200 YOUNG SOUTH AFRICANS | Education
Tebogo Ditshego (29) started reading books as a toddler. Since then he has averaged a book a month. In fact his mother says she had started reading to him even before he was born.
According to a South African Books Development Council report of 2012, only 14% of South Africans read books for leisure. And when Ditshego learnt from a newspaper article that reading for leisure is the single most important indicator of a teenager’s future success, he decided to do something about that statistic.
He initiated an online project called Read a Book SA – using the social media tool Twitter – which encourages young South Africans to read a book a month and post a “twitpic” mini review of the book. Ditshego then shares these reviews with Read a Book SA’s followers who engage in a discussion about the book.
“Our goal is to encourage readers to read more and introduce non-readers to the experience of reading books,” he says.
“We coined the term #intellectualSwag, which means “It’s cool to be intelligent” and this appeals to young people because they can relate to this language.” Since its inception in May 2012, Read a Book SA has accumulated more than 30 000 followers, prompting Ditshego to take the concept a step further.
He has partnered with Vodacom who has sponsored eReader libraries in its existing ICT centres in all nine provinces in the country.
An eReader library comprises a round table with Kindles carrying reading material based on the recommendations of Read A Book SA’s followers.
Anyone from the public can walk into these centres and use the Kindles, thereby making reading accessible to more people. Read a Book SA is the most followed online book club in Africa and the eReader Libraries are the first of their kind on the continent.
But for Ditshego, it’s not just about getting people to read. “Studies indicate that countries with a functional literacy rate of more than 98%, such as Germany, can achieve GDP per capita rates of R120 000,” he says.
“So if we successfully inculcate a reading culture then our country will be in a better position to deal with social issues such as unemployment, crime and bad school results.” — Fatima Asmal