East London teacher’s “extraordinary” way to get learners reading

A grade one teacher is being hailed for her “extraordinary” efforts to encourage learners in East London to read.

Heidi Borchards‚ from Buffalo Flats Primary School‚ has touched the hearts of parents for continuously reaching out to them about their children’s work and encouraging their involvement through her learning programmes.

She has created a Google Drive bookshelf‚ where she uploads children’s books that parents can easily download and read with them at home. This is her way of rectifying a poor culture of reading and the amount of time children spend playing video games‚ being on the internet or watching too much television.

“Reading can be complex for the young ones and I think the involvement of parents helps them enjoy it and benefit from the teachings. I want to make it fun for them. I even have a reward system‚ where I give them sweets for every little piece of reading they have done. They come to me and show me what they have read and tell me about it. This way I get to know how far they are‚” she said.

Borchards said parents were often too tired or caught up with other things to spend time with their children‚ “so I have a Whatsapp group‚ where I update them on the progress of their children and they love it. It makes it easier. Children are not safe these days‚ so if they read in the comfort of their homes it’s better than walking to a library.”
Learners often come to her during breaks for group reading sessions‚ she said.

The only thing she spends money on is mobile data‚ which she said was worth it.

“I want to purchase my own overhead projector so I can do more presentations at other schools‚ children’s homes and so forth. It will take some time to purchase‚ but I’m going to reach that goal too.

“Reading is a habit that needs nurturing. It also presents an opportunity for parents to bond better with them‚” Borchards added.

So far‚ her programme has about 200 parent members and the reading material is up to grade four level.

Debbie du Plessis‚ whose son is in grade one‚ said she appreciated Borchards’ efforts.

“I print out the books and read… it’s so much fun because everyone is involved. She is an extraordinary teacher and I love how she goes the extra mile for our children. In the parents’ Whatsapp group she tells us about their homework and how we can help them write it‚” Du Plessis said.

She said her children loved the books.

“Our favourite is the exercise we have to complete after reading. It helps them understand better and it’s beautiful seeing them applying their minds on what they just read.

“We need more and more teachers like her‚ selfless and caring. If I could go back to school I would want to be in her class. Her commitment is commendable‚” Du Plessis added.

Another parent‚ Annaline le Keur‚ said her daughter‚ who was in Borchards’ grade two class‚ wanted to be a teacher just like her.

“Glynese is always talking about her. She sees her as a role model. When she plays with the other kids‚ she plays teacher. If it was possible I would want her to continue teaching her in the other classes‚” said Le Keur.

She said the reading was “awesome. It’s easy and quick to download. Every second week she sends me messages with comprehension and feedback on how my child is finding the book we are currently reading.”

Le Keur said she was grateful that the activities kept her child off the streets.

Glynese also expressed her joy at Borchards’ teaching methods.

“She is a good teacher; I want to be like her. I go to her class every day during break and read with the other children‚” she said‚ adding that her favourite book is The Magic Block by Lavina Mahbubani.

—Kgaugelo Masweneng

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