SASHA LEE TAYLOR CHANGING LIVES, ONE BOOK, ONE CHILD, ONE SCHOOL AT A TIME.
Tell us how the Learn to Read, Learn to Lead concept came about?
I have always had a passion for education and giving back. I find it so important for everyone to have access to equal education opportunities. However, I noticed that there were many children, even young adults, who are illiterate and that is how the “Learn to Read, Learn to Lead” idea was born. The name represents young children of today, becoming leaders of the future. This project is a way of connecting both my passion for giving back along with education.
What inspired this campaign?
My passion for education, as well as empowering the youth of today would be the inspiration behind the campaign. It’s vital that we all play a role in making the world a better place and this is my way of making a difference. I recently sat in Parliament at the National Youth Summit and heard children as young as 10 years old ask the ministers for equal education opportunities – and that is the moment I realised we actually have a huge educational gap in South Africa and “Learn to Read, Learn to Lead” is an attempt to bridge that gap for all South Africans.
As a young woman, why is this initiative important to you?
There are so many female leaders of today, such as Rolene Strauss, Rachel Kolisi, JoAnne Strauss, Elana Afrika, and Batsetsana Kumalo, who are recognized for their continuous charity work and for making a difference in the South African youth and I aspire to follow in their footsteps and make a difference. Being a woman I think it’s important to stand together, empower each other and uplift our youth who is the future of tomorrow.
As the face of the “Learn to Read, Learn to Lead” initiate, what role do you play?
I am the author, designer, and face of the “Learn to Read, Learn to Lead” book series, whilst my younger sister did all of the illustrations. It is a true family affair.
When did this initiative officially start?
I have been working on this project for quite some time as I wanted it to be perfect, however, it officially launched in July (2018) at the Nasdak venue, with the help from Rachel Jafta. Rachel Jafta is co-founder, director and chairperson of Econex. She is a Professor in Economics at the University of Stellenbosch. Our next step is to get the books into various book stores and to sell as may copies as possible as the profits go towards The Nelson Mandela Childrens Fund and the Child Welfare Tswhane Fund.
Tell us about the book design and mascot - why did you go with that particular storyline and characters?
I believe ‘local is lekker’ so when creating the storyline and characters I tried my best to embrace the beauty of South Africa. I wanted everyone to be able to relate to the story and characters. The story is set in a South African location. A lot of colours were used throughout the book as to represent our Rainbow Nation and also as to make it more fun for the children. Each book has a theme in the beginning that continues throughout the book. But most importantly, there is an educational section within the book that actually teaches the children how to read and write – in this section repetition was used to make it easier for the children. They also used very simple and basic English sentences throughout the book which is beneficial for each child wanting to learn how to read.
The mascot and main character’s name is Tata, named after the late Nelson Mandela’s nickname.
Nelson Mandela’s quote; “Education is the most powerful tool one can use to change the world” is what inspired this campaign and is why I decided to name the main character after him.
I wanted to create a character that each individual in South Africa can relate to and not be aimed at a specific race or culture this is why Tata is a little rainbow creature (again, representing all of the Rainbow Nation, I made him a little alien that came from space because children are very interested in outer space now days).“
The books are part of a series?
Yes, there will be more than one book, the first book that was launched was called “How Tata gets his name and how Tata learns to read”. This book focuses on reading and writing skills. The second book will be about counting and dealing with everyday situations, such as bullying. The second book is set to be released around Feb/March this year.
50% of the net profit from the book is split equally to go towards the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Twshane Child Welfare Fund. Why did you select these beneficiaries?
These are two organisations that are doing amazing things to help our youth. Nelson Mandela’s dream was to improve education in our country and I felt it would only be right to give back to one of his organisations, especially since the main character was also named after him. It is my way of building on the legacy of Nelson Mandela. The Twshane fund has always been close to my heart and I admire the work they do for the children- giving back to them was my way of showing that their work doesn’t go unrecognized. The remainder of the profits from the books will go towards converting and setting up shipping containers into classrooms and libraries to put in areas that lack educational facilities.
The book was recognized in Parliament when you were invited to the National Youth Summit - tell us more about this?
In June 2018, I was invited to the National Youth Summit at Parliament in Cape Town, where I was able to speak about the “Learn to Read, Learn to Lead” project and also gain insight on all the things the youth wanted to be addressed by the government, one of the main issues being equal education opportunities. It was truly an honor to have been invited and will definitely remain one of my highlights.
You received the Young Leader in Philanthropy award - when was this and what was the requirements in order to receive this award?
This award was given to me by the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund at the National Youth summit that I was invited to. The award is aimed at recognizing a “Nelson Mandela in every generation” it is about an individual that is doing good for their community and giving back. This year was even more special as it was also the century celebration for Nelson Mandela.
Which area/school did you kick off the campaign?
At the launch of the first book I, along with Professor Rachel Jafta, handed over 40 books to teacher Danel Schoombee from a primary school in Delft, Western Cape. Danel teaches at Kairos Primary School in an area where there is a very high crime rate and she is actually at risk going to work every day however, she continuously provides for her children in her classroom, she even buys them stationery from her own salary. She brings any books she has for their little library corner as the children thoroughly enjoy reading. I got amazing feedback that the children really enjoyed reading the books.
Where do you see this project going in 2019?
I see the books being sold in bookstores and the profits going towards the beneficiaries. I am hoping that this year there will be sponsors coming on board to also help with the converting of shipping containers. My dream is to give each child an equal opportunity to learn to read.
How can people get involved?
Anyone is welcome to purchase a book that costs R170, people can also get in touch with regards to sponsoring books for an underprivileged school/area or even help with the converting of shipping containers into classrooms (even sponsoring a container). I would also love for people to get in touch by letting us know in which areas the books would be needed.
Where can people follow this movement?
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/sashaleetaylor21/