Sonia Machanick

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Sonia Machanick
Dr Sonia Machanick.jpg
Born(1925-06-15)15 June 1925
Cape Town, South Africa
Died12 November 1977(1977-11-12) (aged 52)
Johannesburg, South Africa
CitizenshipSouth African
Spouse(s)Hillel Abbe Shapiro
Children4; including Ian Shapiro and Roy Courtnall Summerfield
  • Soloman Machanick (father)
  • Edna Annie Love Machanick (nee Courtnall) (mother)

Sonia Machanick (15 June 1925 – 12 November 1977) was a South African medical doctor, author and educational psychologist who pioneered new methods of teaching children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. She founded Japari School,[1] a special school in Johannesburg that provides education for children who struggle to thrive in the mainstream education system. She wrote a series of four graded reading books (Sounds Travel Too) and other reading tutors in English and Afrikaans (Tom Kan Lees)[2] that were widely used throughout the 1960s and 1970s[3] for teaching the phonics reading method, as well as articles concerning the treatment of children with learning difficulties.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Machanick was the second of three children born in Cape Town to immigrant parents; her mother from the United Kingdom and her father from Lithuania. Her mother, Edna Annie Love Courtnall, was one of the first female LLB graduates (1922)[5] at the University of London, and she later set up a National Fellowship Award through the South African Association of Women graduates. Awards every year are made to two South African women who are studying for a Dipoma or Degree in any dicipline.[6]

After completing school, Sonia Machanick enrolled on the medical course at Cape Town University. While a student, she initiated a vacation scheme for medical students to provide medical support at a mission hospital in the Transkei and she was a member of the team that inaugurated SHAWCO, a student-run NGO based at the University of Cape Town, that seeks to improve the quality of life for individuals in developing communities within the Cape Metropolitan area.

After graduating in 1947, she returned to the main university campus to study psychology and she worked at the University Child Guidance Clinic.

She married Hillel Abbe Shapiro who was a lecturer at the university medical school.


Soon after, they relocated to Johannesburg where she was initially employed at the Alexandra Township TB clinic and then as a registrar at Tara Hospital.

These experiences informed her decision to forge a career in the area of remedial education, with the specific aim of developing facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of children whose emotional and educational needs were not catered for in the mainstream educational system and she started working with children who struggled with a range of learning problems, including emotional behavioural issues, dyslexia and dyspraxia. 

Together with her husband and a group of other parents, Sonia Machanick was instrumental in founding South Africa's first mainstream multi-racial high school, Woodmead School.[7]

JAPARI School[edit]

As her practice grew, the need for larger premises led to her setting up Japari School in Johannesburg in 1966.

The school expanded further with new buildings and was able to take larger numbers of children as well as hosting conferences and work placements for special needs teachers.[3] Although this was during the Apartheid era, Japari operated from the start on a non-racial basis, and also supported black pupils with scholarships to mainstream schools.

After her early death aged 52 in 1977, there was a period of uncertainty, after which the school re-established itself on a new site. Dr Machanick's work in the field of educational research was recognised by the College of Medicine of South Africa, and the College established the Sonia Machanick Travelling Fellowship.[2] The Sonia Machanick Memorial Lecture was set up after her death.[8] From January 2002 the headteacher has been Steve Rees.[9]


JAPARI School is a member of:

Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA),[10]

South African Bursars of Independent Schools (SABISA)[11]

Corporate Member of the Southern African Association for Learning and Educational Difficulties (SAALED)[12]

South African Heads of Independent Schools (SAHISA)[13]


Sounds Travel Too. Book 1[14]

Sounds Travel Too. Book 2[15]

Sounds travel Too. Book 3[16]

Sounds Travel Too. Book 4[17]

The management of a child with a learning disability[18]

Learning disabilities in childhood - some guidelines and cautions[19]

Congresses and Meetings[20]

People and Events[21]

I'll Make Me a World[22]

Where Can I Go? Cape Town[23]

Waarheen kan ek gaan? Kaapstad[24]

Tom Lees. Boek 1[2]

Tom Kan Lees. Boek 2[25]

Johannes Arnoldus van Beukering; Maurice David Gelfand; Sonia Machanick[26]


  1. ^ "Japari celebrates 48 years | Rosebank Killarney Gazette". Rosebank Killarney Gazette. 2014-07-02. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  2. ^ a b Machanick, Sonia; Waddingham, Susan (1975). Tom lees. Boek 1 Boek 1. Johannesburg: Meditor. ISBN 978-0909077037.
  3. ^ a b Feldman, Max (8 April 1978). "Sonia Machanick" (PDF). South African Medical Journal. 53: 564.
  4. ^ Machanick, Sonia (1973-01-01). "The Management of a Child with a Learning Disability". South African Medical Journal. 47 (4). ISSN 0256-9574.
  5. ^ London University (1836). "University of London Students 1836-1938" (PDF). Senate House Library. Archived from the original on 1922. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  6. ^ Machanick, Edna. "National Fellowship Awards". South African Association of Women Graduates.
  7. ^ "BBC News | Education | The new struggle". Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  8. ^ Schwartz, Geraldine J. (1983). Advances in Research & Services for Children with Special Needs. UBC Press. ISBN 9780774801645.
  9. ^ "History – Japari School". Japari School. Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  10. ^ "Keyword Search | ISASA School Finder". Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  11. ^ "SABISA – ISASA | Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa". Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  12. ^ "SAALED in Johannesburg". Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  13. ^ "SAHISA – Southern African Heads of Independent Schools Association". Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  14. ^ Machanick, Sonia; Sassoon, Anne (1976). Sounds travel too. Book 1 Book 1. London: Heinemann Educational. ISBN 978-0435014605.
  15. ^ Machanick, Sonia; Sassoon, Anne (1976). Sounds travel too. Book 2 Book 2. London: Heinemann Educational. ISBN 978-0435014612.
  16. ^ Machanick, Sonia; Sassoon, Anne (1969). Sounds travel too. Book 3 Book 3. Johannesburg: Meditor.
  17. ^ Machanick, Sonia; Sassoon, Anne (1969). Sounds travel too. Book 4 Book 4. Johannesburg: Meditor.
  18. ^ Machanick, S (1974). "The management of a child with a learning disability". South African Medical Journal. 48 (17): 753–756. ISSN 0256-9574.
  19. ^ Machanick, S (1973). "Learning disabilities in childhood - some guidelines and cautions". South African Medical Journal. 47 (25): 1123–1125. ISSN 0256-9574.
  20. ^ "Congresses and Meetings". South African Medical Journal. 61 (5): 172. 1982. ISSN 0256-9574.
  21. ^ "People and Events". South African Medical Journal. 61 (5): 172. 1982. ISSN 0256-9574.
  22. ^ Machanick, Sonia (1977). I'll make me a world. Johannesburg, South Africa: Meditor. ISBN 978-0620019491.
  23. ^ Machanick, Sonia (1976). Where can I go?: Cape Town. Johannesburg: Meditor. ISBN 978-0620019477.
  24. ^ Machanick, Sonia (1976). Waarheen kan ek gaan? Kaapstad. Johannesburg: Pioneer Press.
  25. ^ Machanick, Sonia; Waddingham, Susan (1975). Tom kan lees. Boek 2 Boek 2. Johannesburg: Meditor.
  26. ^ Dubovsky, H; Wainer, B; Feldman, M.B (1978). "Johannes Arnoldus van Beukering; Maurice David Gelfand; Sonia Machanick: in". South African Medical Journal. 53 (14): 563–564. ISSN 0038-2469.