The benefits of reading aloud

1st February is World Read Aloud Day.

Last year more than a million people participated in this event. Sounds fabulous, but actually when you come to think of how many people there actually are in this world (estimated at ~7.7 billion in November last year) that is pretty darn pathetic!

Every day should be a read aloud day.

Reading stories to children is probably one of the most beneficial things you, as a parent or older sibling, can do, apart from giving them love, food, clothing and shelter that is.

It’s not only little kids that enjoy being read to either, older kids appreciate a good story too.

Scary fact: South Africa came last in the world in a recent survey. They discovered that 8 out of 10 kids in Grade 4 cannot read for meaning – in any language. What does that terrifying sentence signify? It means that those kids can read the words, but when they have finished “reading” them, they don’t know what they just read.

It makes no sense right? Sadly it’s true, and when you don’t understand what you are reading, it strips away all the joy associated with books.

You, as a parent, have the power to instil a love of reading in your child from early on.

It’s as simple as reading a little story at bedtime. Every bedtime! It’s also a sneaky way of having one-on-one special time with your kids.

When you read with emphasis and expression, it makes the story come alive. Not only does that make it interesting, but the way you read gets your kids to understand how grammar works, without even realising. You pause at a comma and stop at the end of the sentence.

They can hear how words are being pronounced.

Being read aloud to also exposes children to new words and increases their vocabulary.

Literature is also a great way of helping kids understand something that they have not necessarily been exposed to themselves. It makes them more aware and instils empathy.

Please do leave your cell phone in another room when you are reading to your children. Possibly the most irritating thing in the world is having a story continually interrupted by pinging, ringing and a distracted storyteller.

To celebrate World Read Aloud Day we are making ‘Sibo Saves Water’ a free digi-read on the website. It’s a double celebration – the 2nd of February is World Wetlands Day.

Happy reading and listening!

Sibo

Books are Friends

My friend Ginny gives talks in schools sometimes. The topic is “Books are Friends!” It’s interactive and the kids also get to add their two cents worth. This is how it goes:

F is for Friends! Books are better than friends because you don’t have to ask somebody’s permission to go and visit a book (unless you want to go to the library) and books don’t get cross and fight with you. You never feel lonely when you have a book for company and you can have fun escaping into fiction or fantasy. Plus you can use them to find out facts. Reading sets you free!

R is for Reading! You can read a range of books at any rate you want to – fast or slow. You rest when you want to, and if you enjoyed a bit, you can return to it and read it again. You can read about your rights too.

I is for Interesting! Books are incredibly interesting and inspiring. Reading makes you intelligent. You can read important stuff. It’s impossible to get bored if you have a book to read. Of course, don’t forget – books are printed with Ink.

E is for Everybody! Books are for everybody and can be found everywhere. Excellent books explain things and equip you with knowledge. They are exciting and entertaining. Best of all – you don’t need electricity to read a book with your eyes.

N is for Nice! New books are nice too.  Books are necessary, we need them. You can turn to the next page to see what happens in the story every night. Books have names – just like you and I. But you should never ever mistreat your friends.

D is for Dependable! Just like a really good friend, books are always there for you. You can read the daily and when you have finished your book, you can donate it to somebody else to read. They are delightful but you do have to look after them. Dictionaries are great books too. Diaries are books that you can write about your own life. Don’t forget about digital books either!

S is for Story! And for Sibo of course! Some of our story books talk about saving water, electricity and strays. Taking shorter showers and planting seeds.  Separating rubbish and recycling.

On Saturday there is a pop-up book fair at the Alkantrant Library, Lynburn Rd, Lynnwood Manor, Pretoria from 09h00 – 12h00. Come and meet some new friends. Get your Christmas shopping done nice and early.

Lots of love,

Sibo.

The need to read

The 8th of September is International Literacy Day.

So what? I hear many people say. I don’t have time to read. I can’t be bothered to read. Reading is boring… but actually we read all the time!

We read social media updates, road signs, food labels, and information on goods that we buy. We need to know whether we should wash that new item of clothing in hot water or cold water – right? And for that you need to read the label. Or the instruction manual that comes with your latest gadget.

