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Trailblazing Winter Olympian promotes youth literacy in South Africa’s underserved communities

The first Nigerian Winter Olympian and first African and Black female competitor in her sport, Simidele Adeagbo brings a message of bravery and confidence to young children in South Africa.

Literacy non-profit organisation Read to Rise has partnered with Olympian Simidele Adeagbo to inspire learners across South Africa. Read to Rise and Adeagbo teamed up to gift 400 copies of Adeagbo’s newly released children’s book Sleigh, Sleigh, Sleigh All Day to learners in underserved communities. Friday 29 April 2022, Adeagbo joined Read to Rise at Mitchells Plain Primary School in Cape Town, South Africa to share her book with Grade 4 learners.

324 learners at Mitchells Plain Primary School and Parklands Primary School in Mitchells Plain will receive a free copy of Adeagbo’s new book. In addition, Adeagbo will join Read to Rise at Tshebedisanong Primary School in Soweto, Johannesburg on May 12 where 76 learners will receive a copy of the book.

In the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Adeagbo became the first Nigerian Winter Olympian and the first African and Black woman to compete in skeleton (a sport in which athletes hurl themselves headfirst on a sled down an icy hill at eighty miles an hour). She has since become the first African gold medal winner at an international bobsled race and is the most decorated Nigerian and African bobsled and skeleton athlete of all time. Adeagbo’s journey from Olympic history maker to children’s book author started with a desire to create a story of diversity and overcoming adversity, empowering young readers to believe in themselves and strive for their dreams.

“Children from all backgrounds deserve the opportunity to thrive through reading and this partnership with Read to Rise creates more access to the power of books,” says Adeagbo. “It’s an honour to help young learners in South Africa discover the pleasure of reading through Sleigh, Sleigh, Sleigh All Day,” said Adeagbo.

In Adeagbo’s impactful story of courage, a young Black girl named Damilola tries sleighing down an icy slope for the first time. She thinks she knows exactly what it’ll take to reach sledding success. With a snazzy new snowsuit and a lightning-fast sled, she comes to realize, however, that true victory lies not in what is seen but in unlocking her bravest, boldest, and best self. Together, Adeagbo and Read to Rise bring this compelling narrative to life for learners with a customized classroom lesson. The interactive lesson features a memorable reading experience led by the author as well as discussion questions and activities designed around the book’s central message of bravery and confidence with an emphasis on reading comprehension.

Read to Rise started in 2013 to promote youth literacy in under-resourced communities in South Africa. They currently work with 77 primary schools in Mitchells Plain and Soweto. The organisation conducts class programmes and gives new story books to children to own, hoping to get children excited about reading. To date, the organisation has given out over 250,000 new story books. This partnership with Adeagbo launches the organisation’s new Author Programme to get children’s books into the hands of children.

“Our children need positive role models and it’s inspirational when children see people who look like them excelling. Powerful stories like Simidele’s personal story and her book show the possibilities for children.” Says Taryn Lock, Read to Rise Executive Director.

Read to Rise and Adeagbo’s partnership was supported through the generosity of Illumina, Inc. a U.S. based biotechnology company.

For more information about READ to RISE, please visit

If you would like more information about Simidele Adeagbo and Sleigh, Sleigh, Sleigh All Day, please contact

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