South African Cultural Observatory

Encouraging a culture of reading a collective responsibility

BY 30.09.19

Various partners have come together to do their bit to encourage and engender the culture of book reading. During the month of September the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), Exclusive Books and Bargain Books all participated in initiatives to encourage South Africans to buy and read books. The number one citizen, President Ramaphosa also launched a virtual book club in an effort to boost reading across the country.

Every year, South Africa celebrates book reading awareness week, the National Book Week (NBW), during the first week of September. One of the main objectives of the week is to reintroduce and reconnect the country’s book industry, writers and illustrators as important elements in the development of a lifelong reading habit. The 2019 NBW ran from September 2-8 in all the provinces.

In line with UNESCO’s declarations of 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages”, the 2019 National Book Week largely focused on the preservation, revitalization and the promotion of indigenous languages in order to enhance tolerance, nation building and social inclusion.

The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa said, “reading and writing are important to socio-economic development, and in fostering a love of books and appreciation of literature as recreational reading beyond the classroom. The Department is engaged in various activities that encourage reading, writing and promotion of indigenous languages by hosting the book exhibitions of classics in different places and events that are organized by the Department as a means of encouraging the use of  indigenous languages or the reading of classics”.

The NBW was launched in 2010 in response to a study commissioned by the SABDC into the book reading habits of adult South Africans which showed SA’s poor reading culture, revealing that just 14% of South Africans actively read, while an alarming 58% of households did not have a single leisure book at home.

This year, the National Book Week also coincided with the celebration of International Literacy Day that took place on September 8th and was celebrated under theme “ Literacy in a digital world ".

One of the key initiatives for the Book Week was the #buyabook campaign, which the SABDC ran together with Exclusive Books and Bargain Books aimed at encouraging the public to buy a book from the select list of titles that included indigenous languages books.

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