World Book and Copyright Day is a reading promotional event initiated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and is celebrated on 23 April to encourage reading for pleasure. Annually the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) undertakes activities that promote access to books and reading in South Africa in order to appreciate the writer, the book and the reader.

The NLSA visited Barkly West, in the Northern Cape Province with the aim of inculcating a culture of reading for enjoyment. Under the theme “You are a Reader”, the NLSA partnered with the provincial government of Northern Cape, provincial departments of Basic Education and Sport, Arts and Culture and the South African Library of the Blind (SALB) to celebrate World Book and Copyright Day.

To create excitement and enthusiasm about World Book Day, the NLSA in conjunction with its partners, lined up a range of activities to pay tribute to authors and promote a culture of reading.On 20 April 2022, a creative workshop was held to encourage people living with visual impairments to tell and write their stories. The NLSA supports inclusivity and during the workshop, Ms Lenisa Lunika from the Centre of the Book, informed the audience that the NLSA in November 2021, launched a book by Mr Richard Albertse entitled “VISION: The Story of a Seeing Blind Man”. Mr Albertse is a beneficiary of the NLSA’s Community Publishing Grant, which is a programme that gives grants to writers to self-publish their books.

Day-two of the campaign entailed a door-to-door book donation drive to two Early Childhood Development Centres, five Primary Schools and two High Schools around Barkly West to ensure that every child has a book to read. The vast majority of the books were from the NLSA’s Reprint of South African Classics Project which are a selective of classics in indigenous languages that are reprinted and distributed to libraries, schools and the general public for free. Throughout the visits to these schools, a native of the Northern Cape Province Mr Mogale Sedibe, an accomplished published author and poet delivered motivational talks to learners about how books can open the door into amazing new worlds.

The main event was held on 22 April 2022 at Inasee Moshoeu Library. Mr Mandla Mona, Manager at Centre for the Book, made reference to 23 April being the anniversary of the death of renowned linguistic and author William Shakespeare. On the NLSA’s observance of World Book and Copyright Day, Mr Mona said that books are important to preserve literary heritage and it is for this reason that the NLSA, during its day-to-day door campaign, donated 6 000 books. “Books are important to preserve our literary heritage and therefore let us jealously safeguard libraries for posterity,” he said. Mr Mona also took this opportunity to thank the Northern Cape’s Library Services for their dedication to helping children and the community at large to see the value of literature.

Ms Linda Ngaleka from SALB, stated that World Book and Copyright Day is also a day which exposes challenges faced by the blind and visually impaired sector. She pointed out that the major challenge is accessibility of books as they have to comply with the Copyright Act before books could be converted into braille format.

She however, motivated that the SALB together with the NLSA will ensure that books written by the blind and visually impaired community are published. “We are here today to say that you are a reader and you will be producers of your own work,” she said.

The event was graced by Ms Desery Fienies who is a member of the Executive Council responsible for Sport, Arts and Culture in the Northern Cape. She urged parents to inspire children to read more. In her speech she mentioned that reading more will help to improve children’s vocabulary while learning new information. She also spoke strongly against the destruction of libraries and advocated for community members to protect libraries from vandalism and theft.

Even though the day’s programme was short, there was a hive of activities from cultural dances to hip-hop music. The World Book and Copyright Day celebrations were officially closed by Mr Phenyo Modise, Northern Cape’s Director: Library Services. He expressed a word of gratitude to all stakeholders involved in promoting reading for pleasure and for offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.

MEC of Sport, Arts and Culture, Ms Desery Fienies and Manager for Centre for the Book, Mr Mandla Mona at the NLSA’s exhibition stall

Mr Phenyo Modise, Director for Library Services