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Little Books for Little Hands: A Stories Across Africa Project

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Abstract

Few young African children have much opportunity to discover the joy of becoming absorbed in a book, either before or during school. In fact most children in Africa are expected to develop their languages and literacies from early childhood onward in environments totally inconducive to learning: among other things, the inspiration and power of stories in picture books in the eleven official South African languages (including English), is absent. The creation and production of a pan African set of Little Hands books by the Stories Across Africa (StAAf)1 project is an attempt to help change this situation. The books cover a range of themes intended to attract the attention of young children up to about six years of age. Some focus on early language development and concepts, such as the senses, animal sounds, comparisons, color, and number, while others are complete little stories. All are meant to stimulate and habituate reading for enjoyment in the mother tongue as well as other languages relevant to children in Africa. At the heart of the initiative is collaboration between individuals and groups working to enable a “culture of reading” in all of the five regions of Africa. To this end, a steering committee made up of individuals from Egypt, Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and South Africa have the task of stimulating regional involvement as well as creating contacts in the Diaspora.2 Creativity and skill in layout and design for multilingual texts is essential in a project of this nature. With Little Hands, a textless art template is first created for each book; the English language version then gets designed and set. After the English language version is set, each language is overlaid onto the art template. There is a constant layout and typesetting challenge for the graphic designer because of the varying lengths of translations in different language versions.3 It is difficult for a person who doesn’t know many or all of the languages she is working with (as is the likely present day scenario for most graphic designers) to deal with many different languages simultaneously—and mistakes easily happen. For this reason, sufficient time needs to be given for several sets of page proofs to be checked by language specialists in each language before going to print. A practical challenge relating to making a set of sixteen very small books is how to present and package them. The first Little Hands books were produced by the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) in 2002. We were told then that bookshops and libraries were reluctant to house them because they were so small. “The books will walk!” said the librarians. Much thought thus went into discovering an economical and environmentally appropriate way to package the books for easy distribution, and positive reception in communities, libraries, or bookshops. The solution was a well-designed and attractive box to contain the books, display the language and give a brief description of the project. We decided to put the front covers of all the stories on the box, with the list of titles to encourage young readers to match the cover and title with the book inside. The decision was taken to remove all text from the covers of each book for the box, so that the dropping in of text in any language would be made as simple as possible. To further the aim of supporting the capacity of African publishers, co-publications with African publishers are being brokered by StAAf and by the South African publisher, New Africa Books. The intention is that participating publishers collaborate on a large print run, made up of several languages, thus benefiting from the low unit cost per set of books. They are then able to sell their books for profit. New Africa Books is presently discussing co-publications with several African publishers, including Bakame Publishing House (Rwanda), Shama Books (Ethiopia), and La Sahelienne (Mali). Future print runs of the books will include a royalty agreement between StAAf, who holds copyright of the books and the publisher(s). Any StAAf royalties will be dedicated toward ongoing children’s literature development, to fund the production of further...
Bloch
Carole Bloch
Little Books For Little Hands: Stories Across Africa
Project
Introduction
Stories Across Africa (StAAf) was initiated in 2004
as a pan African project which aims to further and
support literacy development in multilingual settings
through the creation and use of a common written
children’s literature. It is a core project of the
African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), the official
language agency of the African Union (AU) and is
coordinated centrally by the Early Literacy Unit of the
Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South
Africa (PRAESA) at the University of Cape Town in South
Africa. StAAf has initiated and hopes to realise the
concept of a pan African children’s literature as part of
the drive to enable and support ‘reading culture’
development across the continent. A steering committee
made up of individuals from Egypt, Ghana, Ethiopia,
Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa have the task of
stimulating regional involvement in East, South, West,
Central and North Africa, as well as creating contacts in
the Diaspora1.
1 These are Michael Ambatchew (Ethiopia), Joshua Madumulla (Tanzania),
Jakalia Abdulai (Ghana), Suzana Mukobwajana (Rwanda), Nadia El Kholy
(Egypt).
