On Monday 8 September 2014, the Nal'ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, in partnership with Mxit Reach, will launch a literacy app.
The Mxit social networking platform, which has five million monthly users, will allow anyone with a mobile handset to help put their children on the path to educational success with access to regular stories, literacy tips and support.
"Research shows that being told stories and being read to at home are the things most likely to help make children successful learners at school. Stories, particularly when read or heard in home languages, help children develop their language skills and imagination as well as their thinking and problem-solving skills. But not all South Africans have access to children's books and stories - particularly in their mother tongue," comments Carole Bloch, Director of the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), which is driving the Nal'ibali campaign. The reports show that 51% of homes in the country do not have access to leisure books and 85% of the population lives beyond the reach of a public library.
"What most South Africans do have is a cellphone, with mobile penetration now over 100% in the country. By harnessing this tidal wave of mobile communication technology use in our country, we hope to get even more adults reading and enjoying stories with their children so it becomes part of their daily lives."
Moreover, whilst many children are just as tech savvy as their parents and may well enjoy reading the stories on their own, Bloch points out that - just as with reading traditional print books - the greatest rewards for children's literacy development come when adults and children share stories together.
"There is a tendency for parents to engage less with their children around E-books and other forms of digital content. Language and literacy skills are best developed in the discussion and engagement that takes place when caregivers and young ones share a story together - and this includes the sharing of stories found on digital devices."
To address these critical elements on the Nal'ibali reading-for-enjoyment app, caregivers are invited to sign-up up together with the children in their care to receive a story or motivational tip in a language of their choice.
Explains Maru Van Der Merwe, Mxit Reach Project Manager for the app, "By using push technology we can help remind or prompt users to share a story or story activity with their children - important for the Nal'ibali campaign given that it is regular encounters with text and stories that promotes literacy development in kids. Users also have the opportunity to earn points and rewards by completing stories, submitting reviews and answering monthly polls to further encourage regular engagement with the content."
The app also offers a story library for users to access at any time; audio stories for children to listen to together with their caregivers or on their own (particularly useful in day-care or ECD settings); as well as fun literacy quizzes and the opportunity to share reviews in a virtual reading club section. "Coming soon will be a multilingual rhyme library for use with babies and very young children, as well as an 'Ask the Experts' feature, whereby users can submit reading and writing questions they may have related to their children's literacy learning, and receive an answer from a Nal'ibali literacy expert," concludes Van Der Merwe.
"With already 60,000 subscribers to their app, we look forward to now engaging and motivating these users to make regular use of the content so as to drive and support behaviour change when it comes to their family reading habits," adds Andrew Rudge, CEO of Mxit Reach. "In that way, the company can make a lasting contribution to the development of a reading culture in SA."
For more information, go to www.nalibali.org