National Book Week’s #buyabook is a clarion call to all South Africans

National Book Week’s #buyabook is a clarion call to all South Africans

The #buyabook campaign is one of the cornerstones of South Africa’s reading awareness week. National Book Week (NBW) is dedicated to encouraging reading and promoting the importance of books. According to the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), 58% of homes in South Africa do not have a single leisure reading book.

“We cannot promote reading to book-scarce communities. While libraries, both in the communities and schools play a vital role in ensuring good reading material is available, books in homes will make the difference. Being surrounded by books at home matters because books enhance lifelong cognitive competencies well beyond the usual impact on literacy and numeracy,” says Elitha van der Sandt, CEO, SABDC.

Celebrated during the first week in September every year, NBW is driven by the Department of Arts and Culture and the South African Book Development Council. 2019 marks NBW’s decade of influence on creating awareness about SA’s low reading culture and the industry behind book production.

NBW was launched in 2010 in response to a study commissioned by the SABDC into the book reading habits of adult South Africans. The statistics shined light on SA’s poor reading culture. The study revealed that just 14% of South Africans actively read, while an alarming 73% of adult South Africans claimed not to be interested in books.

This year, the #buyabook campaign will once again be supported nationally by Exclusive Books and Bargain Books. All South Africans are encouraged to #buyabook from the select list of titles which also include books in indigenous languages to donate. The books only cost R20. The books can be donated at the till and dropped in the book bins prominently displayed at the stores.

This year’s books are suitable for all ages with books also available for donation in indigenous languages, in line with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, a United Nations observance in 2019 which aims to raise awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of indigenous languages globally.

“By supporting the #buyabook campaign, you are giving a child the timeless gift of owning their own little treasure. It allows all of us to share the magic of stories and books with the children, youth and adults alike. The more books we have at home, the better our children will be doing at school. The more books we have in homes, the better our adults can navigate life and its challenges,” says van der Sandt.

“Books are not only rich with stories, but also rich with information. Books inform and inspire. Books remain the most cost effective intervention to develop our country.”

NBW’s official mascot, Funda Bala which means ‘read, read’ in Nguni and Sotho will make an appearance at select Exclusive Books in Johannesburg and Cape Town to engage and entertain the children. A colourful life sized book with an infectious charm, Funda Bala interacts with the children and adults alike to spread the joys of reading.

“The campaign goes beyond just putting books into the hands of children. Together with the Department of Arts & Culture and the Department of Library Services in the provinces and various municipalities, we will be hosting 10 Indigenous Language Reading Festivals in far off communities who ordinarily do not get to experience books as we do in the cities,” adds van der Sandt.

The donated books are collected at the end of the National Book Week from all participating stores and shared with reading promotion projects around the country who donate it to homes. Books are also donated in the provinces hosting the reading festivals.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke at length during SONA 2019 about SA’s reading crisis, putting emphasis on a concern that’s close to our hearts. The President’s efforts in raising awareness will make a significant difference. We can think of nothing more important for children, young people and adults than to acquire good reading skills, as this can be a life changer," says van der Sandt in conclusion.

For more information on ways you can get involved please visit

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