Or what about recipes?

That’s reading, isn’t it?

Many people stick to magazines, newspapers or read on-line, and that’s all good but…

What about reading for pleasure? To escape reality without going anywhere—you can travel the world, learn about new places, time-travel with science fiction and fantasy, or read sloppy romantic novels where the girl always gets the boy in the end (unlike real life!!). What about mysteries or those scary ‘Who dunnits’?

Okay! So books are not exactly cheap, but you don’t even need to buy them—join the library. Or share with friends, as long as you look after the books and return them in the same condition that you received them in.

If you don’t like reading… at least consider reading to your children!

It has been proven that kids who are read to from a young age have a distinct advantage over those who are not.

Children are naturally inquisitive and love to ask questions – when a parent reads a picture book to their offspring, they are exposing them to different things. They can point at pictures and say “What is that?” or “Who is that”. It encourages youngsters to start thinking and asking questions.

It enhances a child’s vocabulary.

In addition to a better grasp of language, reading assists with spelling too.

We all love a good story, and bed-time reading (in any language) instils a love of books at an early age—something that stays with a person for the rest of their life.

Plus… a bed-time story is a great way to bond with your child. You get to sit on the bed, snuggle with your nice clean kid and read. It’s a fabulous way of having one-on-one time in this overly busy world of ours where there is not always quality time for everybody.

Please read more people!

Sibo

xxxx

 

Pop-Up Book Fair

Last Saturday Ginny and I got to do some exciting stuff. We went to an Indie Pop-up Book Fair at the Alklantrant Library in Pretoria. Ahem… I’m not exactly an indie girl myself, because my Sibo Series are published by Lets Look Publishers, but Ginny writes other stuff (Dog’s blogs, Imaginaeries and The Kindness Book)  that she does publish herself, so she asked if she could take me along too.

It was such fun meeting all the other people who write South African children’s books. There was quite a selection. One young lady, Pamela Ngubeni, has written a little pocket-sized book about being bullied and what to do if you are. She herself was bullied when she was younger and she has risen above the situation and gives talks in schools now too.

A fabulous book by Soraya Hendricks, called ‘The Legend of the Gilded Scroll’, covers the topic of stranger danger. It’s an awesomely illustrated fantasy story that incorporates the topic in an exciting manner.

There were the Sir Chocolate  stories for kids (that include recipes) by Robbie and Michael Cheadle.

and a series of Akiki books by Fatuma Abdulla that had a lovely doll (from the illustrations) that was also for sale.

Yet another remarkable book called ‘Be Amazing’ by Doloros Oldjohn, was all about being different, making a difference, having respect, going the extra step and being nice whilst you go about it.

‘Liam goes to the game reserve’ – written by Christina van Straaten is a delightful story that introduces wild animals in their natural habitats to children. It’s a hardboard book – durable and easy to keep clean and great for small kids.

Cora Groenewald, author of Salome and Gogo visit Soweto (also available in Afrikaans) was there too.

If you like adventure novels with a twist then Everdeen Brickwood’s books are for you.

There’s a series by Jann Wereatunga that involves a pirate parrot called Polly (also a puppet) having all sorts of adventures (with life lessons), where you can use your imagination and draw your own pictures in the books, instead of the books having ready-made illustrations.

Sandy van Zyl has a series of beautifully illustrated books ‘The Travel Buggz’ that are based on the adventures of the author and her two children when they went travelling around South Africa.

Martie van der Walt, a first time author had her stand next to ours with a delightful Afrikaans book -‘Kiekie en Wiekie, Die avonture van twee kroonkiewiete’. These were stories told to her by her father, that she has recorded so that the tradition can live on for future generations. The illustrations in the book were just lovely.

The lady who organised the pop-up book fair, Sabine Lehmacher (JOE), has a book called ‘The Moonling’. It’s a story that she found when she was sorting out her late mother’s possessions. Her mom had written it in the 1950’s already. Sabine’s family members have spruced it up and illustrated it and it’s now a fabulously relevant book (involving a moonling and an earthling) instead of being a few bits of papers hidden away.

