National Book Week was set up in order to support a broader book development plan. Our early research indicated clearly that South Africans do not have a strong reading culture and without a bigger reading or book buying market, no other strategies would succeed. 

A 2007 study, commissioned by the SABDC, into the book reading habits of adult South Africans highlighted how our reading culture is a barrier to the country’s development plans because reading and literacy are at the heart of personal growth and community development. Having as few as 20 books in the home has a significant impact in propelling a child to higher levels of education. Furthermore, children who read are able to easily transcend hurdles often imposed by the low educational levels of their parents, their community’s economics or the political systems of their country.

The results of our initial 2007 study indicated that:

  • 51% of households in South Africa did not have a single leisure book in their home. In our 2017 study this number had risen to 58%
  • Only 14% of the population over 16 are avid book readers. This number had not changed in 2017. 
  • Only 5% of parents read to their children


Further research and analysis undertaken revealed the following:

  • 45% felt that books were too expensive
  • 27% said they do not read because there is no library nearby
  • 22% said that books are too difficult to read
  • Issues of language, lack of time and people find reading boring
  • There were no coordinated efforts to promote reading in South Africa


This ultimately resulted in the launch of NBW in 2010, made up of an awareness campaign and a programme to be implemented on the ground. Our events aim to promote a key message to encourage reading as a fun activity.