Many stories for children have been adapted over time from stories that were originally created for adults. In fact, translators have often been responsible for crafting and reshaping stories across time and space to suit their different audiences.
Think of Aesop’s fables. Aesop was a slave and storyteller in Ancient Greece in the 5th Century BCE. For centuries his stories moved across continents and were told and heard in many languages. They first appeared in print in 1484 – as stories for children, and in English. Even today, new versions of these stories continue to be created.
Many famous fairy tales have different versions around the world. For example, across Africa and Europe, in Russia, Appalachia, India and Japan, versions of the Grimm’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, are told and read. So, the history of children’s literature is a history of translation. Through translation, stories from Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, Italian and Asian languages have found their way into English. In South Africa, Pinocchio, originally written in Italian, has become Pinokiyo ngesiXhosa and is now appreciated by children who do not necessarily know that the story came from Italy.
Stories that originated in Africa have been retold in many languages too. All over the world people read the popular trickster tales featuring Hare, Tortoise or Spider. These stories use animals with human qualities to entertain and teach, and to share wisdom and understanding about human nature and human behaviour.
At the moment there are not enough children’s storybooks in African languages, either as original writing or as translations. But the numbers will grow as people get to know, choose, read and talk about storybooks with their children, and request storybooks in their languages of choice.
As citizens of the world, we are curious about each other and learn about each other as we tell and retell our stories.
Reading aloud to your children:
- shows them that you value books and reading;
- gives you things to talk about together;
- builds a bond with them;
- allows them to experience reading as a satisfying activity;
- motivates them to learn to read for themselves and then to keep reading;
- shows them how we read and how books work;
- lets them enjoy stories that are beyond their current reading ability; and
- develops their vocabulary and language abilities.
Try reading this story to your children
Expand your children’s world! Read them the story of Neo’s imaginary adventure in Neo and the big, wide world by Vianne Venter, then do the Get creative! activity at the end of the story with them.
Get your Nal’ibali supplement
• Sunday Times Express (Western Cape) – English and isiXhosa – Sunday, April 29
• Sunday World (North West Province) – English and Setswana – Sunday 29 April
• Sunday World (KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng) – English and isiZulu – Sunday 29 April
• Sunday World (Free State) – English and Sesotho – Sunday 29 April
• Sunday World (Limpopo) – English and Sepedi– Sunday 29 April
• English and Xitsonga supplements will be available at selected SA Post Offices and reading clubs in Limpopo
• The Herald (Thursday 3 May) and Daily Dispatch (Tuesday 1 May) (Eastern Cape) – English and isiXhosa.
Play it forward: WIN and donate books
Two lucky readers can win 10 books each week and donate them to a school, reading club or library of their choice.
The third runner-up will win a Nal’ibali reading-at-home starter pack.
Books are donated by Tiso Blackstar Group and Jacana Media.
To enter, contact firstname.lastname@example.org before 5pm on Thursday, May 10 and give one reason why we need to read to children in their mother tongue. Include your name, cellphone number and physical address.
Winners will be announced on Friday, May 11. Terms and conditions apply.