Children urged to read in mother language

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The South African Post Office (Sapo) partnership with non-profit organisation Nal’ibali now makes it possible for children, reading clubs, schools and libraries to collect free reading material from 508 branches throughout the country.

A year ago, the reading supplements were available at only 46 post offices. This increase has been made possible by the partnership Nal’ibali has with the post office.

“By the end of last year Nal’ibali was able to deliver 309 000 reading supplements every month through the post offices. Each copy has three stories – so that is nearly a million stories every month.

“We reached 2 279 reading clubs and about 216 000 kids. We could do this by using the branch network of the post office; everybody knows that there is a post office in almost every village,” Nal’ibali acting Managing Director, Katie Huston, said on Wednesday.

Nal’ibali enables young children to read in their mother language by producing interactive reading supplements with illustrations in nine of the 11 official languages of South Africa. 

Nal’ibali produces interactive, fun reading material that the children assemble themselves, while the SA Post Office makes the reading material available for collection at its branches at no cost.

Research done by Nal’ibali indicates that the supplements support children, parents and teachers to develop reading habits and that people enjoy reading and using them.

Parents and teachers report that it helps children develop their reading skills, and it gives parents and children an opportunity to spend quality time together. 

Research also shows that learning to read in one's mother tongue early in school makes education more engaging, meaningful and enjoyable for children. Children who benefit from mother tongue instruction and learning also perform better in their second language.

“Language is a major factor that binds members of a community and a culture together. In a country like South Africa, famous for its marvellous diversity, the many languages we speak probably play a major role in keeping our varied cultures alive,” Sapo said.

The post office calls on teachers, learners, caregivers or librarians to join the Nal’ibali tribe, by sending an email to  The email contain the following details:

  • The name and postcode of a local post office
  • The name of a reading club, school or library
  • A cell phone number of the school or reading club that can be put on the address label.

According to the United Nations (UN), languages play a vital role in development, in ensuring cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. 

“It is also vital in strengthening co-operation and attaining quality education for all, in building inclusive knowledge societies and preserving cultural heritage, and in mobilizing political will for applying the benefits of science and technology to sustainable development,” the UN said. –