Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has again emphasised the importance of promoting a culture of reading in order to respond to the literacy challenges facing Namibian communities.
Hanse-Himarwa said reading is the foundation of learning and self-development. Therefore, parents, grandparents and older siblings must make an effort to make reading a regular family activity.
A report released in 2012 revealed that some Namibian teachers were struggling with reading, especially in the official language, English.
According to the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) Namibian learners, whose reading skills were assessed at various competency levels, were in 2007 found to be below standard.
The level of learners who could do basic reading (which involves interpreting the meaning of a short and simple text) was at 25.5 percent and still below the desired level of competence.
More than 80 percent of learners did not reach advanced reading, so as to be able to at least combine information from various parts of a text and infer the writer’s intention.
The report further showed that Grade 6 learners’ reading skills were low, compared to other countries that participated in the same test.
Hanse-Himarwa said there have been slight improvements since 2007, but this could not to be celebrated as yet.
“We will wait for the next SACMEQ report to see the improvements,” she said, adding that Namibia is not the only country struggling with reading skills, but to become a strong competitor in the global village, the country needs learners who are stimulated by knowledge acquired through reading and research, she explained.
In order for this to happen, she said, there is a need to transform public schools and libraries into flexible, dynamic, high-tech learning centres designed to prepare learners as responsible citizens, who can function in a complex and changing information landscape.
This, she added, requires leadership and strategic planning by school principals and public librarians.
According to the minister, there is a need to strengthen public libraries to improve the performance of the learners and to ensure communities have access to learning resources, including computers and the internet. Besides learners, she also wants to see the young and adult learners visiting libraries.
The minister noted that research has proven that children who read for pleasure gain advantages that last for their whole lives, saying reading is a tool for lifelong learning. She said reading also improves a child’s vocabulary and leads to more highly developed language skills and further expands memory capacity.
“When you read a book you have to remember an assortment of characters, their backgrounds, ambitions, history, and nuances, as well as the various arcs and sub-plots that weave their way through every story,” she noted and said reading helps children improve concentration skills, which allow them to study and learn more effectively, while building general knowledge.
“Reading transforms people’s lives and the entire society. It’s not only about enjoyment. It is a necessity. It’s the basic tool of education, because it enables a better understanding of one’s own experience and it can be an exciting voyage of self-discovery,” Hanse-Himarwa enthused.
She further said reading is given prominence in the new curriculum for basic education, as an additional reading period per week is now offered from Grade 1 to 12. The purpose of the extra period is to instil a reading culture in all teachers and learners.
She was also pleased to note that all reading activities taking place in Namibian school libraries are celebrated annually through the reading campaign.
The campaign will culminate in the Readathon at all schools on September 30.
“We urge you to take part in these nationwide festivities. The ministry has resources, such as Readathon manuals, to support you in your planning,” she advised.
This year’s Readathon will be celebrated under the theme: ‘Read Namibia: Opening New Worlds through Reading. Start reading today’.
Reading is known to have numerous benefits. Studies have shown that apart from stress reduction staying mentally stimulated can slow down or even prevent dementia, as keeping one’s brain active prevents it from losing its capacity. As with any other muscle the brain requires exercise to stay healthy.