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Archive for the ‘Childrens Literature’ Category

Liberty Two Degrees partners with Read to Rise to inspire reading among the youth

“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”

Liberty Two Degrees (“L2D”) has partnered with international award-winning South African poet and social philosopher Athol Williams and Read to Rise, a non-profit organisation that promotes youth literacy in under-resourced communities, to boost literacy and creativity this National Literacy Month.

In its commitment to making a positive contribution to the communities it operates in, L2D together with Read to Rise, will roll the initiative out across its portfolio. The initial phase will commence at L2D’s superregional assets, Sandton City and Eastgate Shopping Centre, with Liberty Midlands Mall and Liberty Promenade joining the initiative in the first quarter of 2019.

While children in the foundation phase should be reading an average of 40 books a year, children in South Africa’s poorest and most under-resourced communities are reading as little as one book a year; which limits the development of their minds and imaginations.

South Africa was ranked last out of 50 countries in the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study, which tested the reading comprehension of learners in their fourth year of primary schooling. 78% of South African pupils at this level could not read for meaning, a further reflection of how South Africa is lagging behind other developing countries, when it comes to literacy.

L2D endeavours to provide more than 6000 young children an opportunity to own books, as a medium to nurture their love of reading, and ultimately improve their performance at school.
A challenge has been posed to schools to share the joy of reading with someone else.

For every reading book that learners and/or schools purchase, the same book will be donated to an underprivileged child. Sharing the importance of reading; learners, educators and parents can visit to order books, which will be delivered directly to the school. Schools that have bought the most books will win their share of R20 000 in gift vouchers from Sandton City and Eastgate Mall. (Terms and conditions apply).

In addition, L2D, through Sandton City and Eastgate Mall is treating 200 children on an excursion to both malls on the 26th and 27th September 2018, where they will be afforded a sensory experience in celebration of the book. A trio of South African actors will adapt and perform this piece in an entertaining and engaging way, involving the children as audience members to understand the core messaging of Oaky The Happy Tree, a feel good children’s book. Through role play, the children will be whisked away to an imaginary land, recreated by Sibusiso Mdondo, Schelaine Bennett and Taryn Louch.

Read to Rise excites children about reading and gives new books to learners in under-resourced communities. To date, the organisation has visited over 2 400 classes to conduct their programme and given out over 120 000 new books; and together with L2D, by turning the book into an interactive theatre piece, the aim is to ignite the children’s passion for books.

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Nal’ibali launches fourth Story Bosso competition with Yvonne Chaka Chaka!

Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign – kicked off National Literacy Month (celebrated in September) – with the launch of their fourth Story Bosso competition at Uncle Tom’s Community Centre in Soweto on August 31st.

In commemoration of the 30 days dedicated to encouraging a love of reading, storytelling and writing, this annual multilingual storytelling competition invites all South Africans (storytelling has no age restriction!) to enter a story of their own, with the winning entry being published as a book, and the adroit author receiving a cash prize of R 5000.

The theme of this year’s competition is none other than ‘South African hero’s’ – be it your mother or Winnie Mandela, your father or Fatima Meer, a best buddy or Bonang – Nal’ibali is interested in reading your story on that one singular South African whom you regard as a true Hero. (Yes, with a capital ‘H’ sommer!)

Schoolchildren, Nal’ibali volunteers, FUNda Leaders, Miss Soweto, and none other than UN Goodwill Ambassador and South African icon, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, were present at this joyous occasion which included improv games, singalongs, an intro to the Sustainable Development Goals (à la Ma Yvonne), and an opportunity for the children to play Nal’ibali’s inventive Hero’s board game.

Take a look at the day in pictures, courtesy of Daniel Born:

The gees was tangible during an improv storytelling game facilitated by a FUNda leader!


A schoolgirl having a jol as her peers cheer her on amid the improv game.


Singalong time! (All together now: “We are the reading club! / The Nal’ibali Reading Club!”)


A demonstration of Nal’ibali’s very own Hero’s board game.


And enter Yvonne Chaka Chaka!


Suffering from a bout of post-FOMO? You need only take one look at these delighted faces to imagine yourself in the crowd as Yvonne performed her iconic ‘Umqombothi’.


Yvonne asked two volunteers (“one boy and one girl, please”) to join her in reading the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals out loud. (And after reiterating the importance of number four – ‘help children in your community to read’ – forthrightly stated that one shouldn’t “just dala WhatsApp.” #truth!)


The kids were invited to try their hand at Nal’ibali’s Hero’s board game to get those creative storytelling juices a-flowing.


