BRIDGE is keenly aware of South Africa’s literary crisis. According to data in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), South Africa placed last out of 50 countries which included nearly 320‚000 children globally. The survey also found that reading scores have not improved since 2011. As part of our efforts to redress the situation, the BRIDGE team has recently embarked on a journey with the developmental non-profit Help2Read by registering to become ‘Reading Helpers’ in its Volunteer Reading Help Programme.
The programme involves pledging one’s time to help struggling learners improve their reading skills. The Help2Read literacy intervention programme is run at public primary schools across South Africa, and provides children who struggle to read with one-on-one attention from a volunteer ‘Reading Helper’ or community ‘Literacy Tutor’. Through consistent literacy skills input, reading help and the inclusion of fun activities – participants in the programme not only learn to read, but fall in love with it. The Volunteer Reading Help Programme supports children who attend suburban schools, but come from disadvantaged communities. These children often do not speak English as their primary language, and so benefit greatly from the one-on-one literacy tutoring they receive from trained volunteers.
The volunteer programme has proved especially valuable to us. BRIDGE does not often have the opportunity to work directly with learners – generally working instead with teachers, practitioners, school leaders and other organisations in the sector. We are always mindful of the fact that there are other organisations doing amazing work in the education sector and find that working together goes a long way to reducing duplication and spreading effective practice.