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StAAf’s main intentions are to:
Develop and support the use of African languages for
children in print;
Support mother tongue based bilingual education in
Africa;
Stimulate and support the African publishing
industry and African literary and visual artists to
create and foster the use of children’s literature;
Begin to create a common store of written
children’s literature for African children in their
own languages by developing at least three
anthologies of stories for early childhood, middle
childhood and teens;
Support possibilities for reading for enjoyment as
part of literacy learning and development.
Acknowledging the enormous challenges we face to get
children and adults reading on the continent (Triebel
2001, Bloch 2006), our reasoning is that the power of
narrative lies at the heart of being human – we put our
thoughts and feelings into story form and live our lives
through stories (Paley 1990). Literate communities are
ones in which reading and writing are used in chorus with
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oral social and cultural practices as part of regular
daily life. We learn oral language and written language
in similar ways: by being part of a community of language
users (Goodman 2003). It is easiest to learn to read in
a familiar language, one which we feel, think and
understand in. Moreover, young human beings are well
equipped for learning, and this includes their early
language and literacy learning (Holdaway 1979). But for
their learning to be effective, they need emotional
nurturing (Greenspan and Shanker 2004), interactive role
models and informally structured print rich environments
which encourage both oral and written language use.
However, most children in Africa are expected to develop
their languages and literacies from early childhood
onwards in totally uncondusive learning environments.
Among other things, the inspiration and power of stories
in picture books and storybooks, both in the ex-colonial
and African languages is absent. Below I outline some of
the factors that have given rise to this situation. I
then describe the process that StAAf has undertaken to
create and begin to distribute a pan African set of
Little Hands books.
The Necessary Intertwining Of Language, Literature And
Pedagogy
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Professionals in the two domains of literature and
education are centrally concerned with the way that
children are exposed to literacy in Africa: one involves
a socio-cultural focus on children’s literature (both
oral and written) and the other involves pedagogical
understandings about how children learn and the related
teaching methods for reading and writing. Though both
the literature and education domains ultimately have the
common goal of enabling and nurturing literate children,
until very recently, there has been little or no
conceptual or practical synergy between them. While it
is not within the scope of this article to discuss in
detail the various historical and political factors that
have contributed to this (see Bloch 2006), in order to
understand the significance of initiatives such as the
Stories Across Africa Project, I now sketch some of the
factors which I consider critical. They involve language
medium, theoretical understandings about learning and
teaching methods - all inter-relating and essential
foundational considerations for educational success.
Generations of African children have been
educationally compromised by colonial and post-colonial
school language policies which have forced the use of
essentially unknown languages in the classroom at the
expense of their own mother tongues (Alexander 2002,
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Bamgbose 2000). This has contributed to the damaging
neglect and underdevelopment of African languages for
high status purposes, particularly as languages for
reading and writing2. Moreover, instead of using the great
oral storytelling tradition as a bridge to written
language learning, stories have been largely swept into
forgotten corners of school classrooms across the
continent under the ‘modernising’ wave of Universal
Primary Education. Intending to bring equal life chances
for all African children, behaviourist skills-based
teaching methods for initial literacy teaching inherited
from Europe were adopted. Such methods, adapted to the
variety of often difficult settings in urban and rural
Africa, promoted the view that learning to read and write
requires first the learning and practising of sets of
discrete and decontextualised skills before any authentic
reading or writing could occur. Children apprenticed into
the regular interests for and uses of reading and writing
in literate homes might slow down for a while under such
a challenge, but informally, at home, they would usually
be exposed to the kinds of engagements with print that
most of us need to ultimately make sense of and master
reading and writing. They develop essential ‘concepts of
2 A major exception is the continuity of the tradition of reading in
African languages for Christianity, established by missionaries in
various parts of the continent. Writing has been harnessed and used
for powerful religious purposes to such an extent that it is as if
“literacy comes directly from God and not via the compromised agency
of missionaries” (Hofmeyer 2005:3).