High five to heroes and storytelling!

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Exclusive Books wins BASA Award for its Pan-African Reading Room

Via Exclusive Books

Exclusive Books, The Market Theatre Foundation and The Coloured Cube have been announced as BASA Award winners for the Sponsorship in Kind Award for The Exclusive Books Pan African Reading Room and Pan African Reading Lounge at the Windybrow Arts Centre.

“We are delighted by this recognition of our efforts in the Pan-African literature space,” said Ben Williams, GM: Marketing for Exclusive Books. “This partnership has firmly established the Windybrow Arts Centre as a hub for the advancement of Pan-African literature and has helped bring African stories and literature to life for a wider audience.”

The 21st Annual BASA Awards, held on 16 September at the Victoria Yards, recognise and honour businesses that invest in an inclusive economy through art. Exclusive Books was one of 11 winners announced at the ceremony.

The Windybrow Arts Centre opened the doors on the Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Lounge for adults and The Exclusive Books Pan-African Reading Room for children on Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July 2017. Over 2000 Pan-African titles are housed in the 121-year old Windybrow Heritage House, courtesy of Exclusive Books.

The Pan-African Reading Initiative, the first of its sort in the world, has also contributed enormously to the success of the advancement of Pan-African literature, Williams adds.

Exclusive Books will continue to add to this initiative, consisting of a “spectacular list of Pan-African titles from around the world”, says Williams. This includes bringing books back into print, supplying Windybrow with 400 Pan-African titles, and an “entire hemisphere” of Pan-African titles which will be added to the soon-to-be-reopened Sandton branch of Exclusive Books, Williams concludes.

The reading rooms have encouraged a reading culture among the more than 120 daily visitors to the Windybrow Arts Centre – most of whom are youths. In addition, the Centre launched a monthly book club programme for children and a series of forums for adults focusing on African authors and on the titles available in the Reading Lounge.

“We warmly congratulate each winner and thank all the finalists for their commitment to supporting and working with creative people,” said BASA Chairman André le Roux.

Heidi Brauer, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Hollard, a BASA sponsor, said, “In beautiful harmony with Hollard’s special partnership model, the BASA Awards really do deliver win-win-win.

“Artists benefit through having their work recognised and celebrated; corporates grow their brand and gain exposure to the creative arts; and broader society is enriched through the conversation, challenge and stimulation provided by art that may not otherwise have seen the light of day. Such partnerships enable a better future for us all.”

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“I got inspired to write for children after I had my son” – a Q&A with poet Primrose Mrwebi

Nal’ibali Column 25: Term 3, 2018

By Carla Lever

Poet Primrose Mrwebi. Picture supplied.

You’ve written for magazines like Fair Lady, taught young up-and-coming writers and even performed your poetry at the opening of Parliament in 2004. Do you have a favourite experience of where your storytelling has taken you?

Every experience matters! Being a magazine journalist taught me a lot about looking at the world objectively, performing in Parliament meant that the whole country was listening to my voice and my art, and teaching young people gives me a spiritual feeling of finally coming to meet the purpose of my talent.

Now it seems you’re creating opportunities for others to find their talent. You held your own self-funded poetry competition – PrimPoetry – in Khayelitsha earlier this year. What was that like?

The competition left me with sleepless nights for days. I am so inspired by the talent that exists in our communities – the language skills of those poets are exceptional.

Why do you think it’s important for people to give back to their communities when they’re able?

It’s one of the ways that we can bring positive change in our world. It also eliminates the culture of complaining too much and doing nothing! One of my mantras is “If you want something and it’s not there, start it yourself and invite like-minded people to join you.”

PrimPoetry allowed people to enter for free and to perform poems in Afrikaans, isiXhosa or English. Why do you think we need more opportunities that are open to all, regardless of income or home language?

For so many centuries a lot of people have felt excluded due to their race or class. That’s not fair. If we truly want to live in a world without exclusion, we need to begin on a journey that leads us there.

Are there any more plans for competitions that people can enter?

We had one at the Rainbow Art Organisation in Delft on Saturday the 8 of September and we will be having others in the very near future. We always do a call out on our PrimPoetry Facebook Page, so keep an eye on that if you’re interested in entering.

Can you tell us a little about the children’s book you’re working on for isiXhosa and English learners?

I got inspired to write for children after I had my son. I suddenly wanted to speak in a language that children can understand. This is a collection of stories that I think will make an impact on children today. It’s also important that I write in my mother tongue because there is clearly not many books that are written in our home languages.

