Father | Storyteller | Book-sharing guru
For Anele, storytelling is a family tradition that his father passed down to him, and that he continues with his own children. Becoming a book-sharing facilitator has allowed Anele to tell stories to his children in a different way - stories are told together, using wordless picture books. “When I am reading now, I’m not just reading a book to my child. I am sharing the book with them. They are leading the story and leading me.” Anele advocates that if more fathers become actively involved in book-sharing and storytelling, we would quickly see the positive impacts around reading in South Africa.
The power of storytelling for parents
“Keeping stories alive is important,” explains Anele. “Reading stories can take you to different worlds. They can take you wherever you want to go. It can make a huge impact in exploring different words, different things and different people.”
Anele is passionate about promoting reading for enjoyment. Working for the Centre for Social Development at Rhodes, on the VW Legacy Literacy project. Anele jumped at the opportunity to have a platform to engage with parents around book-sharing. “I’ve been involved with reading organisations for the last 10 years. When the opportunity [book-sharing] came, I grabbed it. It gives me a platform to engage with parents on their relationship with their children.”
The importance of fathers as role models
Having worked in the literacy sector for many years, Anele has encountered a lack of role models in childrens’ lives when it comes to reading. He says that it is important to create a culture of reading in South African homes. “Children don’t see reading taking place at home. Book-sharing will give children the opportunity to see people engaging with books, and parents will start to see the importance of reading and sharing books. Sometimes it’s not that they don’t read, but they don’t have the methods. We are showing them practically.”
Anele notes that some fathers believe storytelling with your children falls under the role of their mother. With a firm belief in the positive impact that fathers can have in the lives of their children, Anele would like to see more fathers taking an active role and letting go of old gender-role stereotypes. “Personally - I believe as a father myself - we need to be role models to our children. In all areas of their lives...If we, as fathers of South Africa, can say ‘we are here, we will take part in everything that has to do with reading’ - this will show children and us that we can make a change.”
Building a foundation for literacy
Book-sharing allows children to tell their own stories, drawing from their own lived experiences as well as their imaginations. Anele enjoys the fact that with book-sharing, a parent is “engaging the totality of their child”.
In South Africa, storytelling is an important part of our culture. “I believe storytelling has been part of our lives - we grew up with parents and grandparents to tell stories. It is important to keep it alive. It is not just for fun, it is also about educating people. We tell stories about our childhood, our government, the challenges of growing up and to share life experiences. It can have a positive impact on the mental development of the child. It can have a positive impact when it comes to literacy.” Through encouraging a culture of book-sharing among others, Anele is contributing to a wider vision: that of a South Africa in which our children are part of our generations of storytellers.