Reading for Hope

“Bringing hope to children through building solid literacy foundations”

Our aims are

Meet our friend Sharon

Teaching has always been my calling and I spent many rewarding years in the classroom teaching foundation phase children. The most exciting aspect of my career was to watch children develop their reading skills, especially the Grade Ones.

Sharon is part of our church community, a retired primary school teacher who now tutors children privately and leads the Reading for Hope initiative.

Pictured below: weekly sessions at Silverlea Primary School in Athlone, Cape Town.

It always concerned me that there is such a disparity between schools in South Africa. The legacy of apartheid is still with us. I often felt that I was only ‘scratching the surface’ of the problems and so when I retired, I prayed about being given an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and to give them a sense of hope.

What is Reading for Hope?

Reading for Hope started six years ago with a small group of volunteers from Pinelands Baptist Church led by Helen Harrod, reading with children at Silverlea Primary school. Colleen Rinquest is a member of our congregation and a teacher at that school. The program started because she expressed a need for support in the very difficult task of educating children who face many economic and social challenges.

The other school that Reading for Hope supports is EA Janari in Bonteheuwel. Like Colleen, Nicky Benting is a member of Pinelands Baptist Church and is our contact with the school. 

Lockdown slowed our growth and for two years we were unable to send volunteers to the schools. During this time, we consolidated our ideas and began to work under the umbrella of the church’s NPO known as Lerato’s Hope. We sent edupacks to the schools, made masks for the Grade Ones and knitted 100 beanies for the children at EA Janari.

In 2022 the program was reignited and we had a total of 14 volunteers, including 3 volunteers from the Silverlea community, reaching 28 children.

Pictured above: weekly sessions at E.A. Janari Primary School in Bonteheuwel, Cape Town.

Our Programme
We operate in two schools, which are in suburbs that were classified as coloured townships during Apartheid due to the Group Areas Act of 1950. To this day, they remain disadvantaged and under-resourced communities, facing challenges such as high unemployment and school dropout rates, substance abuse and gangsterism.

Volunteers visit the schools weekly for an hour and are allocated two children to support for the year. These are children who have fallen behind in their journey to literacy, but have the potential to achieve better results.  Each child receives 30 minutes of one-on-one attention for them to work on phonics, spelling, writing, and reading. We read with them and to them, building up their confidence and using the time to establish relationships with them. We try to make this half hour a special time in which the children have our undivided attention. 


We have been blessed to be able to acquire sets of graded reading books, which make it possible for our program to be structured. (We use the Oxford Reading Tree books: levels 1 to 7) Besides the reading books, we have games, flashcards, workbooks and stationery which make the lessons more interesting for the children.


All volunteers are trained in using our materials. We strive to make volunteering easy, working as a team and supporting each other. Children are assessed at the beginning of the year to ensure that they are reading at a level that is right for them: not too easy or too difficult. They are allowed to work through the reading books at a comfortable, but challenging pace.

Several children have favourite books from the sets, or favourite parts of the session whether it be games or talking to the volunteer. 

What the teachers have said

“The learners were keen to go to the classes. They really enjoyed learning to read through games. The programme was also more consistent this term. All of my learners who were part of the reading program showed progress in their English results.”

A couple of weeks ago one of our volunteers bumped into one of the learner’s teachers who told her what a difference the reading had made to this young girl. Not only had her reading improved, but she was far more self-confident and was participating more in class - she was a different child.

“A young learner who attended the reading support class when she was in grade 3, and who is now is grade 6, was one of 4 learners from our school who entered the Grow Smart Literacy Competition and was the only learner from our district to reach the finals of this competition.”

Our children’s response

A couple of my previous pupils I read to before COVID regularly hang around when I’m on duty reading. Recently they had a couple of friends with them. That day one of my current pupils wasn’t at school so I had some free time. I asked my previous pupil to read for me, which he did. Soon the others overcame their shyness and also took turns to read aloud. About five young boys excitedly took turns with the others cheering them on. A very rewarding morning! 

For any questions please feel free to contact us