Today is 23 April, World Book Day. It’s a day celebrated around the world with the purpose of focussing on literacy and literature.

In South Africa, there is a massive need to focus on this. 

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study in 2021 placed South Africa stone-cold last out of 57 countries in terms of literacy. According to this test (the results of which have been replicated), 8 out of 10 Grade 4 pupils in this country cannot read for meaning in any language, including their home language! 

This is a crisis, since up to this age you learn to read, but from Grade 4 you read to learn. If you cannot read at this level, you won’t learn what you need to learn.

But maybe that’s not really surprising when we realise that 70% of South Africa’s government schools don’t have a library.

Massive. problem.

Side note: Interestingly enough, boys generally performed worse than girls, and speakers of African languages fared worse than English- and Afriakaans-speakers. Something to bear in mind if either of these situations (or both) apply to your family.

Side note to a side note: You probably know by now how I feel about raising kids bilingual and this naturally involves reading to them in different languages. If you’re stumped for resources, Nal’ibali has a great free online story library with stories in multiple African languages.

S reading Clever Count book


It might seem a little odd, but the earlier you start reading to your baby, the better. 

Even if they are still in the lump stage or if they’d rather eat the book than read it or if they’re only interested in the story for 2 minutes. 

The major benefit of reading to babies is to their development. Reading to your children in their early years builds their language and literacy skills. It fosters their imagination and promotes empathy and emotional intelligence. 


The importance of reading to children and for children only gets higher the older the child gets.

On a basic level, being able to read is a necessity to function on an everyday basis in this world. We need to read to communicate, to succeed at school, to do business – the list is endless and I’m sure none of this is new to you. 

But reading has far-reaching benefits too. 

Children who read for pleasure perform better academically than those who don’t, and not just in English or language-related subjects. Children who read books regularly at age 10 get higher results in maths, vocabulary and spelling tests at age 16. Reading helps children develop their vocabulary, reasoning, creativity, discipline and general knowledge.

Children with reading difficulties are more likely to develop mental health problems later in life – depressions, anxiety, anger and aggression. Adults who read just 30 minutes week are 20% more likely to have greater life satisfaction.

There are no known side effects to reading, no known detrimental consequences. Reading only has benefits. What else these days can boast that?

J reading Clever Count book


Since holding your children down and subjecting them to a reading of your favourite Jodi Picoult novel is generally frowned upon, let’s look at a few other things you can do to encourage your kidlets to pick up a book and read.

  • Read – Sounds silly, but your kids will copy you, so if they see you reading regularly, they are more likely to do it themselves.
  • Read aloud – Read to your kids. Start when they are babies (always a good part of a bedtime routine) and continue for as long as they’ll let you.
  • Have books around – The more books you have lying around your house, the easier it is for your kids to pick up a book when they are bored.
  • Go to story hour – For younger kids, find out if your local library has a storytelling session. Baby J loves his weekly storytelling outing.
  • Subscribe – There are a few subscription boxes options which will deliver a range of books to your door monthly. The fun part of subscription boxes is the surprise element of finding out what’s in each box each month.
  • Make it interesting – Find out what interests your kids and find suitable related books. Take your kids to the library or bookshop and help them find books they will find interesting. Don’t dictate their tastes – give them free rein.
  • Watch the movie – For older kids, show your kids books which have movies based on them so they can watch the movie once they’ve read the book.

Encouraging someone to read is hard. I know, I’ve tried countless times to get my husband into reading, with limited success. The number of books I’ve given him for gifts which are sitting untouched on his bedside table is ridiculous!

The good news if you’re not a fan of reading, is that even just having books in the home is advantageous. The more books in the house, the higher the reading comprehension skills of the children in it.