The Joy of Reading…

Reading is a very exciting, sometimes scary or sad, or funny or loving or painful journey.  It is a wholesome escape from the everyday and the ordinary.

I am so grateful  my parents read to us when we were little.  To be honest, we loved it when my Dad read to us.  It was always a production and a drama, as he would change his voice and mannerisms, and at times, according to the theme,  there would be actions.

“Little Red Riding Hood” became a firm favourite (particularly if we wanted to delay bedtime).  Dad would lie on the bed, pretending to be the wolf dressed up as grandmother; sometimes “she” was given the honour of wearing a scarf of sorts.  We would then approach the bed, cautiously, giggling, going through all the questions, like, “Granny, Granny, why are your eyes so big” – “All the better so see you my dear” said Granny.  Until we got to “Why is your mouth so big”, shrieking, we would pretend to run away from the wolf who shouted and shrieked just as loudly as we did.

We soon outgrew bedtime stories, Fiona and I never stopped reading. Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Heidi, The Wind in the Willows, Dr Seuss, Paul Gallico’s the Snow Goose, Flowers for Mrs Harris, The Small Miracle and many, many more wonderful books kept us entertained throughout our childhood and beyond.

Many years ago, I decided to embark on an adventure, where I could earn extra cash and enjoy a little bit of travel at the same time.  I applied to work in the United Kingdom as a Carer.  I got to meet and care for some wonderful clients and their families.   (Hold this thought for a moment!) 

A very good friend of mine persuaded me to serve as volunteer for the SHINE Literacy project operating on the premises of, as well serving Learners from the Walmer Primary School in in the Township.

Volunteers play a significant role in assisting grade 4 learners become proficient in reading and writing English.  Oh how I love this project and all it represents, it is exciting watching youngsters become confident and proficient in learning a language that encourages them to participate in life, science, maths, reading, writing, history, geography and the like.

Glenda Brunette, a local business woman, owner of a fruit and vegetable outlet became aware of the plight of folks who were and are living in abject poverty in Walmer Township.  Glenda, who is fluent in Xhosa started assisting various day centres, by collecting books, toys, stationery as well as improving and renovating basic infrastructure in some of the crèche,  building two new day care centres and assisting with the constructions of amalooloo dry sanitations lavatories.

In her daily interaction with the residents and role players in the Township, she noticed that children were not sufficiently literate or proficient in English. The current school curriculum demands that children should be able to read, write and communicate in English by grade 4.

Glenda contacted SHINE Literacy programme in Cape Town with the view to starting a similar project in Walmer.

I thoroughly enjoy volunteering at SHINE, it is vibrant, impactful and is a life-changing experience for learner and volunteer alike.

One of my very first encounters with two little boys always makes me smile.  I was trying to interest them in listening to a story, for the life of me I could not get them to concentrate, their attention was elsewhere.  Jabbering away to each other, they seemed to be fascinated with something on the wall, or so I thought.   All of a sudden one tiny little hand very gently started playing with my hair, he turned to his little friend and very confidently said ‘e gel’, they had figured out that I used gel to keep my hair neat and tidy.  

Do you remember me saying ‘hold that thought’?

In 2014 whilst on a caring assignment in the UK, chatting to a daughter of my client, we discovered that we had so much in common.  Interestingly enough she had also spent time living in Africa.  Tess is passionate about people and helping people reach the full potential, and as a member of the International Relief Foundation embarks on many fundraising efforts to assist worthy projects in Africa and around the world.

In 2019 Tess asked me to recommend two worthy projects in Port Elizabeth.  Without hesitation I recommended SHINE.  Sadly, COVID interfered with our plans for a while, however a wonderful relationship working relationship has developed between SHINE, Tess and the IRFF team.

A dedicated SHINE volunteer

I  believe Pat Hippert’s  report to Tess and the IRFF  board sums it up perfectly 2024 has blessed the Walmer Primary School SHINE Chapter with new 87 learners and 12 new Volunteers, each with an abundance of educational experience and inspiration. It has been the most exciting post COVID year yet!

Your generous IRFF sponsorship has enabled our Centre to run smoothly with sufficient stationery, quality teaching aids, coffee and tea refreshments for the double shift volunteers, a colourful library environment, tape strengthened and coded library books and learner library cards. Each element is subtle but important for the enthusiastic and energetic environment that our Volunteers and learners flourish in. 

My daughter Joy has the privilege of running the library, keeping the books useable and neat, sourcing and training librarians from the gr6 and gr7 learners, keeping a pleasant flowing pace of learners at break time, which can often be chaotic, and keeping the categorization of books tidy on the shelves. Our library is sometimes blessed with book donations, but the bulk of our stock is rather old and inappropriate. I have never seen both the SHINE and non-SHINE learners so enthusiastic about books! Huge variety, adventure and non-fiction, the road to literacy is being etched every day! 

As the wife of a Ship Chandler I get to meet and interact with interesting and amazing people from all walks of life.  Very recently I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with the Captain of The LOGOS Hope and his wonderful family, as George and I were invited to spend time with Captain Cristian, his wife, Kirsten and their two children on board the ship.

From left to right: Captain Cristian of the Logos, his wife Kirsten, the bookshop manager, and Gail

The past three weeks has seen many, many folk, in our city, visit the LOGOS Hope’s wonderfully stocked book shop.  Last Sunday we were invited to lunch, a bit of a farewell before they set sail for East London.  In conversation with them I said that it was such a privilege and a joy spending time with them, I mentioned that my friends from SHINE had a wonderful time in the bookshop buying books for the project.

They were so interested to learn about SHINE that they immediately decided to make a generous donation of books. We spent a wonderful afternoon choosing books, lots of books for some wonderful youngsters and their Volunteers.

Reading is truly a joyful experience…….in more ways than one and our hearts are full with gratitude for the kind and generous donations made by people like Captain Cristian and Tess.

I dedicate this blog to Captain Cristian, Kirsten and  their sons as well as Glenda, Pat, Kari, Joy, Frances, Clara, and all the wonderful volunteers who selflessly give of their time to make a difference. And my wonderful husband, George.

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  • Klara Kopanaki

    Gail, what a beautiful way of promoting SHINE and all the miraculous work that goes on, there! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for introducing the project to me! It is a true honour to be a part of it, now. Thank you to you, the Captain and his wife Kirsten, from Logos, for getting SHINE, the tons of beautiful books, they received! Pat, has SUCH a passion for the project and feels like all those precious kiddies are her very own. Without her enthusiasm and hard work along with yours and Glenda’s HUGE support, none of this would have been possible, so THANK YOU to both of you! It is a privilege to be part of the volunteer team. I thoroughly enjoy reading all your weekly stories, Gail. Thank you SOOO much for welcoming me me into your wonderful, book club, too. It has been great meeting all your friends who are part of it and it feels lovely, to finally be reading, again! Take care my dear friend and see you soon!

  • Michelle

    Oh Gail once again you identify a need and quietly go about fulfilling it. Not only have you got a whole school supplied with books and a desire to read but you have gathered your friend’s into a book circle and have got us all fired up to pick up a book or two or 3. I cant wait to go to bed at night to find out what’s in store for the heroine in my book.

  • With these stories you remind me of our chats over coffee (it is time for another), and the stories you have shared.
    There must be a book of short stories in there, somewhere!!

  • And never too old to teach (George Charalambous)

    And never too old to teach (George Charalambous)

  • Sanette Cavallari

    ‘You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child’ (Dr Seuss)

    Amazing work being done! Driven by your passionate heart Gail – you are an inspiration !