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100 Books for Every South African Child: Book Dash Jozi – The Biggest Yet

Book Dash

The biggest Book Dash to date took place at the Goethe Institute, Johannesburg at the end of June, almost a year to the day after it all started in earnest.

Back in June 2014, some 40 writers, illustrators, designers and editors gathered at the Cape Town Central Library, and the first three books were printed and distributed on Mandela Day last year.

Book Dash aspires to provide every child in South Africa with 100 books by the time they turn five. “That means giving 600 million free books to children who could never afford to buy them,” said Tarryn-Anne Anderson, one of the project’s founders. “We make books that anyone can freely download, translate and distribute because our work is our gift to the world.”

Recent research from the University of Stellenbosch shows that exposure to books improves the IQ of preschoolers. To this end, some of the books were specifically written for a book-sharing project taking place in rural Lesotho, where caregivers of young children will receive training in sensitive book-sharing skills. It is believed that this interaction stimulates the child cognitively and fosters the relationship between the child and their carer.

Since its inception, the Book Dash project has grown in leaps and bounds. One of the noticeably special aspects of this particular dash was the way seasoned professionals and newcomers knuckled down to work, side by side, pooling their resources and helping each other out.

Wordsmith Roxana Bouwer is the content strategist and worker of words at a digital design, development and marketing agency. She came to the task of writing for children for the first time and spoke about the challenges of preparing her narrative to hit the right age group.

Her story explored how children experience differences in others, including disability, body type, language or race. She had prepared her narrative as a rhyming verse, one of the more difficult approaches to children’s storytelling. She undertook the challenge of paring it down with a good heart and spoke about the process of getting the scansion and rhythm working.

“I found having the input of editors and fellow writers extremely beneficial to my story,” she said. “I enjoyed the interactions and spending the day surrounded by creativity was exhilarating and inspiring. I got out of it a whole lot more than I ever expected.”

Louis Greenberg, whose latest co-authored novel with Sarah Lotz, Underground, is out now, shared his experience of writing children’s literature for the first time via his Books LIVE blog.

5:05 p.m.
The wine has arrived, so while I am still compos mentis, I will tell you a bit of background about Rafiki’s Style. It started when my sons (aka Thing 1 and 2) and DW (Dear Wife) and I were watching football on TV. We recently subscribed to satellite TV and have become deeply drawn into Premier League football. Our family favourite team is Arsenal – initiated by Thing 2, the five-year-old, who wanted to change his surname to Arsenal. We were talking about footballers’ hairstyles. Thing 2 loves Calum Chambers, and his hairstyle, and DW likes Thomas Rosicky‘s hair best. But she couldn’t remember his name and referred to him as “Rafiki”. Next thing, Rafiki had made his way into her bedtime stories to the Things. DW is far more creative when it comes to storytime than I am; I love reading a well-written children’s book — Julia Donaldson is the most fun to read aloud — but DW comes up with original stories. So when we received the Book Dash brief, it was no surprise that I asked DW to brainstorm ideas with me. She helped me come up with the whole first draft.

While on the matter of Europe(an sport), it’s cool to be at the Goethe Institute in Parkwood. It’s architecturally a welcoming, open building and with airy, open facilities which they’re offering to Book Dash for nada. By the by, I’ve been teaching myself some basic German through the awesome language site Duolingo, so I felt qualified to come this morning. But it’s such an open-looking place, it seems you’d be welcome to come in even if you couldn’t speak German. They offer language course I may use to brush up. Why was I learning German, you may ask? I’m hoping to use Berlin as a setting for a future novel, but that’s still up to the publishing deities.

Lisa Treffry-Goatley, Mosa Mahlaba, Selina Morulane and Sibusiso Mkhwanazi
Mosa Mahlaba, a languages and literature student at Unisa who recently completed an internship with Between 10 and 5 also volunteered to participate. “Selina Morulane and I decided that together we would create a children’s book,” she said.

“While researching how to go about that we happily stumbled across Book Dash. We were excited to find out that this year Book Dash was coming to Jozi and we (mostly me though) stalked Tarryn-Anne Anderson until we were on the list of participants!”

Mahlaba says she is well aware of the gap that exists between children who are introduced to reading at an early age and those who aren’t. “For those who aren’t reading, closing the gap may be the hardest thing to do. That is why I am in full support of Book Dash. As it grows it will ensure that no child is left behind and if I can be a part of that, even in the smallest way then I would be blessed beyond measure.”

Mosa MahlabaShe says her biggest challenge as a first-time author for children was: “To say what I needed to say in a straightforward and clear way.”

