National Book Week to go virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic
The annual National Book Week (NBW), which actively celebrates books through indigenous language reading festivals across the country, will move online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. NBW is the country’s most cherished reading awareness week dedicated to encouraging reading and promoting books. An initiative of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), in partnership with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, NBW will be hosted from 07 to 13 September.
The programme this year includes digital content and to-do-activities which will be presented virtually on NBW’s Facebook page, respecting the boundaries of social distancing whilst still promoting all things books, writing and creativity. The programme includes reading related activities, storytelling, poetry sessions, writing workshops, play-based learning and motivational talks in all South African languages.
New additions to the line-up include magic shows and puppet making workshops which should find new audiences all over the country. A segment on “Stories from Africa” led by the multi-talented Gcina Mhlophe is also being introduced. With NBW now virtual, people from around the world will be able to watch the legendary storyteller perform.
“Books and reading can’t cease to exist because of the pandemic. More than ever, it’s crucial that South Africa celebrates the importance of reading and books, hence we ask the country to join us in bringing more books to the people.”
“Authors write books during the most catastrophic human experiences. They record and capture these moments, good and bad, which allow the reader to transcend the barriers they face in everyday life,” says Elitha van der Sandt, CEO, SABDC.
As NBW enters a new decade of promoting leisure reading and books, Passport to Tomorrow, is appropriately 2020’s guiding theme as it navigates a bi-literate society, one that likes to read printed books but is also consuming content via digital devices. NBW was launched in 2010 in response to a study commissioned by the SABDC into the book reading habits of adult South Africans. The statistics shone light on SA’s poor reading culture.
“Based on the data collected over the past decade, we have attempted to outline a practical and effective framework that furthers our efforts to encourage the country to embrace reading for leisure. Our pedagogical research has long recognised the ability to read as essential to personal fulfilment. Moreover, our recent work shows a growing acceptance of the premise that a country’s social and economic progress depends in large measure on its people’s ability to read and access to the books,” adds van der Sandt.
“The theme is fit-for-purpose for the next decade as we emerge from the ravages of the pandemic towards the promise of a better tomorrow. The theme is interpretive, and its appeal lies not in the statement itself, but in the way it is constructed by the reader for self.”
South Africans all over the country will be able to access some of the content that is usually enjoyed at the reading festivals. Furthermore, the virtual format allows NBW to bring in more performers, more activities, and more speakers who otherwise would not have been able to participate.
Normally, NBW programmes are implemented on the ground in all provinces during the week supported by the provincial and municipal library services. NBW’s mascot Funda Bala also travels to each province during the week much to the delight of young and old.
One of the country’s longest running book donation drives #BUYABOOK, a centrepiece of NBW, returns this year with “Fun With Funda Bala” – a children’s activity book that can be bought at Bargain Books and Exclusive Books for only R20. The public is encouraged to buy the book and pay it forward, that is, donate it to a child or adult in their environment. According to the research by SABDC, 58% of homes in South Africa do not have a single book.
The activity book is a physical tool for children and adults alike to express their creativity. The book, which all South Africans including corporates are encouraged to buy and donate includes quizzes, colour in pages, stories and games for hours of offline fun. The activity book honours all official languages as well as the forgotten Nama. Corporates can place bulk orders directly through SABDC’s office for donation in the provinces or for their own CSI initiatives.
“Most children’s stories start with “Once upon a time”, however for many children the story doesn’t always end with “happily ever after”. This is because they don’t have the same opportunities that other children have to grow up in a household with books,” says van der Sandt in conclusion.
“While NBW has been reimagined in a new virtual format to convey the same spirit of creativity and inventiveness to an even wider book loving community, we remain resolute in our commitment to the NBW families in the provinces. We might be socially isolated, but our most ardent supporters, young children, will still be able to have fun with Funda Bala through the activity book.”
Go to sabookcouncil.co.za for more information and the programmes.
About National Book Week: NBW, the well-established and long running book reading awareness week, is hosted by the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) in partnership with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture. NBW has been going since 2009 and boasts an impressive roster of events that cater to children and adults alike. It remains a marquee event in SA’s leisure reading scene.