By Christopher Wyngaard
Roscoe Williams, resident of Mitchells Plain and one of the leading figures in the non-profit organization READ to RISE, wants to encourage and excite learners on the benefits of reading.
READ to RISE was founded by husband and wife team, Athol Williams, brother of Roscoe, and his wife Taryn Lock back in 2013. When they started READ to RISE the goal was as it is now, to continuously educate and excite learners to read, especially here in Mitchells Plain.
“It was of course very tough growing up in Mitchell’s Plain, you had your usual negatives, such as gangsterism and drugs among others”, said Roscoe.
“We tried to stay away from things like that, Athol certainly did. He went to university at the age of 17 and has continued to do so. I, on the other hand went slightly off track, but I regained my focus and then became apart of READ to RISE. I know what these kids are going through, myself and Athol went to Mitchells Plain Primary and Westridge High School so we know what growing up in Mitchells Plain is like”.
He continued, “It’s something I always tell the learners, because a lot of the time they don’t see us as humans, they see us as celebrities or people who haven’t experienced hardships. I tell them that Athol and I were exposed to the same things they are exposed to right now. What always kept us going was, working hard, keeping our heads in our books and thinking of what we could achieve one day”.
Roscoe reiterated that Athol is the first person to earn five masters’ degrees from five global top-ranked universities; an impressive feat that has been covered my several news publications recently. In addition to a bachelors’ degree from the University of the Witwatersrand, Athol holds masters’ degrees from MIT Sloan School of Management, London Business School, The University of Oxford, Harvard University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.
“I think that he is possibly an embodiment to the saying ‘where you come from does not determine where you’re going’. He worked hard in everything he did and did it to the utmost of his abilities”, said Roscoe.
Athol, along with his wife, is an author for the Oaky series of children’s books. “Oaky is a story about an acorn named Oaky, who is looking for the right direction to grow, similarly to how we are looking for the right direction in life. Oaky is not just a reading book, but also morals and life lessons for the children”.
“READ to RISE aims to not only excite young minds about reading but also to help raise funds for disadvantaged areas, areas that are not equipped with libraries, and those that have libraries are usually in volatile and dangerous areas. This is why we are mostly in Mitchell’s Plain, because we just how disadvantaged Mitchell’s Plain is, in a sense of resources, so we try to alleviate this. We have actually been to all primary schools in Mitchell’s Plain over the years and have handed out over 150 000 books. We try to visit each school at least twice a year. Our aim is to provide libraries with new, fresh and interesting books for the learners, books that would intrigue them and get them into reading”, said Roscoe gleefully.
“When we started, we only did grade 2 learners because for us it was, if we can turn these children into bookworms at a young age, then when they eventually grow up, they would be completely zoned out by all the negativity surrounding the area they live in. They would rather focus on their education”
Roscoe then proceeded to speak on their series of inspirational children’s book named Oaky, “Oaky has been growing since we released the first book, and the series has constantly evolved since. Now we have a mascot for Oaky, we don’t only operate at schools but during the holidays we go around to libraries, Oaky has also made its way overseas. We don’t only operate in Mitchell’s Plain, we have teams in Johannesburg, and also Limpopo”.
Roscoe says he has always been someone who loves to see others happy, especially if it is because of READ to RISE. “We are a non-profit organization, which means that what we do is from our hearts and not resulting in financial gain, the biggest profit we make is seeing what our work does to the learners. You can see it as we talk to them, most of them look captivated, intrigued and a lot of them come up to us afterwards and they would hug us, or they would say how much they are going to read from now on, it really is nice.
When asked on the possibility of READ to RISE becoming an international organization, Roscoe said the following:” Of course if the opportunity comes, I’ll take it. If someone tells me there’s an urgent need for READ to RISE at a certain country and they supply us with the resources, then we would go. But I do think the main reason we would go overseas is to do fundraising for libraries or educational institutions who lack resources”, said Roscoe.