What kinds of resources and opportunities do our young people need to make sure they grow up loving books and confident about telling their own stories?

Children need to have libraries close to their homes. They need their parents or siblings to take the time to read to them, to be taken to storytelling clubs, book clubs or recreational centres. People like us need to bring the skills we have to our communities so that we can create that change.

Do you have any advice or encouragement for people interested in starting a poetry or storytelling event in their own communities?

Identify people that have interest in poetry and start a group. Share ideas and ask for advice from organisations, or people that work with poetry and literature. People are wonderful resources!

Nal’ibali’s annual multilingual storytelling competition is running this September for Literacy and Heritage Month. Aimed at reviving a love of storytelling amongst adults and children, and connecting South Africans to their rich and vibrant heritage, the theme of this year’s contest is South African Heroes. Enter by telling the story of your favourite SA icon, your personal hero, or a fictional hero in your language, and you could be crowned this year’s Story Bosso! To find out more about Nal’ibali and Story Bosso, visit,, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Submit a review of your favourite children’s book and stand a chance to win!

Click here for more!

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Jozi creatives, are you ready? Book Dash applications are open!

Calling all creatives in the City of Gold!

Book Dash is looking for volunteers to donate 12 hours of their writing wisdom, illustration ingenuity, design dexterity, or editing excellence to get together and create children’s books in any and all eleven official languages!

By applying for this Book Dash (due to take place on Saturday the 27th of October at Streetlight Schools in Jeppestown), you’ll help realise Book Dash’s mission to ensure that every child in the country owns 100 books by the age of five.

If you’re passionate about children’s literacy and would prefer to take a behind-the-scenes stance, why not apply to help out as a photographer, videographer, art director, or social media storyteller?

Click here for all the deets, apply before the 20th of September, and get the nation reading!

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Rally to Read’s nationwide rallies: 100% on track in the pursuit of literacy

Via the READ Educational Trust

Pupils participating in a past Rally to Read

In a beautiful country with a rugged landscape, the stark reality is that the journey to equality and education for all is equally rough, where poor literacy levels still abound, 24 years into democracy. In as much as all eyes are on our education system, the real remedy lies in a concerted, collective effort by all facets in society to pull together and contribute to the goal: literacy for all South Africans.

For the past two decades, Rally to Read has quietly ploughed forward, making inroads by actively furthering literacy in rural South Africa.

Rally to Read delivers educational materials and provides teacher training to specifically identified rural schools that frequently tend to ‘fall through the cracks’ of already-stretched provincial education budgets. In these schools, things the rest of us take for granted … books, pens, desks … are absent. Imagine how hard it is for educators to inspire, educate and promote literacy without the basics?

Responsible businesses and concerned private individuals contribute to the Rally to Read budget every year. This money pays for stationery, books, portable classroom libraries, and teacher training. Schools identified for the Rally to Read Programme are visited three years in a row. Educationalists believe this is the minimum period required to achieve sustainable results.

Over the past 20 years, independent studies have shown remarkable improvements in reading and writing skills at Rally to Read schools.

Educator training and school progress are carefully monitored by READ Educational Trust, who has managed the programme from the outset. Provincial education departments wholeheartedly endorse Rally to Read, as does our Government at national level. One of our great supporters in the past has been President Cyril Ramaphosa himself, who said, “Rally to Read is an extraordinary story of caring, collaboration and hope.”

Off the beaten track, Rally to Read is 100% on track in the pursuit of literacy. What makes this concept unique is that sponsors personally distribute the materials purchased. At no extra cost, they accompany their colleagues or families over a weekend, in a convoy to rural South Africa. They meet the children and educators whose lives they’re enriching, along with eager parents and community leaders.

Four rallies are planned for 2018, and even more are planned in years to come. The four provinces targeted in this year’s activities, are KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape. Generally, resources are loaded on the Saturday morning; convoys are split into teams, each of which visits two schools. Teams meet up later to talk about the day’s activities and sponsors spend a night in a nearby hotel and are invited to participate in an excursion before heading home.

The Free State rally will take place on 8 – 9 September, the KwaZulu-Natal rally on 20 October, the Western Cape rally will be held on 27 – 28 October and the Eastern Cape rally will take place on 3 – 4 November.

Sponsorship amounts to R35 000,00. Food and accommodation costs for the rally weekend are footed by the hosts and organisers. Off-road vehicles are available for hire at special rates.