Ginny’s stand was obviously in the kids section, but she stole away and snuck downstairs to the adult section for a few minutes – and got bust when Uncle Pete and Sharon from Lets Look Publishers popped in to visit!

Ginny and Peter Sanderson from Lets Look Publishers

There were not only children’s books at the book fair, but all sorts of other interesting titles – poetry, novels, science fiction, horror and autobiographies too. To name a few, Karen Coomber has written ‘100 Minutes of Grace‘ – a book about a mother’s road to recovery (she tragically lost her daughter in an accident). Whilst there were many books that took her fancy, she ended up buying Adam Alexander’s ‘Garage Band’, which she has yet to read.

A couple of interesting talks were also thrown in for good measure.

There’s going to be another pop-up book fair in September, so if there’s anybody out there who has published a book(s) – shout and we can put you in contact with Sabine.

Thanks very much to the Alklantrant Library for hosting the pop-up book fair (to make it worth their while – 10% of all the proceeds of the books sold went to the library).

Read more people!

Sibo

xxxx

No limits to learning

Yesterday my friend Ginny had a flying visit to meet with some people in Durban. Before you imagine she’s turned into one of her fairies or something – she really did fly and she was only there for a few hours. (Hahahaha – I’m a witty girl today hey!)

Seriously though, the reason she went is ultra-cool. She’s going to be involved in writing a series of short stories for little children. These will be based on various topics – lovely things like courage, joy, creativity, responsibility, kindness, caring, accountability etc.

These are values that everybody should be teaching their kids from a very young age. Also, if children from the age of 0 – 6 are not taught various concepts (colours, shapes, fine motor skills etc) it impacts hugely on their future learning.

The Unlimited Child is a national non-profit initiative that started in 2008. These guys are simply awesome. They have an early childhood education model and they provide training for people who work in/or own crèches – normally in really disadvantaged areas where finances are challenged.

But let’s rather use the correct terminology… these ‘people’ are actually known as practitioners. They are not teachers because they don’t have a formal qualification, nor are they care-givers, because they do more than just wipe bums and noses. They aren’t really crèches either… they are known as ECD Centres (early child development). Apparently crèches are places where kids play and don’t actually do too much learning. Not ideal if you want your kid to get the best possible start in life.

Sjoe! All this terminology gets a bit confusing at times.

These guys (actually – they are mainly ladies) work with various government departments to discover which places really do need their help. Then they swoop in, a bit like guardian angels, and offer assistance in the form of this model.

Okay wait… ‘model’ conjures up a stiff image. Banish that picture from your head immediately! It’s more like cool, colourful stuff for the kids to play and interact with, accompanied by lesson plans for the practitioner’s to use along with the toys. Like I mentioned earlier – training is given on how to use the equipment. Thereafter the centres are monitored and follow-up assistance is provided when necessary.

In case you are wondering… NO! They do not provide actual financial assistance to centres.

In 2008 The Unlimited Child started with 5 ECD centres in KZN. Today they assist over 1729 centres in 8 provinces, including Gauteng. Their goal is to have 5000 centres by 2022!

Eventually Ginny’s stories are going to be read to all these kids!

Little kids are so precious – they should be treasured and nourished, on many different levels, to give them the best possible start in life.

 

Sibo

xxxx

 

PS – If you want to know more about The Unlimited Child and the thinking behind it – visit their website.

Reading CAN make you happy!

It’s time to go back to school again!

I know lots of kids complain about school but I quite like it. I enjoy learning new things and finding out about interesting stuff, not to mention seeing all my friends again. We always have lots to talk about after the end of year break. Sometimes there are new kids in the class and that is cool too. This year I have signed up to do friendship bench duty – but more about that in another blog.

One of the things that really makes me happy is reading. You can absolutely never be bored, lonely or sad (okay – sometimes you can be miserable if the story is sad) if you have a book to read.

I was unbelievably shattered to find out that many kids my age cannot read. Seriously! They did a study and out of the 50 countries in the world that participated, South Africa has the worst statistics. 78% of our Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning. That means 8 out of 10 students can read – but don’t really understand what they have just read.

