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The March school holiday workshops (2) Reading

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Working on the theme of ‘US!’

On 18th March (Stanford) and 19 March Enlighten Education Trust in Zwelihle in Hermanus, we gave two holiday reading workshops to the great enjoyment of the children.

Our main goal is always to encourage reading and a love of books by embracing a theme and using books, stories, artwork and music (among other things) to lead the children naturally into reading. We also make sure they have plenty of time to choose a themed book and actually sit down and read it – and now we are recording their reactions to different types of books and grades of reading.

We are often asked: ‘Do you just read to the children?’ No. Their attention span is short, and that is only part of the day’s activities, although we gather them together at regular intervals to listen and think. Even that, takes some practice for them. A new child will fidget and lose concentration. It requires some training – and the right choice of material – to catch their attention. We have seen a noticeable change in the way our CBN children interact with us and listen.

We often use a book (now sadly out of print) produced as part of a Sunday Times ReadRight project with the Parliament of South Africa. The book is called ‘My Story, Our Stories’ and it was workshopped with Grade 7 (roughly 12-year-old) children. It deeply impresses our workshop participants that children also have a voice. We need to listen to those voices much more.

So we have constructive writing sessions, and illustration of the stories that come from the children themselves – and we do group writing with them, something that provides effective results.

We also play a game called Book Detectives, where a short story is written specially for them, and they have to guess and forecast what might happen next, picking up clues as they go.

In the end, the proof of the method is in how much interest the children show in the themed books we have available. We ask members of the Teen Team to read with them, to discuss the stories and their understanding of them – and we are seeing a considerable improvement in the choices CBN children make.

Our thanks to Enlighten Education Trust for letting us use their facilities on the second day, to Nini Stevens who generously provided the food for the children on both days and to our funder for these workshops, ZA-FM Public Interest Fund, and other funders who help with the structure and framework of CNM