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Celebrating the gift of a library

Extract from remarks by the Minister of Education in the Western Cape, David Maynier, at the opening of the Sunbird Library and Grade R projects at Chapel Street Primary School.

The importance of reading

I am so pleased to be here to celebrate the gift of a new library, and especially a new library for a primary school. The academic importance of reading is universally known, because without a solid grounding in early grade reading, children will struggle to keep up in later grades. 2

And as the parent of a young child looking to instil the same love of reading in her that I have, I know how important having a library and reading space at school can be.

Our Department takes the value of reading very seriously, which is why we announced at the start of the third term that we would be allocating two additional hours each week to reading in the Foundation Phase.

Reading scores suffered during the pandemic, and we are working to reverse the learning losses caused by making sure our Grade 1 to 3 learners spend more time reading.

But the value of reading is so much more than just academic performance and systemic test scores.

Last year, the Ministry held a poetry competition for International School Libraries Month, and learners were asked about their experiences of Covid-19, and how their library and books helped them during the time.

The entries spoke about it being an understandably difficult and upsetting time, but also of the way in which books offered an escape from the anxiety and fear our learners faced.

American academic and Harvard president Charles W. Eliot put it very well:

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

The gift of reading is not just a gift of learning – it is a gift of wellbeing, too. And it is a gift that the learners of Chapel Street Primary will be able to put to good use in a beautiful space.

The importance of partnerships

I also want to recognise very specifically the spirit of cooperation between donors and partners and the Department, which has made this project possible.

This is what TEAM READ is all about: recognising that achieving absolute literacy requires a whole of society approach, and depends on what you correctly refer to as “the power of partnerships”.

I thank the Otto Foundation, Waterfront Rotary, and all of the other organisations who came together to deliver such a wonderful, multi-functional space for reading, as well as a Grade R classroom and playground.

You are doing such great work in our schools and communities, and please know that it does not go unrecognised or unappreciated.

I look forward to taking these kinds of partnerships further in the months and years ahead. I wish the learners of Chapel Street Primary many happy hours of reading, learning and playing in their new spaces.


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