• Sharing good practice: toise high school launches a reading club


    Sharing good practice: Toise High School launches a reading club


    Madeyandile Mbelani

    Research Officer, Institute for the Study of English (ISEA)


    The Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA) at Rhodes University felt honoured to be invited to deliver the opening speech at the launch of a reading club at Toise High School in King William’s Town on 4 May 2011, a few days after World Book Day.

    Reading clubs promote extensive reading, which is at the heart of the in-service teacher development programmes conceptualised and delivered by the ISEA’s Secondary School Language Project (SSLP).  In overcoming the problems of acquiring English in Africa, particularly in South Africa, the SSLP programmes promote extensive reading in the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) and Bachelor of Education (BEd) in English Language Teaching (ELT). Initiating extensive reading is one of the practical projects that teachers must complete within a period of 18 months.

    The ISEA has enrolled cohorts of in-service teachers from various districts in Eastern Cape such as Butterworth, Lady Frere, Bizana, Grahamstown, Fort Beaufort, King Williams Town, Lusikisiki, Mt Flecther, Mt Frere and Queenstown, since 2004.

    The Toise High School reading club was initiated by Mr Mzukisi Kepe, shown in Photo 1 below. He is one of ISEA’s former ACE students from the 2007-2008 King William’s Town cohort.  Mr Kepe joined Toise High School in April 2010 after many years of teaching at Mzamomhle Junior Secondary School, which was completely destroyed by a storm towards the end of 2009.  With no school to teach in, Mr Kepe spent a couple of months reporting to the district office as a displaced teacher.  With the box of books which he received during his tenure as an ACE student also destroyed in the storm, this extensive reading enthusiast initiated a school reading club from scratch when he sensed fertile ground for such an initiative at Toise High School.

    The school hall was packed to its full capacity for the launch (see photos 2, 3 & 4), with a number of learners who could not be accommodated peeping through the windows and open doors to witness the activities inside.

    Among the visitors there were parents and SGB members, teachers and learners from neighbouring feeder schools, Education officials, representatives from the Amatole Museum, the ISEA representative and Health Department officials.  All the speakers talked about the importance of reading and congratulated the school on its initiative as the move was likely to improve teaching and learning.

    Photo 2: Showing parents and learners


    Photo 3: showing some guests (From left to right: Mr Bam, Mr Mandita, Ms Victor, Mr Makalima and Mr Mbelani

    Photo 4: Showing learners’ dramatisation whilst audience observed

    Between speakers, Toise High School learners took to the stage to demonstrate a number of book-orientated activities which included dramatisation of a lesson on extensive reading, narration from books, a display of book reviews through posters, presentations by learners on their most recently read books, and a rap poem.



    Photo 5 above shows the book review posters that were presented by learners. These contributed to the print-rich walls of the venue.  The day showed the high level of creativity which learners can show when they participate in extensive reading.

    Worth noting at this reading launch was the recognition of the importance of both English and IsiXhosa as important languages of the region.  Even though the presentations were mainly in English, there was a lot of mixing and code-switching into IsiXhosa.

    In the key-note address the ISEA representative, Mr Madeyandile Mbelani, congratulated Mr Kepe on identifying an extensive reading vacuum that needed to be filled at Toise High School, and for living up to the expectations of the ACE course which he had completed in 2008.

    Mr Kepe’s initiative of forming a school reading club is starting from humble beginnings, as shown by the small collection of books seen in photo 6 below. Increasing the book stock will pose a new challenge for extensive reading in the school, which is targeting a population of about 800 learners.

    Photo 6: showing reading learners and books demonstrated during the launch

    The Toise High School principal, colleagues and learners were congratulated on being receptive to the idea of launching the reading club, something which opened up an opportunity for Mr Kepe to plant the extensive reading seed which he had cherished since   his time as an ACE student.  The club was considered to be at its infant stage that needed support from all language teachers, together with all staff members at Toise High.  In conclusion, the speaker said, “launching the reading club is one thing and sustaining it is another thing”, and he encouraged the school to embark on a campaign to acquire more books and expertise from supportive NGOs such as ReadSA and Biblionef.

    Categories: Volume 3