Seventy eight percent of Grade 4 learners in South Africa are unable to read for meaning, according to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report released in December last year.

The international comparison study measured literacy levels between 2011 and 2016 and scored South Africa last in reading of the 50 participating countries. In 2016, PIRLS tested 12,810 Grade 4 students from 293 schools across South Africa, in any of the 11 official languages they were most comfortable with.

Nearly eight out of 10 Grade 4 students could not reach the low international PIRLS benchmark in reading. Reading for meaning requires a student to locate and retrieve explicitly stated information or make straightforward inferences about events and reasons for actions.

In light of this devastating report, the Friday (ie first day) of the South African Book Fair will be dedicated to the important role industry plays in education and reading. Events will be tailored to schools, learners, teachers and reading development. The day will culminate in an open-air storytelling fest kept moving swiftly to the beat of the African drum in Newtown Junction’s piazza.