Christmas is here! I was invited by MySchool to help a group of preschool kids open up the Santa Shoebox gifts we packed on Mandela Day. It was so wonderfully festive. Picture a room full of excited kids, happy chatter with the occasional high pitched squeal (and the odd inconsolable weep) and now you’re a fly on the wall. All of the excitement was pretty loud and overwhelming, but in all the best ways.

The Santa Shoebox Project is one of South Africa’s most popular charities and is well-known for it’s personal nature. Through their partner network of more than 1000 recipient facilities, the name, age and gender of every child is known to their donors.  A typical Santa Shoebox contains toothpaste and a toothbrush, a bar of soap and washcloth, an outfit of clothing, educational supplies, sweets and toys. In 13 years, they have brought the Christmas cheer to 858 673 children!

The best part of the Santa Shoeboxes this year is that not only were they beautifully wrapped with all the regular essential items and treats included, but this year all the boxes for kids under seven also included two Book Dash books donated by MySchool. Book Dash gathers volunteer creative professionals to create new, high-quality African storybooks that anyone can freely translate and distribute and MySchool jumped on board to sponsor a print run and donated 50 000 books in total. Fifty thousand!

According to Book Dash Director, Dorette Louw, a 2016 study undertaken by the South African Book Development Council revealed that 58% of South African households do not have single leisure book. “Our work is evidence-based,” Louw says, “Access to books is critical to increase literacy skills, school readiness, vocabulary and numeracy skills. Research shows that children who are keen readers or who are often read to by adults, are more engaged, more attentive and have higher levels of empathy. Reading improves socio-emotional development, and as a shared activity strengthens the relationships between children and their caregivers.”

I want to high five MySchool, Book Dash and Santa Shoebox Project for teaming up in this way to increase book ownership in young South Africans which is really such a low-cost, high-impact way to raise readers. Although Santa Shoebox pledges have closed for 2019, there is still time buy a virtual shoebox for R400 where the items will be purchased and packed on your behalf. Do it!

Are you a MySchool supporter? You can sign up for free as a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet cardholder at or download the App and then select up to three causes that matter to you. Every time you swipe your card at a participating retailer, a donation is made to your beneficiaries on your behalf, at no cost to you.

*All images shared with permission.

*This post is sponsored by MySchool.

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