Why this initiative?
There are many reasons why it is important for people to read; and whether they read fact or fiction does not really matter, it is accessing and processing the written word that is important. We live in a society with a huge level of inequality. A person who has discovered that the written word gives access to the world and beyond, no matter, where, who and what you are, is a person who has great opportunity to rise above circumstances.
A research study published in 2010, done across 27 nations including South Africa, indicated that having access to books at home had a direct correlation with children getting farther in school. The act of reading for pleasure was shown to have a bigger impact on children’s potential than their parents’ socio-economic status.
Research done in South Africa in 2016 has shown that only 14% of South Africans read regularly. This includes reading newspapers, magazines, and books, in print format and digitally. Six out of ten South African adults live in households where there is not one single book present.
Via Afrika argues that we need to start with the remotely located individual in the most rural parts of the country to convince the remaining 86% of people that reading adds value. In providing reading material and motivation that will entice him or her to read, we can start creating a groundswell that will bring about change. For that to happen we need a reading champion in every community to inspire that community to read. A person is most likely to champion reading when they have a personal stake in what is being read. But the barriers to being published in South Africa are onerously high.
Imagine a scenario where it is easy to get published. Where we have a multitude of authors in a community who can promote their stories to the people around them. Imagine everyone in the community could have easy access to those stories without having to pay an arm and a leg. Imagine how this localised momentum could inspire more people to write and in return more people to read. The 14% could become 20% and then 30% and then, before we know it we can have a generation of South Africans who all read regularly for pleasure. South Africans who, through this exposure to other ideas and worlds, have a context against which they can evaluate information. A whole population of discerning, informed individuals. How much better would our world be!
This is what Via Afrika, the NRF and SARChI Research Chair in the field of Intellectualisation of African Languages, Multilingualism and Education (NRF Chair in African Languages) and the African Languages Association of South Africa (ALASA) want to achieve with their WritePublishRead initiative.
Through WritePublishRead, any person can learn how to write and how to publish their fiction texts digitally for everyone to read if they have access to a phone or any other digital device, no matter where they are in the world.