Story by Magdalena Wos | Resource Development Officer | Heifer South Africa

September 8 is International Literacy Day. Established in the 1960s by UNESCO, International Literacy Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of literacy among both children and adults, and the benefits those skills have in our future.

Literacy skills are not something that can be learned in a day or two. It is a long process of practicing and learning. With improvement of reading and writing skills often comes a passion, the joy of picking up a book and reading it for at least 15 minutes a day, or the will to pick up a pen and write a novel. Literacy skills offer an opportunity - just by reading - to discover an unknown world or - just by writing - to create our own world. But for Heifer, reading gives even more. But for Heifer, reading gives even more. It provides an opportunity to change the world and, together with Heifer, end hunger and poverty in South Africa through Heifer’s Read to Feed program.

Heifer South Africa is a nonprofit organization that uses agricultural interventions to achieve its mission of ending hunger and poverty in South Africa. Working closely with rural communities, Heifer provides training, skills, seeds and livestock, as well as 3-5 years of ongoing support during which poor, rural people become sustainable small farmholders.

One of the ways Heifer raises awareness about the 12 million South Africans who are food insecure is through the Read to Feed program. Read to Feed is a reading initiative where children from primary schools in South Africa are motivated to read for a period of 4-6 weeks while helping others by collecting contributions for every book read. At the end of the Read to Feed program, the funds raised support Heifer’s mission in ending hunger and poverty in South Africa. Read to Feed teaches children that they never know what they can find in a book and that they can play a real part in changing the world for the better. The program gives learners a chance to discover the joy of reading, while at the same time developing a sense of social responsibility.

The Read to Feed program has been successful in various schools around the country such as Bishops Preparatory School in Cape Town, Benjamin Pine Primary School in Pinetown and Hudson Park Primary School in East London. It has gained recognition among teachers and parents, as well as the young learners.

Daniel Stainforth (grade 7) from Crawford Preparatory School said: ‘‘I feel we can afford to help, but others can’t. No one really motivated me before to read books. But in this case, [knowing that I am helping others] has motivated me.”

Read to Feed is also supported by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who said, “Read to Feed is more than a reading program, it is also an opportunity for children to change the world. I strongly support the Read to Feed program.”

On September 8, 2012, Heifer encourages everyone to celebrate literacy for more than just a day.

For more information or to get involved with Read to Feed where you live, please visit: http://www.heifer.org/readtofeed

Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.