26 April 2017

Tygerberg Hospital, one of the biggest children’s hospitals in the Western Cape, daily caters for more than 320 children and due to their length of stays, often miss out on school. Celebrated worldwide on the 23rd of April, World Book Day aims to promote a culture of reading, writing and publishing in all local languages and easy access to books for all.


The objectives of World Book Day celebrations are:

  • to raise awareness about the importance of reading
  • to reach out and give people access to books
  • to educate people to take care of their library facilities
  • to celebrate books


 Tygerberg Children’s Hospital is working towards ensuring that each child has a book to read upon discharge from the facility. Parents are their children’s first and most efficient teachers, and shared reading (reading by parents to their own children) has shown to be a very efficient way of improving vocabulary, school performance and even social interaction with peers in children. Reading is also fun, enjoyable and develops a child’s imagination.

Dr Miemie du Preez, senior paediatric consultant at Tygerberg Hospital, said: “What makes this intervention so novel is that studies have shown that the most disadvantaged children show the biggest gain in cognitive development and vocabulary when exposed to reading. Regular shared reading can positively change the structure of the developing brain.”


Linking literacy and health offers an amazing window of opportunity for early intervention and empowerment of parents. Creating a habit of shared reading has the potential to change our educational outcomes. Books are as important to a child’s future as breast milk, immunisations and access to healthcare are. We cannot do without books!


“Apart from nurturing a love for books, reading also creates opportunities for parents and children to interact develop a connection and have fun. Hospital attendance and admission creates an opportunity to promote, and introduce shared reading to parents,” said Du Preez.


Currently the following book sharing initiatives are in place at the hospital:

  1. Reading to premature babies has shown to be beneficial. Currently every baby admitted into our neonatal wards receives a nursery rhyme book (in the mother’s native language). The parents have a “Script to Read” and read to the babies daily. At premature follow-up at the clinic, they receive a picture book in their own language as a gift.
  2. Tygerberg Hospital School has a beautiful well-stocked library and the school has opened its doors to the parents and children of the hospital.  It has books in all the native languages. Currently medical students are taking the children and parents to the school library twice a week. We strongly emphasise the “Play with Books” aspect and tell them about libraries and the free availability of books in their communities.
  3. For the children that are too ill to go to the library, we have trolleys of books; currently we have volunteers that take the trolleys to the wards three days a week.
  4. The book-sharing initiative is serving both OPD (Outpatients Department) waiting rooms. Outpatients is the ideal place to introduce shared reading. The volunteers take the book trolley around to the parents waiting in the waiting room. They give information on shared reading with an emphasis on “having fun with books” and demonstrate how to read to a child. Posters in Outpatients and wards advertise reading as fun.
  5. Each consulting room in G-Ground is stocked with a book box. It consists of picture books in the three main languages of patients we service (Afrikaans English and isiXhosa). Each patient receives a gift (a book) that they can choose from the attending doctor and advise about the importance of shared reading.


Tygerberg Children’s Hospital appeal to the community to donate books. It can be second-hand, but in a good condition. Currently we do not have enough books to stock specialised clinics like cardiology or pulmonology. Xhosa books are much needed, as native language promotion is important, but the availability is limited. The Nalibali website offers beautiful Xhosa books that can be downloaded free from charge but the printing costs is high though.


Media Enquiries: 

Laticia Pienaar


Communications Officer

Tygerberg Hospital

Fax: 086 601 5218

Telephone: 021 938 5454