From the Boardroom to the Bedroom: Find out what genre turns you on

The National Library of South Africa announced that there will be a launch of the results of a National Reading Barometer soon that tracked readers’ attitudes, behaviour and access to reading material following a similar dipstick several years ago. Even before the results are released, indications are they’ll show that we have some way to go. Recent media reports suggest more than 80% of grade 4 children in South Africa can’t read for meaning. And it seems the lack of comprehension skills is spilling into corporate South Africa. GIFS has again taken a proactive position as a thought leader in financial services education, bringing together a dream team of experts to find ways to plug the gap.

The first Insurance Institute of Gauteng (IIG) Insights session for 2023 saw GIFS’ CEO Dr Kershen Pillay moderating a panel discussion with acclaimed broadcaster and author Ms Joanne Joseph, Ms Nokuthula Musa who’s the Executive Director for Core Programmes at the National Library of South Africa, and Ms Boledi Seima who’s Absa’s People Lead Partner. IIG President Ms Simphiwe Mtyali opened the online conversation saying improving literacy will enhance the caliber of individuals entering the workforce.

Pillay opened the discussion citing a recent survey which found professionals are suffering from email fatigue with many buckling under the weight of numerous online exchanges. “Many working professionals find the content so difficult to understand, they choose to ignore it in fear of being wrong, or they feel their colleagues don’t make sense,” he explained. This leads to bottlenecks in decision-making and workflow paralysis.

It was a sentiment Seima picked up on. “If you think our ways of work have evolved post-Covid with more hybrid and virtual options, more people are communicating in writing in order for colleagues to perform tasks and this needs good reading and comprehension skills.” So, if colleagues have poor comprehension skills, the job, client, and ultimately the team and the organisation suffers. Seima explained the notion of ‘scanning through’ documents before meetings is problematic. Time is wasted as meeting packs are produced ahead of time for a specific reason. The intention is for delegates to have sufficient time to consume the information so that decision-making can be efficient when the meeting takes place. Instead, Seima, says meetings tend to overrun with delegates seeking answers to questions that are already in the pack. She slammed the culture of ‘winging it’ saying that lack of reading will have dire consequences for organisational workplace efficiency and personal career progression.

Joseph felt strongly that reading culture should be ingrained at home, where possible. She shared how her daughter is an avid reader and that’s largely because she was read to as an infant so it’s never too early to develop a love of books. However, she was mindful to be considerate of the South African socio-economic situation. Not all parents have the luxury of time to spend reading to their children, given the commute to work. Consideration also has to be given to the fact that books, in many households, are considered luxury purchases. Joseph added though that wealthy families are sometimes also not keen on reading culture, by choice.

Audience participation throughout the online session was high with one attendee asking for Joseph’s advice on how to create reading culture. She explained that just as we have routines for mealtime and hygiene, reading should be added to the list of things to be done on any given day. Her advice was to find a genre that’s engaging. “What turns you on as a reader? Even if its Mills & Boon or Fifty Shades of Grey, these books serve a purpose in people’s lives. If you’re waiting in a Home Affairs queue, use that time. Make a conscious choice to have something to read and it’ll become a habit.”

Joseph was also frank about the impact of juniorisation of newsrooms. She explained many organisations are falling short of ensuring all journalists are given sufficient guidance and support to ensure they have in-depth knowledge. “You can switch to any channel and online sites, and the depth and substance are lacking in order to keep supplying audiences with the quality of information that a thriving democracy requires.” She explained that in many cases the problem is down to a lack of reading.

Musa appealed to the library and education sector to help drive reading culture. She explained much work is being done but it’s not enough. The private sector needs to rally together to support initiatives. She said Gauteng libraries are running a programme where new moms are taught about the love of reading when they make clinic visits. There’s also a tracker to ascertain their young children’s progress when they get into school.

Musa also explained that many people don’t get support at school when they appear to have difficulty reading. This continues as they make their way through life and end up in the world of work. The cycle perpetuates as reading culture isn’t expanded because there’s little support. Her appeal was for corporates to do more, and even consider reading initiatives as part of CSI. “Give books as gifts. Start book clubs at work.” The possibilities are endless.

And Pillay is sure to continue drumming up support from the financial services sector.

Watch full video here:

25 May 2023