History of National Book Week

National Book Week was set up in response to a 2007 study, commissioned by the SABDC, into the book reading habits of adult South Africans. The statistics revealed through this study and subsequent research, clearly indicated that South Africans do not have a strong reading culture. The results further highlighted how our reading culture is a barrier to the country’s development plans because reading and literacy are at the heart of personal growth and community development. Having as few as 20 books in the home has a significant impact in propelling a child to higher levels of education. Furthermore, children who read are able to easily transcend hurdles often imposed by the low educational levels of their parents, their community’s economics or the political systems of their country.

The results of the 2007 study indicated that:

  • 51% of households in South Africa did not have a single leisure book in their home
  • Only 14% of the population are avid book readers
  • Only 5% of parents read to their children

Further research and analysis undertaken revealed the following:

  • 45% felt that books were too expensive
  • 27% said they do not read because there is no library nearby
  • 22% said that books are too difficult to read
  • Issues of language, lack of time and people find reading boring
  • No coordinated efforts to promote reading in South Africa

This ultimately resulted in the launch of NBW in 2010, made up of an awareness campaign and a programme to be implemented on the ground. Events would aim to promote a key message to encourage reading as a fun activity with each province or location tailoring the programme to meet local demands, with a strong focus on promoting indigenous languages, local authors as well as library awareness and access.

The campaign is a joint initiative between the SABDC and The Department of Arts & Culture (DAC) and has become a dedicated week on the South African calendar.