by Karine Veldhoen and Dr. Susan Crichton

for Niteo Africa Society on their 10 year Anniversary

Literacy liberates.  Literate children become critical and creative thinkers, meaning makers, problem finders and problem solvers.  Literate children become change makers in an increasingly complex world.

Books are for everyone. 

Very young children acquire language through conversation with their families and friends. In song and verse, children find joyful ways to communicate and connect. In books they begin to see and hear the connection between words and ideas.

Connections can start with reading together. Infants and toddlers enjoy being read to. Why?  Because the reader is creating rich and relational opportunities and possibilities, by introducing patterns, images, sounds, shapes, and connection.


Gradually the young child begins to recognize spoken words can take the shape of written language. Through the complex literacy learning of listening, speaking, reading and writing, children become meaning makers and they learn to read words and worlds in increasingly sophisticated ways.

Young learners need frequent practice in meaning making along their journey.  A famous proverb says, “A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket.”

Children must have consistent opportunities to explore the meaning of text.

Books are joyful journeys to places imagined and real.

Open Books. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Over time, the child learns books are joyful invitations into the imagination, into new realities, and into unknown realms.  Books are explorations into the light and shadows of our humanity, with opportunities to learn and grow through the experiences of others.  Books open the breadth of human knowledge, inviting both creative and critical thinking.

Books invite transformation!

When we give children books, we are empowering them to explore the wideness of the world, develop a sense of personal identity, and encourage a sense of belonging within the global context.

Seeing is the first step in transforming.  Transforming begins as the child discovers new literacies.

If I am literate, then I am empowered and I can think differently.  I can think differently in a process called design thinking.  To think well, I need to focus my thinking.  I can question, be empathetic, and human-centered in my approaches to the contextual problems I face.  I can transform my reality.

 In an increasingly complicated and interconnected world, there are multiple literacies children need and foundational to thriving with all literacies is reading and writing.

A reading culture with books is a practice of promise.

By investing in the reading culture of challenging contexts and offering access to books, we give children an opportunity to read and write their way in a changing world.  Reading literacy is a core competency and the beginning of what it means to be a participant in the world, a global citizen. It moves children from the reality of surviving to the potential of thriving!

When we give children books, we share with them the culture, history, and foundation of the human family.  We learn there are more ideas and needs that we share than things that separate us!

Books can become the first independent step in becoming a learner, an active participant and agent of transformation in the world.  To read is to participate in something bigger than oneself; it is a practice of promise.

So, if you are you tired of reading, pinning, and hearing great ideas that don’t find their way into your routines, then Subscribe at Learn Forward this month to receive your FREE “Designing Your Playful Plan for Literacy” template. We created the tool to help you apply these practical ideas.

For the sake of the children,