Even worse, it did not matter what language they were reading. Many of those kids were reading something in their home language and still did not understand what they had just read.

The thing is… if a person cannot read, and make sense of what they are reading, how on earth can they plan to study and go further in life? It certainly makes things very difficult, if not almost impossible.

My parents used to read to me most nights when I was smaller. I couldn’t wait to hear the next bit of the story. I would see the pictures in my head and imagine what the people or animals looked like. I always used to beg for a few more pages to be read but my folks were pretty strict about only ever reading one chapter per night. Luckily now I can read myself!

Often, parents are too busy or weary to read to their children at night. If the kids are lucky they might get to hear an audio book before they go to sleep, but sometimes they just get plonked in front of the TV instead. TV is absolutely no substitute for reading. You use less brain power than you do when you are sleeping while watching TV.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to read more… please people.

Sibo.

Smarty Pants

I read some stuff about being smart the other day – with exams coming  up we could all probably use a little extra smarts!

English is a strange language because “smart” has four different meanings.

It can mean a person is clever and quick in thought or action. For example, Mpho is really smart – she passed all her exams.

It could also mean that a person is well-dressed. For example, Mpho looked really smart in her new outfit.

Another meaning is to feel a sharp, stinging pain. For example, Mpho’s arm smarted for ages after the wasp stung her.

Lastly, it can mean that you feel annoyed or resentful after being insulted. For example, Mpho smarted for the whole of break time after Sandile said she was fat.

We are talking about the first one… here are some ways to help make us smarter.

  • Ask questions. It really is good to ask if we don’t know or understand something.
  • Get some exercise. This is a no-brainer – we know we feel better when we get out into the fresh air and start moving. Cycle, jog, walk briskly, hula hoop…
  • Eat healthy. Crunch apples and carrots instead of chips or sweets for snacks.
  • Keep a journal. It’s good to sit at the end of the day and reflect on all that has happened. It makes your memory work a bit harder too.
  • Learn a new skill. It does not have to be anything fancy – learn to knit, to code, or maybe how to bake – go nuts and try something new. Nothing ventured nothing gained!
  • Hang out with other smart people. This is so true – if we spend time with people who are interesting and interested – we feel smarter too.
  • Challenge your brain. Do crossword puzzles or Sudoku’s. Play memory games.
  • Change your routine. Try not to do things the same old boring way every single day – vary the order in which you do things, or eat lunch outside instead of inside. Sit in a different spot at school break. As the saying goes… a change is as good as a holiday.
  • Get enough sleep. Do it! Go to sleep at a decent hour our bodies need time to recover from a busy day.
  • Read more. Join a library or swap books with friends. There are also plenty of eBooks free on the internet that are available to read on cell phones too.

Think smart peeps!

Sibo

 

Holiday Fun – Short Story Writing

It’s school holidays again and whilst it is great not to have to get up early on cold winter mornings, I bet some of us are going to get a bit bored somewhere along the line. Especially if we are staying home and our friends have gone away.

When I get bored I like to read. It’s hard to stay miserable if you have a great story to get lost in. If you don’t have any nice books to read you could maybe swop with a friend or even ask your parental agent to take you to the closest library. Libraries are awesome places, full of fabulous things to read and some of them even run holiday programmes that don’t involve only reading but doing lots of fun stuff too.

If you do get fed up and have nothing to do, think about writing your own short story. It could be about anything – your life, your pets, your family or even something crazy that you just thought up in your head.

Remember though, stories have a structure. They have a beginning, a middle bit and an end!

Before starting to write a story, think about the stuff you like to read… probably most people are not that fond of boring old blah blah blah stuff that puts one to sleep. Mostly we find that something that‘s exciting and makes us wonder what is going to happen next is much more interesting. The ones that have us turning the pages in a hurry to get to the end to find out what happens.

Here’s another idea… think about writing a story from a funny point of view.  Just imagine if you were a bath plug… you could write a seriously wacky tale. Or maybe a tree – a tall skinny one that can see incredibly far and has odd wavy branches that point all over the place. Think what fun a person could have writing a story involving all the creatures that live in that tree.

