“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald

When children see the adults around them using reading and writing in their everyday lives, they’re more likely to become readers and writers themselves.

Starting from a young age, if a child reads 20 minutes a day at home, they will hear 1.8 million words per year. They will have read for 851 hours by 6th grade, and on standardized tests, they will likely score better than 90% of their peers. This is compelling data on the benefits of encouraging your child to read.

Thato, Maru and Marchelle

Marchelle Hermanus is a Capetonian girl who moved to JHB almost 2 years ago and who fell in love with the friendly people of Gauteng.

“Our family is an amazing blend of all races and this is emulated in our friendship circles as well.” 

Naomi and family

Marchelle and husband Thato adopted Maru in 2017. Since then she has been active in the adoption community, where she has an amazing group of families who meet up monthly. Thato and Marchelle love storytelling and getting creative as a family.

Marchelle and her family started reading every day on Facebook live as a family during lockdown, which was a big motivator for the Mandela Day Family Readathon.

“During lockdown we started reading live every night at 7 pm, and then another photographer/farmer in the Eastern Cape joined us’” says Marchelle. “This had me thinking about what we would do for Madiba Day, knowing that Mandela loved learning and reading (as per his book “Long walk to freedom).” 

“My passion for family, learning and storytime with Maru, brought about the Mandela Day Family Readathon, and it was a great way to connect with other families. Single parents, families who are mixed races, adoption communities, plus amazing grandmothers who raised us, and who now read for our kids.” 

Keshia and family

She rallied 67 families to get together to read 67 stories, to honour Madiba on Mandela Day.

The rules were simple. Read a fun story with a family member(s), have 67 families, and make it fun! And so, the Mandela Day Family Readathon was born.

Nelson Mandela was a big believer in education and children. This readathon married two of his greatest loves and legacies.

Moms, dads, grannies and children got together, read stories on a video, and shared it to the readathon group. Some children, like 3-year-old Maru, and 11-year-old Keirra, read a story themselves. Other moms and dads read while their little ones interacted and helped their parents along. This was amongst much fun and frivolity!

Keirra and mom

Thandeka read a story in Zulu, called ‘Isifundo SikaDoobsy’. It is about a kitten who does not listen to her mom, and gets into trouble because of this. She then learns a hard lesson, from not listening to her elders.

Athena and Zinnea

Anneli and her children read a story in Afrikaans, ‘Minnie se troeteldier salon’. Jennifer read a story called ‘Busi on the beach’, a book she wrote about the relationship between a little girl and her father, where pollution, litter, loving animals and being good stewards of the earth are talked about.

‘Elmer the elephant’ was a particularly popular storybook read, and other firm favourites were read too. ‘Dr Seuss’, ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’, ‘The old woman who lived in a shoe’, ‘Hi Zoleka’, ‘Yebo, Jamela!’ and ‘Peppa Pig’, to mention a few.

Alex, Yolandi and Aya

Recycling, culture and tradition played strong themes throughout, as of course did Mr Mandela, with storybooks ‘Mr Hare meets Mr Mandela’, read by Judy and her son, and ‘Nelson Mandela’s story for kids’.

“Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.”  – Marilyn Jager Adams

A time of togetherness and fun, with treasured memories being made, and a deserved man, our Madiba, being remembered and acknowledged in the process.

This is what the readathon brought about.

What a poignant event to view a wonderfully colourful palette of families, truly reflective of the rainbow nation we live in.

Nivashni and family

And so, to the 31 South African families who happily read 57 stories in the Mandela Day Family Readathon, thank you for allowing us a glimpse into the lives of your precious, storytelling families.

Happy birthday Madiba! Thank you for your legacy. Thank you for your vision.

And thank you for your storytelling.

Judy and Mazithi

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.”  – Kate DiCamillo

Belinda and Toby

Featured Photo:  Jennifer reading to Jonah and Noah

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