To cultivate a better future, grow a culture of reading

 
 
 

Imagine reading these words, but not understanding them. This is the reality for many in South Africa. When children are behind in their reading, it affects their personal growth, and all areas of society. Taryn Lock understands the power of words. She has committed her time to sharing the wonder of books with eager learners, opening up their world to new opportunities. “I realised there was so much joy in inspiring children to read,” Lock says. By helping youth go beyond their ABC’s, she is giving them an upper hand in life.

It all began in 2013 when Lock and her husband created and published their first book, Oaky and the Sun. They gave 40 copies to learners in Mitchells Plain, who were enamoured by the story. Their reaction planted the idea to keep this culture of reading growing. Recognising that most children don’t have access to good quality books either at home or at school, Lock co-founded READ to RISE. With the NPO, she illustrates and publishes stories for children around the country that speak to their experiences. Through this, kids have books they can relate to and call their own. The organisation also provides multilingual mini-libraries to schools, and visits classrooms to bring the stories to life. When children are surrounded by books, they are encouraged and motivated to read more. And when they do, they excel at school, and are able to become active citizens later on in life. “Reading is the first step to everything,” Lock says.

The social activist has made huge strides to advance literacy and make reading fun for children around South Africa. So far, she’s given over 70 000 children their own book. In 2014, Lock was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans, and this year is part of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa programme. Through her work, she’s uplifting a generation of leaders. Lock’s dedication to the written word has laid the groundwork for promising futures for children. “The ability to read is in all of us,” she says. “By learning to read, you can do anything.”