books and stories on an environmental theme. They have even more stimulation and fun at workshops, backed up by a huge choice of what to read and at what level.

BLUE TOOLBOX: 12-year-olds take on the challenge of reading around the themes of Time and Landscape. The biggest themes there are, and often ideas that are either skimmed over, or ignored in packed school curricula. This toolbox offers them books they will never have seen before, ideas that challenge them and with that, a collection of specially written fiction that links the world of story with the world of fact. They can feel the power of thought and the way that science is developed by people, people thinking about their world since the earliest times.

The toolbox project is ready to fly. The Red Toolbox is researched and complete and the Green and Blue toolboxes are at an advanced state of development. All we need to do now is bring them to the children.

The children who don’t read.

Join the CBN mailing list