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print’ (Clay 1991) in profoundly meaningful ways. But
children from orally oriented homes are simply not able
to do this, either at home, or at school. We continue to
face this situation today. Misguided teacher training and
curriculum implementation programmes for early literacy
have been generally transmitted to teachers in languages
that they themselves do not know well enough to use
creatively and effectively for academic purposes. They
then expose children to mind -numbing, rote learning of
disconnected skills, perhaps first in a familiar
language, but always moving towards the inevitable
‘switch’ to English, French or Portuguese.
Expected to learn to read and write at more or less
the same time as their peers in the North, many African
children attempt to do so without a real conception of
why people find it useful or enjoyable to read and write
or why they should bother to learn3. Storybooks (in any
language) have long been labelled and viewed of as
‘supplementary materials’4 by the educational
establishment, deemed irrelevant for the literacy
learning process. Many players have contributed to this
3Most recent evidence of this is the news released in November 2007
that South Africa’s Grade 4s and Grade 5s came last in a study of 40
countries that took part in the Progress in International Reading
Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006.
4 Supplementary materials are defined by UNESCO (Montagnes 2001:4) as
“including work books, reading programmes or schemes, children’s
fiction (easy readers, stories, plays and anthologies), children’s
non-fiction, audio tapes, video tapes, multimedia learning
packages…”, i.e. anything that is not a text book.
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situation: publishers as well as educational officials at
different levels of the system have exacerbated things by
over emphasising the development and promotion of the use
of textbooks containing teaching methods that at best
offer restricted language texts.
The small and struggling children’s literature movement in
several countries since independence has been contributed to by
some of Africa’s greatest writers like Ngugi wa Thiong ‘o and
Chinua Achebe (Montagne 2001). But the concentration has always
been on developing storybooks for children at an age when they
could already read and sustainability is a major problem. With the
demise of Apartheid in South Africa, the last decade has brought a
recognition that there are serious inadequacies with the way that
most young children are being taught literacy and an exchange of
international theoretical and practical insights on early language
and literacy has led to opportunities for change in the South
African school curriculum (South African Department of Education,
2004). Specifically, conceptions of literacy as a social practice
(Street 1984), emergent literacy (Hall 1987) and whole language
(Goodman 1986) in early childhood are finding their way into
curriculum documents (Western Cape Education Department 2006). The
Western Cape Education Department is currently implementing a pilot
phase of mother tongue based bilingual education in sixteen
schools, with debates taking place about issues such as the
importance of young children learning in their mother tongue or a
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familiar language, the benefits of reading for enjoyment, and the
need for appropriate storybooks in relevant languages. This is
spreading to and reinforcing complementary initiatives in other
parts of South Africa and in other African countries.
Starting Small
Between 2002 and 2005, PRAESA carried out a ‘Culture
of Reading’ project, which included developing some forty
titles in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans, as part of a
drive to meet the literacy and literary needs of
children, teachers and parents in the multilingual school
and community settings of the Western Cape. The project
helped us both to highlight the many challenges we face
in book production for multilingual contexts, and to
contribute to and explore ways of overcoming these (Bloch
2005). A publications that was initiated then, called
Little Hands, was modeled on the 10 cm x10 cm Pixi Books,
popular with young children and those who read with them
in Europe for over fifty years. These and other
publications were distributed and used in communities ,
preschools and classrooms schools in the Western Cape
between 2003-2007 in three languages (Edwards 2008).
Arising from these experiences, and connecting into
a pan African initiative by language activists and
scholars in Africa on the intellectualization of African
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languages (Alexander 2003), StAAf was initiated to extend
and deepen the culture of reading work on the continent.
When the African Union declared 2006-2007 the Year of
African Languages, StAAf decided to commemorate this by
making a pan African set of sixteen Little Hands Books.
