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SA Book Fair Impacting SA’ literary landscape one book at a time

A worrying report reveals that over 73% of SA youth are uninterested in books

Although South Africa has in recent years shown to be experiencing a growing number of black literary voices, statistics reveal that just over “73% of South Africans over the age of 16 are not interested in books”.

South African Book Development Council (SABDC) who are the custodians of the recently concluded SA Book Fair, which took place around the Newtown precinct from September 7-9 as part of the National Book Week, revealed that just over 58% SA households do not have a single leisure book in their homes.

“We are currently standing at 73% of adults who are not interested in reading books. How can we expect children to be reading? We need to lead by example, tell stories as quality time in the home, read as quality bonding time, and then we can start talking about reversing it. It is each individual’s responsibility to get someone reading and into books, we owe that to the generations to follow,” said SABDC CEO Elitha van der Sandt.

The three-day programme of events, which hosted panellists and authors among them, veteran journalist and human rights activist, Elinor Sisulu, Harvard University’s 2012 Nieman Fellow Fred Khumalo, self-published authors, Dudu Busani- Dube, Msizi Nkosi, Sara-Jayne King, Thuli Nhlapo, Phumlani Pikoli, Tracy Going, Christy Chilimigras, Chwayita Ngamlana and social activist Rosie Motene was dominated by a range of discussions under the theme: #OURSTORIES.

South Africa Reading

While the industry has a litany of challenges to sort out, the emergence of black female writers as well as children authors such as Michelle Nkamankeng, Stacey Fru and many others bring a sense of pride within the literary local circles.

Speaking during various topics which tackled issues such as self-publishing, cost of producing and distributing books, feminism and other robust debates it became clear that, South Africa is a nation of readers, authors, and entrepreneurs who want to contribute to the growth and success of the industry. “I am excited by the entire offering of the Fair. It is not just a literary festival, it is a mainstream industry event, and as such are offering is much bigger than a literary festival.

Casting a glimmer of hope to the otherwise devastating statics, Van der Sandt said she’s adamant that the country has enough good authors, publishers, administrators to inspire the next generation of writers and thus help fuel the appetite for local stories.“We see enthusiasm growing yes. And we see a change in audience. “We also have a world-class industry showcasing their works to the country, where experts from the book publishing industry are ready to assist with learning, teaching support materials and the best research and non-fiction books from university presses. There is a wealth of literature for leisure, knowledge, personal and spiritual development,” she ventured.

How to get involved

Get your #READABOOK poster, and encourage the community and library users to take part in the #READABOOK campaign by sharing books and encouraging friends to join the library. Bring out interesting book displays to attract the community. Older readers might enjoy self-help, cooking, gardening books.

Younger readers prefer some teen novels. Make colorful and bright displays in the foyer. Have story hour with storytelling and reading for young and old.

Education departments
Encourage the schools in your district to take part and get involved in the #READABOOK campaign. Learners can dress up as their favorite book character. Set time aside to have fun with books through animated storytelling and book reading. Invite elders in the community to tell stories.

Businesses, big and small, can get involved
Organise visits to schools, Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers. to donate books for storytelling and reading books. Buy books in bulk through the #BUYABOOK campaign. Encourage staff to support #BUYABOOK – it’s only R20 per book. Challenge other companies to buy more books than your company.

Siyabonga Sithole
Siyabonga Sithole
An award-winning journalist, Siyabonga Sithole honed his journalistic skills as a student in media studies at Unisa (2010- 2012), with a keen interest in live jazz music. His background as arts and culture journalist for The City Press (Media24) and previously as a senior entertainment writer for The New Age has enabled him to refine his writing skills with a sharp eye for cultural trends.
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