Nal’ibali – Promoting a reading culture in South Africa

Nal’ibali (isiXhosa for “here’s the story”) is a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign to spark children’s potential through storytelling and reading. It is built on the simple logic that a well-established culture of reading can be a real game-changer for education in South Africa. Literacy skills are a strong predictor of future academic success in all subjects – and children who regularly read and hear engaging stories, in languages they understand, are well equipped and motivated to learn to read and write.

A significant body of research reinforces the link between reading for pleasure and improved outcomes for children. The campaign values the power of language and cultural relevance in literacy development. For reasons relating to empowerment, pedagogy, identity, and democracy, it fully promotes reading and writing in mother tongue languages. All children and adults need to understand what they are listening to, or reading, for it to be meaningful and enjoyable – which is crucial for raising readers.

Nal’ibali, established in 2012, aims to help establish and promote reading clubs by offering reading club training, support in the form of free access to written and audio materials, and on the ground support through literacy-based activations and events. Reading clubs are safe, informal spaces where children can freely arrive to engage with books and stories. These clubs are run by Nal’ibali representatives, volunteers, parents, librarians and FUNda Leaders.

The Story-Powered Schools programme is slightly different in that the reading clubs are established in schools participating in the programme. It also runs a series of “special projects” that include distributing mobile hanging libraries and mobile-motorised libraries.

Nal’ibali’s recent success and impact include the following:

  • The FUNda Leader literacy activist network reached almost 6 000 volunteer members (2017);
  • Trained 5 852 volunteers, NGO practitioners, librarians and DBE officials (2017);
  • Established 2 434 new reading clubs (2017);
  • Reached 63 004 children through reading clubs and 98 899 children through its Story-Powered Schools Project (2017);
  • Spent over R1.1m on developing and distributing 595 125 multi-lingual story magazines to children in areas where it has a limited presence (2017);
  • Read aloud to over 1 million children through our World Read Aloud Day flagship event (2018).

Nal’ibali works with a host of different partners who are helping to establish a culture of reading in South Africa. Its funding partners include the DG Murray Trust, USAID and the First Rand Empowerment Foundation (FREF). Tiso Blackstar (formerly Times Media) and SABC Education act as media partners through which it distributes and broadcasts printed supplements and audio stories, respectively. The Department of Basic Education is one of Nal’ibali’s strategic partners, and they also work with over 100 implementing partners who are helping to grow and sustain Nal’ibali reading clubs, for the children in their networks.

It is estimated that 78% of grade four learners can’t read for meaning in South Africa, which highlights the severity of the literacy issue in this country. This, coupled with the fact that very little content has been developed in African languages, makes access to literacy materials challenging to say the least.

To address this significant challenge, Nal’ibali’ encourages all South Africans to be FUNda Leaders to keep promoting the wave of literacy change our country needs. FUNda Leaders are everyday heroes – literacy activists across the country who take time to bring stories and books to children in whatever way they can. They are the foot-soldiers who work to make reading and activism a reality in South Africa!

Contact details:

Tel: +27 21 448 6000 / 21 180 4080
WWW: /
Twitter: @nalibaliSA
Facebook: @nalibaliSA
Instagram: nalibalisa
Youtube: TheNalibaliChannel 

This is the thirty-third NGO profile of my 2018 #NGOs4Africa Campaign.


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