Reading Gogos

While the mobile library was providing books for schools it became clear that more was needed to accelerate the development of a culture of reading.

It was upon returning from delivering books towards the end of 1997 that Megan Baston and Sue Skidmore were greeted by Elphas Dube, the Principal of Daveyton Intermediate School, and following discussion were invited to speak to the foundation phase teachers at the school. The teachers explained that children are taught in English from Grade 4 so it is vital that in the earlier grades they begin to learn English as well as their mother tongue.

From this discussion, the concept of the “reading Gogos” was born. We began reading with the foundation phase children at Daveyton Intermediate School in February 2008. There are now 50 Reading Gogos who visit four different schools (Daveyton Intermediate, Chief Luthuli, Katlego and Letsha) once per week for an hour.

Initially the Gogos were elderly retired ladies from Benoni, but the group has now expanded with younger ladies and from a wider area. The Gogos interact with the children in various ways, always with the aim of communicating in English. The activities are coordinated with the teachers to supplement what they are doing in class and include:

  • Reading to the learners
  • Listening to the learners read
  • Doing activities with the learners
  • Playing educational games with the learners

In some cases the class is split, with the stronger children going with Gogos while the teacher has time to dedicate special attention to the strugglers.

The Gogos, teachers and children all thoroughly enjoy the time and the feedback from principals and teachers is very positive:

  • Reading has improved in the foundation phase
  • Children are more confident in class, answering and asking questions
  • Attendance on Gogo day is the highest of any day and usually 100%
  • Demand for Grade 1 places at the Gogo schools has increased dramatically

Other significant benefits include:

  • The breaking down of racial barriers and preconceptions on both sides of the relationship that develops between the Gogos and the children.
  • The support that the teachers are getting in educating the children, both directly but also just the feeling of not being alone.

Our dream is to extend the Reading Gogos programme to more schools, and to do that all we require is more volunteers who want to make a difference in 1 hour per week.

The reading Gogos featured in a programme on the eNCA channel “Against all odds”. This can be viewed here.

Videos from the March 2015 trip to Sosizwe School with visitors from Sapesi and exchange teachers from Warrington (UK):

 - Grade 1

 - Grade 2

 - Grade 3

 - Grade R