The Latest

In South Africa's Eastern Cape, Library Doors Open up a World of Opportunity for One Young Reader

January 11, 2013

Literacy South Africa

Sinothando doesn’t have a favorite book. He has dozens. The sheer prospect of choosing just one makes him laugh, and he rattles off a list: A Big Secret, Nkanishe, Books are Dear Friends, There Would Be No House...and those are just the beginning.

Hearing Sinothando’s enthusiasm, it’s hard to imagine the bright 5th grader as anything other than a confident, capable reader, but as he explained to our team, that wasn’t always the case.

Sinothando lives with his grandmother in a squatter camp in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, meaning he must walk 10 kilometers to school each day. His grandmother is illiterate and the only source of income for she and her three grandchildren is a monthly stipend from the government that does not even cover the family’s most basic needs.

“Before Room to Read built a library for us,” says Sinothando. “I was very shy because I could not read and I used to get very frustrated in class as I could not answer a single question.” He is now a fluent reader, and is proud of how far he’s come.

“My regular visits to the library have helped tremendously,” he says. “I have improved my pronunciation and often study on my own at home.”

Sinothando is one of the Lumanyano Primary School library’s most regular customers, and shows no signs of slowing down. “Room to Read provides us with very interesting and captivating books,” he says. “It now takes me only a few days to finish reading a book because I am always curious to read the following chapter!”

Reading has opened up a new world of imagination for Sinothando—one that allows him to dream of a life beyond the squatter camp where he currently lives. “Education is the only solution for me because I will one day afford to buy a house with electricity, beautiful furniture, clothing and a car for my family,” he says honestly.

In the future, Sinothando dreams of becoming a social worker to help empower the children in his community to avoid abuse, rape and other problems. “Without an education,” he says, “I cannot help my community.”

Learn more about our work in South Africa.