Why not become involved in the Rally with a difference? Make inroads to places where literacy will make a lifetime of difference. For more details on how you can get involved, visit, or contact Lizelle on 0872377781.

This initiative is supported by READ Educational Trust, a non-profit organisation whose sole objective is to promote literacy across South Africa.

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11-year-old author inspires children with Book Week reading

Via the Relate Trust

The 11-year-old (published author!) Stacey Fru and her rapt audience. Photo: supplied.

Teachers and children at the historic Crown Mines Primary School gathered at their local library on Monday for a special National Book Week reading with accomplished local author, Stacey Fru.

Fru’s success isn’t due only to having three of her books published by the age of eleven, but for being Africa’s youngest published author at age seven.

The young writer stood and spoke animatedly before a rapt, wide-eyed audience of foundation phase learners and teachers as she read from her first book, Smelly Cats.

It was a particularly special moment for the Crown Mines School community which received the library – housed in a shipping container – in February 2015 through the Mandela Library Project (MLP).

The Mandela Library Project (MLP) works with under-resourced schools to establish and maintain container libraries in order to boost literacy.

Robert Coutts, Mandela Education Project CEO (under which the library project falls) said it was an honour to join Stacey for the reading of her work at Crown Mines.

“Stacey is an example of the power of education and, specifically, literacy. To be able to understand and portray real-life struggles as she did with her Smelly Cats story at just seven years old shows how life-changing education, particularly at the foundation phase, is.

“It’s the truest example of Nelson Mandela’s famous quote that ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’.”

The library project is the focus this year of one of the Relate Trust’s biggest single crowdfunding initiatives to date: the Mandela Centenary Bracelet campaign. Through individual and business partnerships, their vision is to fund new libraries and impact thousands of children across the nation.

The project has seen marked success with a recent report detailing how pupils significantly improved in their reading ability at schools where the library programme has been enacted.

Since 2011, the Mandela Library project has seen the delivery of more than 100 libraries. Each library typically services 1 000 children per year and remains active for at least 15 years. The libraries are managed on a daily basis by education and social justice NGO, SoulBuddyz.

The NGO’s Gauteng manager, Nelisiwe Hlope, said their work with children through the libraries has made a visible difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.

“The libraries create a reading culture among the children even when they’re not busy with classwork. And this doesn’t just impact their language subjects, but we see that the more the children read, the better their overall academic performance,” said Hlope.

But it’s not just the school children for whom the library project makes a difference. The facilities are also open to the surrounding communities.

Stacey said she jumped at the opportunity to read to the children of Crown Mines as she wanted to help them see how powerful literacy can be.

“Reading and writing changed my life and I want to give every other child like me the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of books like I have. That’s why what the Mandela Library Project does is so important. One book can change a life.”

Speaking to the adults in the room, Stacey urged them to support the Mandela Centenary campaign: “With just one Mandela bracelet, you can help get books to children and you can change their lives. And the bracelets are really cool too!”

At the age of seven, she wrote her first book, Smelly Cats, without her parents’ knowledge. The book was approved by the Department of Basic Education as suitable for young learners from early childhood through to primary school level.

Now at eleven, Stacey has not only had two more books published, she’s also received numerous awards and started her own education-focused foundation.

Members of the public can support the Mandela Library Project and job creation by buying Mandela Centenary Relate bracelets from Woolworths stores, Pick n Pay online, Made In SA, Out of Africa, and The Tiger’s Eye stores. They can also visit and find out more about the Mandela Library Project here:

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“Anger and desperation inspire me to help be one of the few voices for our Khoe issues because we are seldom, if ever, spoken about” – a Q&A with Denver Breda, Khoe language and cultural activist

Via Nal’ibali: Column 23, Term 3

By Carla Lever

Language and cultural activist, Denver Breda. Pic: supplied.

As a language and cultural activist, what issues do you feel most passionately about in South Africa today?

I’m most passionate about ending the Kakapasa or denial that pervades the South African consciousness, about the people who were found here in the 1600s.

You have campaigned for Khoekhoegowab to be taught in South African schools. Why do you think this is an important move?

It’s important to remind people that this land was not empty, that it indeed had many people who spoke the oldest languages and cultures that sadly were forced to adopt other names, create and speak other languages. Most of all, to show that we are still here and that the country as a whole has a responsibility to restore what was so violently taken.

Language is identity, it roots you, instils in you a set of values. This has but all been lost, especially with Coloured people who are often majority Khoe people. Language loss is actually found among First Nation communities all over the world, yet in South Africa it’s not researched enough.

