FunDza – Growing Communties of Readers and Writers in SA

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Stories ignite imaginations and open doors to a new world, but the vast majority of SA youth do not have easy access to reading material. FunDza is changing this through creating, collecting and sharing stories that speak to youth from disadvantaged communities.

Literacy is a powerful tool with lifelong benefits. Reading books and stories influences one’s choices, it gives value to lives, it enhances critical and creative thinking and encourages personal development. Reading is the fundamental pillar of education and education is the foundation of a healthy, stable, growth-oriented society.

Research findings suggest children as young as six months who read books with their parents several times a week show stronger literacy skills four years later, score higher on intelligence tests, and land better jobs than nonreaders. But recent research argues that reading may be just as important in adulthood. When practiced over a lifetime, reading and language-acquisition skills support healthy brain functioning. Simply put: Word power increases brain power.

Reading a book forces your brain to think critically and make connections from one chapter to another, and to the outside world. When you make these connections, so does your brain, by literally forging new pathways between regions in all four lobes and both hemispheres. Over time, these neural networks can promote quicker thinking and may provide a greater defense against the worst effects of cognitive decay.

Other benefits include:

  1. Stress reduction
  2. Knowledge expansion
  3. Vocabulary expansion
  4. Memory improvement
  5. Improved focus and concentration

FunDza also believes that the more young people read the faster they will acquire the language skills they need to be successful both academically and professionally. South Africa has a very low culture of reading. According to the latest National Reading Survey just 14% of adult South Africans identify as committed readers.

Further research states that there is unequal access to books in South Africa and therefore FunDza books and stories – particularly local stories that are meaningful and popular – into the hands of as many young people as possible. That is why their ‘library on a phone’ is such a game changer.

Readers access FunDza’s online platform, which includes a website (optimised for mobile phones and accessible by any device connecting to the internet), an Android app, and an app on the platform (which is zero-rated by Cell C). The dedicated readers spent on average 15 minutes per session reading.

Their innovative approach has received an Impumelelo Gold Award at the 2017 Social Innovations Awards

They have further been internationally recognised for their work by receiving the prestigious UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy 2017, as well as the Joy of Reading Award 2017.

World Book Day is celebrated internationally on 23 April and this April is the 7th birthday of FunDza! To celebrate, we are giving you some insight into just how vast the reach of FunDza’s work has been.

Read FunDza’s latest Annual Report here!