Books are the weapon of choice
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.