Massive literacy campaign rolls out with billboards, radio and video


Literacy-campaign-articleThe isiZulu-language literacy billboard, illustrated by Rico of the Madam and Eve cartoon series.

A huge billboard campaign, including videos at taxi ranks and coinciding with the second season of stories broadcast on SABC public radio stations, has been launched to raise awareness of the importance of reading and storytelling to give children a better start in life.

Nal’ibali, the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, working with SABC Education, has built the campaign around the belief that a well-established culture of reading can be a game changer in the lives of South African children.

“Even if you can’t read, you can still tell stories to children,” says David Harrison, CEO of the DG Murray Trust, the main funder of the Nal’ibali campaign. “Stories spark those parts of their brains concerned with imagination, emotion, sensation and movement, and create the neural circuits that ultimately enable sophisticated thinking and reasoning. 

“As research has shown, children who read for pleasure perform better in the classroom, and not just in vocabulary and spelling, but also in maths. And stories are a great way to get children interested in books and reading, starting from birth.”

The series of billboards, drawn by Madam and Eve illustrator Rico, show three scenes symbolising how helping children develop an interest in reading is not only enjoyable for adults and children alike, but can also be done with children of every age, including babies. The illustrations tap into a growing body of research indicating that reading for pleasure paves a path to educational success, irrespective of social background and circumstance.

Over 500 billboards have been erected nationwide, with taglines translated into the main languages of the provinces and regions in which they are placed.


The rollout coincides with the second season of Nal’ibali radio stories in partnership with SABC Education, a major supporter of the “Story power. Bring it home” campaign. The stories are broadcast three times a week in all 11 official languages across SABC public radio stations. Aside from featuring in townships, rural areas and cities, the billboards have also been transformed into short animated clips that will be aired daily for the next four months in 10 taxi ranks across the country.

“Reaching beyond the limitations of physical services and centre-based education, radio offers the perfect platform to interact, engage, inform and effectively educate listeners in their first languages, straight into their homes,” says Tshilidzi Davhana, commissioning editor of SABC Education. “It is still the most accessible medium for both urban and rural citizens, and with more than 28-million adults listening to these stations weekly, it can therefore assist in making change happen more quickly.”


In calling for parent and caregiver involvement in children’s literacy learning, the new billboard series moves away from the idea that literacy learning can only take place at school – and only in English.

“Many parents and primary caregivers don’t realise how important their teaching role is with their children – they feel it’s the responsibility of school to do all the teaching,” says Carole Bloch, director of Praesa, which is driving the Nal’ibali campaign together with partners.

“Yet sharing stories, which all families can do, is an essential literacy learning building block.”

In fact, according to the South African Book Development Council, only 5% of parents in South Africa read to their children.

The campaign has also been designed to connect the public to the Nal’ibali website, mobisite and weekly bilingual newspaper supplement, where adults are able to access literacy tips, support and activities as well as children’s stories in a range of South African languages. Nal’ibali Literacy Mentors on the ground will also offer “Story power” workshops, information sessions and community dialogues throughout the duration of the campaign, including the provision of support to the parents of children who attend Nal’ibali’s network of more than 300 reading clubs in six provinces.