Given time constraints, the steering committee selected
eight books from the original PRAESA published Little
Hands books, and a call was sent out via The African
Publishing Network (APNET) and other national and local
channels for eight new text-light little stories.
Writers were invited to submit texts in any African
language accompanied by a translation in English or
French. Dealing with the multilingualism inherent in work
of this nature is not easy. Though the steering
committee members between them speak a range of languages
and other colleagues can be called upon to assist with
other languages, it is difficult to escape the need for a
common language text as a base from which to produce
different language versions. When there was a translation
into English or French, it was sometimes a poor
translation and did not always give a good sense of the
original text. At the same time, many writers tended to
submit a story either in English or French and this was
often obviously additional language writing for them.
The fact is that most African adults have not experienced
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learning to write creatively in an African language and
thus do not feel comfortable to do so when offered the
opportunity.
The response to the call was fair, but most of the
texts submitted suggested little experience in writing
creatively for the age range5. In fact several of the
submissions were more appropriate as stories for older
children. This was not a surprise because for all the
reasons I have already raised, the notion of ‘text light’
picture books for very young children has only just been
born in Africa6. Writing for a specific age group requires
empathy and insight apart from other things such as a
familiarity with the world body of relevant children’s
literature.
Creating Appropriate Little Books For Little Hands
StAAf’s work is informed by the view that it is
critical to help children from diverse societies and
5 This is the reason why several of the stories ultimately selected
were written by StAAf steering committee members, as these are among
the relatively few people who have been most involved in the domain
of children’s story writing on the continent.
6
It reflects my own experience in 2000 -2002 with the First Words in
Print project in Cape Town, which was, to my knowledge the first
attempt to produce books for preschool age children in South Africa.
Most of the stories submitted tended to be too advanced for the age
range, or unimaginative and didactic, and lacking in the kind of rich
rhythmical flow of language and creative interaction between text and
illustrations that attracts young children. As writers develop
experience in writing for very young children, the appropriateness of
the books improves.
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communities grow up with the understanding that there is
a common African heritage for them to share, respect and
cherish at the same time as all of our unique attributes
and elements are valued7. A set of criteria was drawn up
by the steering committee guided by the regional working
groups, to inform and guide story selection. The criteria
that were agreed upon, for the Little Hands books as well
as the future anthologies, were that as a whole, the
selection of stories should arise from and give an
African point of view, have definite literary merit,
reflect diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity etc,
challenge discrimination, include humour and avoid being
didactic and preachy and include not only ‘problem
literature’ but fantasy and experimental, non-linear
texts too. In addition, we considered issues relating to
style, theme, visual appeal and clarity.
Several issues relating to cultural and social
differences arose as we developed the set of pan African
books. I give a few examples below to provide a sense of
these.
Translation and terminology development: Listen,
written in South Africa is about some animals and their
sounds.
7 This is not to deny the relevance of culturally or even
linguistically specific literature.
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Front cover in Kiswahili
and illustration examples
from Listen, (first published 2002) in English and
Kiswahili by Carole Bloch, illustrated by Jean Fullalove.
We pondered over what to do about the fact that not
all animal sounds have equivalents in the various
languages.
In English, crickets ‘chirp’, mice ‘squeak’ goats
‘bleat’, lions ‘roar’.
In Kiswahili, creatures seemed to ‘cry’ or 'sing' or
'call‘.
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In Amharic, lions ‘roar’ but crickets didn’t
‘chirp.’8
Because stories have not yet been written widely for
very young children, agreed upon ways of writing the
actual sounds – as in Goat says “Bleh” or Cow says “Moo”
have not necessarily been reached in some languages. It
was agreed that terms can be borrowed from closely
related languages where appropriate, creative solutions
are both desirable and possible and where relevant the
translators should invent appropriate terms and sounds.
