Books are the weapon of choice

Sunday World - - Special Project -

Read­ing gives peo­ple the power to pur­sue their dreams, says Philani Dladla

PHILANI Dladla cred­its books for sav­ing his life.

The 25-year-old, known as “the pave­ment book­worm”, says he kicked his drug ad­dic­tion by read­ing self-help books, and re­view­ing and sell­ing books to earn his keep. “Books were the star,” he says. He spoke to Nal’ibali about his love for books and get­ting young­sters, es­pe­cially those in in­ner-city Joburg, read­ing.

What does read­ing mean to you?

It means ev­ery­thing. It is the weapon of choice for fight­ing so­cial chal­lenges. A house with­out a book is like a body with­out a soul.

When did you fall in love with books?

When I was eight, the man my mother worked for gave me a book for my birth­day. It was the first gift I had ever re­ceived. It both­ered me that I couldn’t re­ally un­der­stand it. It was in English, and I was in a ru­ral school in KwaZulu-Natal. I was de­ter­mined to learn to read it with un­der­stand­ing.

What was your favourite book grow­ing up?

It was the one he gave me… it was my only book. It was called The

Last White Par­lia­ment by Fred­erik Van Zyl Slab­bert. It was about pol­i­tics. It was a chal­lenge for me, but I wanted to know what was so spe­cial about this book.

I read The Last White Par­lia­ment over and over. Books are a gift you can re­open and en­joy re­peat­edly.

I like self-help books and bi­ogra­phies. They are in­spir­ing.

I like pa­per books, not e-read­ers. E-read­ers can’t be au­to­graphed.

I also think books can never take the place of news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines be­cause those keep you up­dated.

And your favourites now?

Why is teach­ing chil­dren to read im­por­tant?

Read­ing gives peo­ple power. The chil­dren around me, here in Jou­bert Park, need to read so that they can think. They won’t be kids for­ever.

If they read about sit­u­a­tions, then it will be like déjà vu in real life. Read­ing can en­lighten you… and I think it keeps old peo­ple young. It keeps their minds sharp.

If you ask the lit­tle ones what they want to be­come one day, they say they want to be a pro­fes­sor or a nurse or a teacher. I want their dreams to come true. I am ded­i­cated to teach­ing these kids to read so they can stay away from drugs.

How do you get the chil­dren read­ing?

I have started read­ing clubs. I have young ones from the age of six to 28.

I tell them they could do bet­ter with their time than to sit around in the park. They go and read, then we come to­gether and dis­cuss it.

If they can read and write, they will be more em­ploy­able.

I’ve been read­ing for a long time and want us to grow to­gether.

Dladla has turned his life around, but re­mains com­mit­ted to the peo­ple of Jou­bert Park and sur­round­ing ar­eas. He prom­ises to keep work­ing with them. You can view his web­site at www.pave­ment­book­worm.co.za.

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