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Rachel Zadok

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Words Can Change Worlds – Sheryl Kavin of the Shine Centre guest blogs for SSDA

Sheryl Kavin shares her experiences as a new SHINE CENTRE Volunteer otherwise known as a ‘Literacy Learning Partner’.

Reading has always been important in my life. The bookshelves in my home are crammed to bursting but, as a retiree with a background in marketing and advertising, I never thought I could assist young school children to improve their reading  and writing skills, especially if English was not their mother-tongue.

I help look after my young granddaughter and, from an early age, I took her to Storytime at the local library to sing songs and listen to stories read by the librarians.  Storytime was often crowded and we’d jostle for a space amongst the other mums, grans and nannies with their young charges, and the one dad who regularly brought his young son. Meeting kids who did not share these privileges was far from my mind as I sat at the Observatory Library with my granddaughter on my knees.

When I was first introduced to Shine, I was not quite sure what to expect. I attended an orientation and loved that “The Shine Centre has a vision to create a nation of readers”. Being able to read is intrinsic to education so it was a shock to discover the high rates of illiteracy amongst grade two and three learners.

After attending training and studying my Volunteers Manual I headed off to the Observatory Primary School with some trepidation. A young pupil was tasked with taking me to the Shine Centre on the first floor, where I was greeted by Heidi, the Centre Manager, and shown around.

The atmosphere in the Shine Centre is calm but vibrant, with books marked according to reading level. Each child’s workbook is marked with a sticker indicating their reading ability, and all sessions are recorded in the workbook by the volunteers to ensure continuity of learning for the child.

Volunteer sessions are usually one hour long and I spent my first morning at Shine sitting with Eileen, a seasoned volunteer. During that time, we saw two children for 45 minutes each. The kids were obviously pleased to be there and loved the games, developed specifically for the programme to make learning fun. They made a huge effort with the paired reading – the process by which the learning partner reads along with the child – and really enjoyed the shared reading – where the learning partner reads to the child. Shared reading helps children to discover a love for reading and books.

In the short time I have worked with my two Shine charges, I have come to know them as keen learners who love to take books home. It has been an absolute pleasure to help them and see their reading and writing ability improve. The enthusiasm they show warms my heart.

Maurita Glynn Weissenberg, a former remedial teacher and Director of Shine, says that “Learners who fall behind during the Foundation Phase (Grade R to Grade 3) rarely recover their enthusiasm for learning and are most likely to drop out of school in later years”.

I have taken up the challenge and share and support the Shine Centre’s Vision of a nation of readers.  I hope that I can make a difference in the lives of the children I partner with.  I am sure they will make a difference in mine.

As well as being a Shine Centre Volunteer/Literacy Partner and granny nanny, Sheryl Kavin also sits on the board of Short Story Day Africa.

About The Shine Centre:

The Shine Centre is a multi-award winning non-profit organisation founded in 2000 in Cape Town, South Africa. It has developed a simple, scalable and highly effective model to support young children achieve age-appropriate literacy levels. Currently there are seven Shine Literacy Centres supporting nine disadvantaged inner-city schools in Cape Town. Nine Shine Chapters (social franchises) have been established in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth. The Shine model is also used in independent literacy centres in Johannesburg, Grahamstown and Stanford.  Over 2000 volunteers, parents and like-minded organisations have been trained to help over 5 000 children to read.

To find out how to join Shine in creating a nation of readers go to or telephone +27 21 7624320.



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