Thus, in Kiswahili, the cricket made the same sound as in
English, but not so with the mouse, while in Kinyarwanda,
both sounds were portrayed differently from the English.
Urban and rural life experience and cultural mismatches:
Let’s Go! is written in South Africa. In it a boy waves
goodbye to a balloon and a girl smells dirty socks.
8 Joshua Madumulla in Tanzania clarified this for Kiswahili and Michael Ambatchew for Amharic.
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Front cover in isiXhosa and illustration example from
Let’s Go! (first published 2002) by Carole Bloch,
illustrated by Thembinkosi Kohli
Through discussion, agreement was reached that these
‘mismatches’ are not likely to be perceived of as
harmful or offensive and could be seen as opening a
window for a young child into new knowledge and other
ways of being.
Zebra and Crocodile written in Tanzania is a story about
friendship betrayed.
Front cover of Zebra and Crocodile by
Joshua .S. Madumulla, illustrated by Arnold Birungi
A controversy arose over the cover illustration
because of an unintended omission to show and discuss the
use of flowers as a symbol of friendship with all of the
people who should have been consulted. This was only
noticed once the book was being designed. One strongly
held view was that it is not a cultural practice for
Africans to give each other flowers, while another
equally strong view was that modern Africans do.
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Acceptance that this mismatch would not harm or offend
combined with time constraints to get the set of books
finished kept the cover unchanged.
Two is a little story written in South Africa about a
little boy who is accompanied by a dog through his day.
Cover from Two (first published 2002) in Kiswahili, and
illustration example by Carole Bloch, illustrated by
Richard MacIntosh.
Original and transformed illustrations.
In one illustration of the original 2002 book, the
dog licks the baby’s head. In another controversial
illustration, though the dog is on the armchair next to
the child, it was accepted as ‘just passable’. However we
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decided that a dog licking a baby’s head could easily be
viewed as culturally unsound and the dog was shifted to a
more suitable location.
Behavioural norms: Titilope’s Silly Game is a story
written in Nigeria. It tells about young Titilope’s
foolish desire to play with wasps. Titilope doesn’t
listen to the advice of her elders, and gets stung.
Front cover in Kinyarwanda (draft) from Titilope’s Silly
Game by Sunday Okoh, illustrated by Felix Seminega.
The original manuscript ended with all the children
laughing at Titilope for being stupid: “There were many
bumps on Akpaku’s face (the character was originally a
boy called Akpaku). At school the next day, all the
children were laughing at Akpaku’s funny face”. Would the
message be that we condone humiliation as a way to
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improve behaviour? The editorial decision of the
steering group was to have a gentler ending with Titilope
herself recognising her own mistake, hence, “ Poor
Titilope’s face was covered with bumps. ‘I’ll never play
with wasps again, said Titilope’.”
Cultural variation and commonality: Fruit Salad, written
in Rwanda, simply names several fruits that are liked by
various children.
Cover of
Fruit Salad
in Portuguese
and last page
by Suzana
Mukobwajana and Fortunee
Kubwimana, illustrated by Felix Seminega
When discussing illustration briefs, although the
characters were all conceived of as Rwandese, a decision
was made to use the book to depict a range of children,
whose names linked them to different parts of Africa from
Egypt to South Africa. Thus Aïsha loves dates (Arabic),
Phakamani likes paw paw (Zulu/Xhosa), Muvara likes
oranges (Rwandese), Juma likes mangoes (Swahili),Kwesi
likes bananas (Akan) and so on. The illustrators
challenge was thus to depict each child in a scene that
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might evoke a feeling of their region without creating
stereotypes.
A contrasting approach was taken with two other
stories. With Six little beetles, written in Egypt, the
visuals were intended to give a sense of North Africa,
while Orange, written in Ethiopia has a setting that is
meant to be reminiscent of a large African city like
Addis Ababa.
