It was only 8am on Saturday 20 August, and already the day was promising to be a great one. Not only because the sun was chasing away what few clouds hovered in the sky, but because the ACE kids were making their way to the Lebone Centre for a day of games and exciting potential prizes with their families firmly in tow.
Sarah Williams, who organised the event, set up her team with fun and challenging literacy games in three different sections: one for the preschool and grade one learners in English, one for grade twos and threes in Afrikaans and one for older learners. The children-parent teams – who had names like The Transformers and The A Team that showed off the creativity bubbling beneath the surface of each member – had five minutes at each station to complete the game to the best of their ability. Once the time was up, they got a score out of three before moving on to the next game. The parents played the roles of encouragers and helpers, spurring their children on through the code-breaking exercises, the word searches, the memory games and the other literacy-intense games the morning offered.
Every family who participated got to take home a book as a prize, which certainly set wide smiles on the children’s faces. Every family also got a gift to take home: a pack filled with goods that would help them increase their literacy skills at home. Sarah spent time explaining every item in the pack and how to use it – a notebook and colourful pen to practise words and names and, eventually, for writing stories; a Nal’ibali extract full of fun activities and two foldable books that would help each family start their own home library; and, almost most exciting of all, a pack of cards with animals on. These cards, created by Wordsworks, came with their own booklet full of potential literacy-enhancing games such as different versions of snap, as well as ideas on how to use the cards to write a story about the animal. The example story the children made up about a crocodile named David who ate lots of porridge, lost his teeth and had to have the birds get new teeth for him from the Tooth Fairy, had the entire room giggling and grinning.
The parents were also encouraged to help their children read and write as much as possible – “When you need to go shopping, let them write the grocery list for you. In English or Afrikaans. When you’re walking somewhere, point to signs and ask them to read the signs. Or, for the little ones, ask them what letters and sounds they can see on the signs. Get them to read cereal boxes to you. Anything can be turned into practise,” Sarah told the captive audience.
The morning ended as any good morning should: with children excited about their new gifts, juice and a very yummy hotdog for children, parents and volunteers alike.