Go nuts and use your imagination. You could illustrate your story too.

Email your stories to sibo@sibo.co.za (or click on the email icon above) and we’ll publish the best ones on Sibo’s website so that other people can also read them. (Keep your story between 400 and 1000 words please. Remember to include your name and age.)

Happy holidays everybody – get your creative writing hats on!

Sibo

Consider a career in Science!

The 16th of February was International Day of Science for Women and Children. People tend to think that science is only for clever people – but actually – it is all around us and we are all doing some sort of science in one way or another each and every single day. In honour of this day – you can read “Sibo Mixes Things Up” – my story book about chemistry – it will be free to read on the website until the end of the month.

Nowadays girls are actively encouraged to pursue careers in science and technology. There are so very many interesting fields that you can go into, it is almost mind boggling.

We’ve been talking about planning, imagination and initiative over the past few weeks and you are going to need all of these things if you want to go into the science field.

SAASTA Observatory in Johannesburg also offers cool programmes for learners, teachers and members of the public. They have all sorts of exciting things to make you look at Physics in a completely different way. Check out their website for more information.

Nanotechnology is the way of the future as well.  I bet many people don’t even know what nanotechnology is. “Sibo Sizes Things Up” is all about nano – one of these days we’ll make that a free read on the website too! Stay tuned!

Remember – a safe bet is to always take maths as one of your subjects. Maths is one of those things that you sometimes feel like dropping because it seems a bit hard or not really necessary. In fact – it’s very necessary for lots of careers. If you don’t have matric maths there are some doors that are so firmly shut there is no easy way to open them again.

I mentioned while ago that science centres can help with career guidance. Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Jozi has a very awesome career guidance centre and it’s free. You can just walk-in and find out about jobs and careers that you never even dreamed of. However, for career assessments and career counselling they do prefer if you make an appointment. It’s a professional service and they don’t want to you to be disappointed if you arrive at the centre and the staff are all busy.  Call (011) 639 8450/8476/8479.

Last but not least – you can always go and visit a science centre like Sci-Bono in Newtown or Sci-Enza in Pretoria to have an enormous amount of fun and get you into a sciencey frame of mind!

Science rocks!

Sibo

Being polite when using public transport

sibo-event-post-2

Remember last week I told you that it was International Literacy Day on the 8th of September! Well, I am super stoked. My latest book – Sibo on the Move – which is all about the Gautrain and how you should behave when you travel on public transport – is being launched on this very day in the Rosebank Gautrain Station.

How cool is that!

Wait! I hear you say… how on earth did you, Sibo, get to write a book about the Gautrain?

Actually it’s quite a funny story. We were busy with the road safety book – Sibo Looks Right. Not sure if you remember but actually we crowdfunded for this book so that we could share it with as many kids as possible.  Sadly we did not get enough money to print thousands of copies to distribute – but we did print a few and share them around the place. Plus of course the e-book is on my website for anybody to freely read.

Magically (there was a bit more to it than that – but we’ll leave it there) Gautrain got to hear about my road safety book and asked us all to a meeting. We thought that maybe they wanted to donate some money towards this book but it turned out, in fact, that they wanted their own Sibo book.

This is the book that is going to be launched on the 8th of September.  Actually it is also going to be used for transport month. This happens in October every year.  There is a serious drive in Jozi to minimize traffic on the roads and everybody is encouraged to use public transport as much as possible.

In fact – to make sure that people actually do this, some of the roads are closed off – so that people have to use public transport to get where they want to go – or walk!

This is part of the reason that Sibo on the Move was written – to help people remember that there is some etiquette to be adhered to when travelling on trains and buses.

Simple things like…

  • don’t listen to loud music
  • don’t put your feet on the seats
  • don’t sit in the seats that are allocated for the disabled or elderly
  • wait until people get off the train or bus before you jump on… and
  • eergghhhh – never ever stick chewing gum under the seat – that is beyond gross.

Travel safely people!

Sibo

PS – If you want to read this book – it’s also freely available on www.sibo.co.za – just click on the cover of the book.