Cover of Six little beetles in Portuguese, written by
Nadia El Kholy , illustrated by Samantha van Riet and
Orange in Amharic, written by Michael Daniel Ambatchew,
illustrated by Lizza Littlewort.
In dealing with names in the different language
versions of the books, it was decided that as a rule, we
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should keep the name of the original, existing
characters. E.g. ‘Ali’ and ‘Titilope’ would remain such
– as it is in life, people usually only change their
names if they are oppressed in some way. At the same
time, there are differing views on this and once the
stories went for translation, they sometimes took on a
life of their own, with one or another translator
expressing adamantly that a name needed a spelling
adaptation. For example the original name ‘Beruk’ became
‘Beruki’ and ‘Mimi’ became ‘Mimii’ in Kiswahili. In
another case it was decided that the name ‘Raeez’ would
be impossible to pronounce in Portuguese and so he became
‘Rafique’.
Cover of Raeez writes
in Cinyanja and
Portuguese by Carole
Bloch
Nice and Clean written in Ethiopia is a little story
about keeping clean.
Amharic cover
and
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illustration example of Nice and Clean (2007) written by
Tesfaye.G.Mariam, illustrated by Alzette Prins
The challenge of where to situate a story was
resolved in this case by a decision to use animals common
to many African settings instead of human beings thus
allowing children anywhere to identify with the actions.
Publishing And Distribution Challenges
Skill in layout and design for multilingual texts is
essential in a project of this nature. With the Little
Hands, a textless art template is first created for each
book; the English language version then gets designed and
set. After that each language is overlaid onto the art
template. There is a constant layout challenge for the
designer because of the varying lengths of translations
in different language versions. It is difficult for a
person who doesn’t know many or allof the languages she
is working with (as is the likely present day scenario
for most graphic designers) to deal with many different
languages simultaneously - and mistakes easily happen.
For this reason, sufficient time needs to be given for
several sets of page proofs to be checked by language
specialists in each language before going to print.
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A practical challenges relating to making a set of
sixteen very small books is how to present and package
them. With the first Little Hands books produced by
PRAESA, bookshops and libraries told us they were too
small to be housed by them. Much thought thus went into
discovering an economical and environmentally appropriate
way to package the books for easy distribution, and
positive reception in communities, libraries or
bookshops. The solution was a well-designed and
attractive box, to contain the books, display the
language and give a brief description of the project. We
decided to put the front covers of all the stories on the
box, with the list of titles to encourage young readers
to match the cover and title with the book inside.
Front cover of the
Little Hands box in English
To further the aim of
supporting the capacity of African publishers, co-
publications with African publishers are being brokered
by StAAf and by the South African publisher, New Africa
Books. The intention is that participating publishers
collaborate on a large print run, made up of several
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languages thus benefiting from the low unit cost per set
of books. They are then able to sell their books for
profit. New Africa Books is presently discussing co-
publications with several African publishers, including
Bakame Publishing House (Rwanda), Sub Saharan Publishers
(Ghana). Shama Books (Ethiopia), Elias Modern
(Egypt),Sasa Sema (Kenya). Future print runs of the books
will include a royalty agreement between StAAf, who holds
copyright of the books and the publisher/s. Any StAAf
royalties will be dedicated towards ongoing children’s
literature development, to fund the production of further
translations of existing titles or to create, produce and
distribute new storybooks9.
Although co-publications are a vital aspect of
developing publishing capacity and output on the
continent, it is not enough to rely on such a financially
‘unsupported’ option due to the enormous challenges
facing publishing in Africa - ranging from ones related
to all the issues I have already discussed in this
article which all add up to a ‘no market’ situation, to
considerations such as the fact that South African
publishers are in a position to sell books at a higher
unit cost than many other African publishers can. Very
9 The Little Hands Trust was established in 2007. It is dedicated to
developing and supporting the making and promotion of children’s
literature in Africa.
