Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

The National Readathon of Namibia, 1988-2001

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

The National Readathon of Namibia, 1988-2001

Article excerpt

Readathon in Namibia is a week-long reading and book festival held annually in schools, culminating in the National Readathon Day on the Friday. The aim is primarily to develop a love of reading among learners in an effort to nurture a book culture in the country, and secondarily to help schools raise funds to develop their school libraries. From small beginnings in 1988, Readathon has now developed into a national movement in which all primary and junior secondary schools participate. The article describes the development of Readathon over a 14-year period, the organization of Readathon by the Namibian Children's Book Forum, and the Readathon celebrations of September 2001.

Some Facts About Namibia

Namibia is a large country of more than 820,000 sq km, but with a population of fewer than 2 million inhabitants. It is situated on the west coast of Africa and bordered by Angola in the north, by Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe in the northeast, and South Africa in the south. Namibia, previously called South West Africa, became independent on March 21, 1990 as Africa's last colony, after, first, 30 years of German rule and, thereafter, 70 years of South African rule. The new government has the tremendous task of developing the majority, who had suffered under deprivation and apartheid for many generations. Many nongovernmental organizations like the Namibian Children's Book Forum (NCBF), each in its own way, assist the government in its task of nation building.

What Is Readathon and Why Did the NCBF Launch this Project? The word Readathon was not coined in Namibia. In some countries, Readathon is a kind of reading competition between the best readers in schools. In Namibia, Readathon is something else. It is a week-long reading and book festival held annually in schools, culminating in the National Readathon Day on the Friday, in an effort to nurture a book culture in the country. Schools do not compete against one another, and reading competitions among the learners of one school play a minor role or no role at all. The event should be fun, enable learners to experience the joy of reading, and at the same time enable schools to raise funds to buy books for their school libraries. The NCBF launched this project in 1988 because most learners in Namibia have illiterate parents, with the result that the first six years of their lives are spent entirely without books. Usually, the first book learners encounter, even today, is their first school reader. This first encounter can determine a child's attitude toward books for life. If the first experience with books is negative and related to the difficult reading process, strict teachers, no support at home to practice the reading skill, tests, exams, and even punishment, the child will develop a love-hate relationship with books. The child may drop out of school early or, when grown up, may use books for utilitarian purposes only and not read for pleasure and edification. A reading culture will never develop in a nation where this is the attitude of the majority toward books and reading. The Readathon project aims to enable learners to become book lovers, and also to give schools an opportunity to develop their school libraries, because they receive only a very limited number of new school library books from government per year.

The last week of September is Readathon Week, and Friday of that week is Readathon Day. From Monday to Thursday, a variety of book- and reading-related activities are organized by schools. Should schools wish to raise money for their school library, learners can go and read stories to the community and request donations. On Friday, all schools set aside a scheduled half-hour governed by the following rules: each learner will read some enjoyable stories; no school textbooks or school readers may be read; junior primary readers who find reading difficult may listen to an enjoyable story read by an adult; the teachers, school principal, and support staff must also sit and read a story during the half-hour. …

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