Our Mission is Informed by our Conviction

The Otto Foundation’s mission is informed by our conviction (and strong supporting research evidence) that (a) excellence in reading is a critical underpinning of educational success, and (b) children’s reading skills and their ability to read with comprehension is improved when they read for joy.

We partner with the Kamvalethu Foundation on two projects – namely the Protea Library at Walmer Estate Primary School and the Liyabona Library at Holy Cross RC Primary School in Cape Town. These two library projects embody our core mission.

We continue to invest in the library catalogues to ensure that learners have access to a variety of reading material. Our Literacy Director, Nonikiwe Mashologu, works with a growing network of local publishers to ensure that the books in our libraries are both representative of the lived experiences of the learners who use them and are varied enough to expand the knowledge and world view of learners. Our library assistants are hosting weekly library lessons in which they are actively encouraging learners to engage with words and stories in an inquisitive manner and to explore their own ‘voices’ by telling their own stories as well.

This year, we have a particular focus on deepening the reading culture at the schools where we work. We look forward to reporting back on how our various activities and projects are helping us to raise a new generation of readers!

But these are the broad brushstrokes of our work, and often the beauty of our projects is found in the stories of how individual learners are influenced by having a beautiful, well-run library in their school.

A Foundation Phase teacher at Walmer Estate Primary School shared this story with us recently:

“In 2019 teachers at our school became extremely concerned about a Grade 1 learner. The young learner ran away from home and frequently shared stories about dogfighting and other violent activities. The learner became disinterested in schoolwork and during breaks, he would find insects on the school ground and pull their legs or wings off. In 2020 The Protea Library opened at our school, providing learners with a new, beautiful space to freely explore books. All classes have fixed library lessons and the learners are encouraged to visit the library during break times. The troubled Grade 1 learner became obsessed with the library! Every break he would head over to the library and enjoy the books. After a lunch break, he would return to the classroom and talk about what he has read. He would recall interesting facts and explain the different pictures he saw. He started to encourage friends to join him in the library during break time.

Since his frequent visits to the Protea Library, this learner started positively engaging with teachers and peers. He does not display any concerning behavior on the school grounds and he was one of the Top 10 academic achievers in his class at the end of 2020.

Exposing learners to beautiful, educational environments really changes lives.