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little will improve if the expectation is that publishers
should carry all financial risk in an extremely negative
environment for book buying. What will help is to get
unit costs as low as possible, by ensuring very large
print runs. We are thus convinced that a medium term
necessity is to have a supportive client-based publishing
strategy to achieve this end.
PRAESA’s previous Culture of Reading project
provides an example of such a strategy which involved
donor support to enable client-based publishing. Funds
were made available to guarantee the buying and
distribution of agreed upon print runs in particular
languages from collaborating publishers, thereby reducing
the risk for the publishers and motivating them to print
more books, and also to publish in additional languages
(Bloch 2005, Edwards 2008). The client chooses whether to
give away books or to sell them at an affordable price,
creating a mini ‘book-flood’ effect (Elley 1991) and
helping to stimulate an expectation and demand for more
story books from teachers, librarians, caregivers and
children. This is a model which will help get Africa
reading and writing and one which StAAf is pursuing.
Thus far, the Little Hands books have been
translated into twenty four languages. Books have been
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sponsored by organisations such as the African Union to
celebrate the Year of African Languages (Arabic, Amharic,
Kiswahili, English, French and Portuguese), Progresso in
Mozambique has translated and ordered books for their
bilingual education work ( Yao, Cinyanja, Emakhuw,
Makonde Kimwane and Portuguese), private donors have
sponsored books to go to Burundi and Rwanda via Concern
in Kinyarwanda, French and English) and support has been
given by private donors and Rotary International for
books in isiZulu for the Family Literacy Project. All of
these initiatives are heartening, but small in scale.
Conclusion
The work of StAAf is just beginning10. What we have
achieved thus far, is to demonstrate to ourselves and to
others that with appropriate financial support, together
we have the capacity to meet the conceptual and concrete
challenges involved in producing appropriate pan African
reading materials for young children. We can succeed
despite the major socio-cultural and experiential
differences both at the level of the adults participating
to create the books and at the level of the children and
caregivers who are the recipients of them. It is
inspiring to note the impressive sense of motivation,
10 StAAf is now preparing three anthologies of stories for children in
early childhood, middle childhood and for teenagers which we
anticipate will be published in 2009.
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hope and goodwill expressed at the various workshops and
meetings we have held. We have made progress in deepening
the interest for and skills and capacity of a network of
professionals working in children’s literacy and book
development for multilingual contexts. We have a growing
group of people who show a willingness to cross the
boundaries that exist between educational and cultural
bodies and organisations in the interests of developing
literacy-related habits on the continent. I conclude by
reiterating what I consider to be a most hopeful sign:
the understanding is deepening that teaching skills is
only part of learning to read and write - a ‘culture of
reading and writing’ where people read for enjoyment and
come to have personally meaningful reasons to read and
write and the development of literate environments that
support literate habits are of equal importance. This
perspective brings the story telling heritage of Africa
back into prominence, and offers us the chance to put
children’s literature at the heart of education, where it
can be used to build bridges from oral to written
language and to normalise and enrich pedagogical
endeavour and the lives of children and adults alike.
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Works Cited
Alexander, N. 2002. Linguistic Rights, Language Planning
and Democracy in Post-Apartheid South Africa in
Baker, S.J. (Ed). Language Policy: Lessons from
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... Within the Global North, access to materials is highlighted as central in promoting a culture of reading (Clements 2017;Kennedy et al. 2012; National Library of New Zealand n.d.). This literature places little or no emphasis on the necessity of texts being in readers' home languages or on the importance of readers relating to content, factors critical to the development of positive reading practices (Bloch 2008). This absence is taken up in the African context with a particular emphasis on the absence of texts in indigenous South African languages (Kaschula 2014;Mda 2017;Reeves et al. 2008;Sisulu 2004;Vally 2015). ...
... South African texts frequently position reading for pleasure as critical for a culture of reading (Bloch 2008; Department of Basic Education 2019b; Mda 2017). Pleasure is a cultural construct. ...
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