Arthur Attwell, who co-founded Book Dash with Tarryn-Anne Anderson and Michelle Matthews, took a turn as a book designer this time around. Although he has supervised previous Book Dashes, he said he realised in a new way how integral the designer’s role is, and hadn’t quite anticipated the pressure he would feel as a member of a creative team. “The book designer really holds the book together on the day, sewing it up, stitching up the disparate parts. It’s good to know first hand what the creative process feels like,” he said.

Attwell also spoke about the books that were produced and printed from previous Book Dash events and giveaways. “At this stage, there are 17 titles fully published, and several of these have been translated into various languages, including isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Sepedi, Setswana, Swahili, Yoruba and French. We call a book fully published when we post the print-ready files on our website,” he said.

Five books from previous Book Dashes, and the 12 books from Book Dash Jozi, are still being finalised. During Women’s Month 2014 10 new titles celebrating remarkable African women came to life.

Karen Hurt and Lwando XasoSiya Masuku and Leona Ingram

Attwell said, “After Book Dash their teams and other volunteers finish off any outstanding artwork, and then we put the books through a few quality-control steps before publication. These include: professional scanning of physical artwork, image touch-ups, translation (where partner organisations give us vetted, professional translations), proofreading, typography refinement, and output to alternative formats like ebooks and web versions. This process is important for making sure our published books are as good as anything you’ll find in a bookstore.”

So far 10 000 books have been printed for giveaways and distributed to children, ECD centres and schools through 12 partner organisations, such as The Shine Centre and Masikhule. The printing was funded (roughly in order of size of sponsorship) by Decorland, Thundafund crowdfunding supporters, The Shine Centre, Electric Book Works, and Rotary Newlands, with additional support from Biblionef. Liquid refreshment at Wine o’Clock from Leopard’s Leap Wine smoothed the process along when spirits flagged.

“We’re chuffed,’ said Attwell, “while at the same time we consider those 10 000 a small but promising start, given that our aim is to drive and enable collective action to give away millions of new, high-quality, locally produced books. We also know that our books are distributed in other ways by other organisations, like Nal’ibali who use them in newspaper supplements in their reading programmes, and the African Storybook Project and FunDza, who produce web and ebook versions.

Sugar and snakes and sour jelly lipsTools of the trade

The last two Book Dash events – Cape Town in August and the Joburg Dash – were sponsored by the African Storybook Project. In Joburg, The Goethe Institute sponsored the venue and logistical support, and Leopard’s Leap helped at wine o’clock. About 50 volunteers made the day happen. Book Dash’s official prospectus outlines in detail the bold vision inherent in this project that aims to find the cheapest way to give great books to little children.
Searching for the Spirit of Spring

This event in Johannesburg was sponsored by the African Storybook Project and Prevention Research for Community, Family and Child Health, which is based in the Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University.

The 12 teams, each comprising an illustrator, writer and book designer, included Selina Morulane, Mosa Mahlaba, Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, Candice Dingwall, Steven McKimmie, Telri Stoop, Ann Roberts, Kate Sidley, Robyn Penn, Arthur Attwell, Sonia Dearling, Brendon O’Neill, Oscar Masinyana, Siya Masuku, Leona Ingram, Claire Ingram, Lwando Xaso, Jess Jardim-Wedepohl, Fred Strydom, Stephen Wallace, Margot Bertelsmann, Renate van Rensburg, Ronell Botes-Kerr, Emma Hearne, Roxana Bouwer, Sarah Bouwer, Audrey Anderson, Louis Greenberg, Wesley Thompson, Liesl Jobson, Marike Beyleveld, Natalie Propa, Bianca de Jong, Jade Mathieson and Louwrisa Blaauw.

Marguerite Marlow from Partnership for Alcohol and AIDS Intervention Research (PAAIR) was present in an advisory capacity. She assisted writers on the needs of the book-sharing project for which some of the books are destined in rural Lesotho.

The team of roving editors included Melissa Davidson, Sarah McGregor, Bonnie Kneen, Elise Varga, Ester Levinrad, Karen Hurt and Lisa Treffry-Goatley. Andy Duncan headed up a terrific technical team that included Rouan Wilsenach, Claire Wilsenach, Thandi O’Hagan and Tarryn-Anne Anderson; with Michelle Matthews serving as the remote organiser.

Home AwayFeast, Famine and PotluckEmbracing DigitalThe Agony ChefRide the TortoiseThe Raft

The MallThe WardThe New GirlUndergroundKilling Time

There are many ways you can follow, participate in or support Book Dash. Get involved any way you can to make a difference to the future of literacy and literature in South Africa. Bring you skills to a future Book Dash or sponsor one. Donations are always welcome.

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) and Book Dash storyteller Thandi O’Hagan (@BookDash) tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #bookdash:


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Facebook album:

Towards 600 Million Free Books for Children

Posted by Books LIVE on Monday, 13 July 2015


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