“The single most determining factor of an adolescent’s success in the future is based on whether they read for pleasure,” words uttered by Tebogo Ditshego, Founder of @ReadaBookSA on twitter, which has close to 30,000 followers, and CEO of public relations agency Ditshego Media.
After melodies strung from the strings of the guitar and the African beats echoed throughout the hall at the University of Johannesburg’s Arts and Culture Centre, Ditshego indulged the crowd with an impromptu Hip-Hop rap accompanied by a band on stage which got the crowd up off their seats and clapping to the melody.
Following his short performance Ditshego welcomed business leaders, authors and celebrities to the launch of the second annual National Book Week Forum, to discuss how books have assisted them to progress in their careers as well as how we can spread a culture of reading books in South Africa.
This forum is to encourage all members of South Africa to read, read for enjoyment, read for education, read for entertainment, but read nonetheless.
The South African Reading Foundation (SARF) in partnership with OR Tambo International Airport, Brand SA and the University of Johannesburg has made this possible.
This year’s theme for National Book Week South Africa is “going places” which conveyed to audiences in attendance that reading books enables one to expand their knowledge and capabilities in their careers and socially.
The sub-theme of the forum is Intellectual Swag which means it’s cool to be intelligent. This concept poses as a counter for negative stereotypes associated with reading books and has proven to increase the appeal of the activity amongst youth.
CEO of Shanduka Group Ms Phuti Mahanyele said a mere 14% of South Africans read, to the stunned crowd this seemed unrealistic, however it is the daunting truth she further said. Mahanyele went onto encourage people to read as a way of defining yourself and expanding knowledge. She said, “We must never undermine who we are, we never entirely know who we are but it is important to open ourselves up to knowledge and furthering our thought processes.”
The heart and purpose of the forum was brought to life when Unathi Batyashe-Fillis, OR Tambo International Airport Brand and Communications Manager, told the story of her daughter’s learning disability. She says, “As long as a child is reading – whether it be for fun or for school, they are still reading” and that is the most important factor she says parents need to in still in their children.
Brand SA Acting Director of Stakeholder Relations Mpumi Mabuza enlightened the crowd of the link between reading a book and playing your part. She says reading is one of the many ways people can help in taking South Africa forward. The culture of reading is a key component in active citizenship which is also one of the foundational layers of Brand South Africa’s initiative Play Your Part.
Mabuza challenged people sitting in the gallery to play their part by going out and visiting their local book store or library and reading, to start their own book club amongst their friends and family and make reading books a fun activity, challenge yourself to watch less TV and spend less time on social media and read, encourage others to read and tell Play Your Part what you are reading.
COO Airports Company South Africa Tebogo Mekgoe held the motif throughout his speech that one should read literature which offers a counter argument to your own personal views. He said it is important to read as broadly as possible because it’s the building blocks to widening your perspective on the world. Mekgoe said: “Real life is not as simply as science, there is no right or wrong answer, people can have very different views on the same thing but none of them is wrong.”
Mekgoe reiterated that knowledge is not measured by the number of degrees you have, it is measured by what you do with the knowledge you gained from reading, what change you create in the spaces around you, “Your richness comes from that,” he added.
Audiences were well aware of the role reading books plays in nation building and the importance of reading as well as what it means to be a reading nation. “Read for enjoyment” seemed to be the tagline of the forum. Ditshego said: “Reading should not be an activity you do to pass an exam, it should be because you are hungry for knowledge, you are reading to know the story, you are reading because you enjoy it.”
In the words of former president Nelson Mandela: “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination but when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”