Imagine if all the children born today in South Africa were represented by just two of them. Statistically speaking, one child will receive an abundance of nutrition, love, security and stimulation – the building blocks for healthy development; the other will miss out on much of these as their brains develop. While still in utero and in the months and years immediately after birth, the brain builds upon itself and essential brain architecture is established. For the child with access to the building blocks for healthy development, millions of neural connections are made as she is stimulated; for the child without access to these building blocks, far fewer connections are made and the circuitry does not develop optimally. Thus these two lives are projected onto two completely different growth paths – on the one path there is the potential to seize many of life’s opportunities; on the other the possibilities are greatly reduced.
In the years that follow, language and literacy development will be an important factor that will either widen the gap between these children, or will be the key to significantly reducing the gap. Once they go to school, understanding is key to learning, and as they progress from one grade to the next, language and reading is the key to understanding.
The good news is that our brains never stop developing. If we stimulate it, it will develop in different ways. If we read and speak to infants, they will develop language. If we help children to read, and they do it often because they enjoy it, they will start to read better. If they read, they can learn; if they learn, the world opens up for them.
Let’s read to children from birth. Let’s help children to love reading.
THE STORY OF HOW READING FOR ENJOYMENT CAN CHANGE OUR COUNTRY
Some ideas, tools and experience that can help us get South Africa reading:
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