Every language has its own ‘flavour’ or beauty. What are some of your favourite sayings or expressions in Khoekhoegowab?

Some of my favourite words are ‘Kawakawas’ which in Khoekhoe means restoration, ‘Kakapusa’ which means to forget, ‘Munanai’ (which is what I called my company), means to imagine. Some of my favourite sayings are ‘Ada Hoatsama gon’ which means ‘together we move’. Also ‘Toa tama !khams ge’ which is ‘the struggle continues’. But also to tell people the original name of Cape town ||Hui !Gaeb which means ‘where the clouds gather’.

How can we make sure that indigenous languages – and the cultures related to them – don’t die out?

By first acknowledging that we indeed all have a responsibility towards South Africa’s First Nations people and to learn at least one of the Khoe languages that remain, such as Khoekhoe. We can also put pressure on government and society to support the cause. People can also become what I call Xambassadors – a combination of the word Xam which means lion in the Khoekhoe language and ambassadors.

You have written short story collections, produced a play, self-published a story inspired by your mother’s journey from Graaff-Reinet to the Cape, and you have a podcast, Draadloos virrie Raadloos. That’s a lot of creative words! What inspires you to be so prolific?

Anger and desperation inspire me to help be one of the few voices for our Khoe issues because we are seldom, if ever, spoken about – not on TV, not in newspapers. We can wait to be written about, or we can write about ourselves and that is what I do.

Why is it important for people to share their stories, whether written or spoken?

I believe as Khoe – as Africans – when our stories die, we die. For me, writing stories has been hugely therapeutic. Writing about the Cape Flats, about my mother who had to leave her home in Graaff-Reinet at the age of 16 to work as a domestic worker, about a very dear trans friend of mine who I have known for almost two decades and who now lives on the street, it has allowed me to cope, to understand, to not be as angry, to look at solutions. I believe as a country our stories of pain, of hope can actually bring us together. The truth is that we are more of a family than we wish to consider.

The idea of mothering is something we have extended to language – mother tongue – and even space – motherland, mother city. Do you think there is a good time and place for all South Africans to reconnect – have a family reunion – with their land and their languages? Is it possible?

There is always a good time to connect. Not a specific time, but anytime. At the bus, at work, at schools, at your place of worship to reconnect first with self, which I believe to be more important than with others and with nature. In a way we have to become mothers to our hearts and our souls which carry so much hurt and pain. Learning one of South Africa’s First Nation languages has certainly helped me to connect with myself, others and South Africa. I’m still learning, but something happens when you either connect – or khoennect – with your ancestors or to the first languages of this land. That is truly the start of the decolonisation process.

How can people who are interested learn more about indigenous languages like Khoekhoegowa?

There are a lot of resources on the internet – YouTube particularly – though not as much as I would like to have available. For those in Cape Town, come to our public talks on 9 September at Open Book Festival and hear what one of SA’s oldest languages sound like.

Nal’ibali’s annual multilingual storytelling competition is running this September or Literacy and Heritage Month. Aimed a reviving a love of storytelling amongst adults and children, and connecting South Africans to their rich and vibrant heritage, the theme of this year’s contest is South African Heroes. Enter by telling the story of your favourite SA icon, your personal hero, or a fictional hero in your language, and you could be crowned this year’s Story Bosso! To find out more about Nal’ibali and Story Bosso, visit,, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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“We are seeing that there is more to poetry than the dead white men of high school textbooks” – a Q&A with poet and cultural activist, Vangile Gantsho

By Carla Lever

Nal’ibali column 21: term 3 2018

Published in the Sunday World (26/08/2018), Daily Dispatch (27/08/2018), Herald (30/08/2018)

Poet and cultural activist, Vangile Gantsho. Pic: supplied.


How would you describe your own work?

Honest. Uncomfortable. Deeply mine. I don’t think it’s for everyone, mostly because not everyone wants to know how deeply we – as people/womxn/black womxn – feel. There is a responsibility that comes with knowledge.

You are participating in several of the exciting panels at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town this September. What role do you think SA arts festivals should have in bringing all kinds of people together around storytelling and culture(s)?

I guess I think festivals should be well-crafted mazes, where people are inspired to be so curious that they arrive expecting one thing, and leave having experienced something they wouldn’t have bumped into otherwise. I would hope that this adventure would spark conversation, because at the heart of storytelling is conversation – between writers and readers and society.

A lot of people see poetry as something you learn in school or intimidating to understand. Can poetry be a relevant and accessible form of expression for everyone?

I think that’s how poetry used to be taught. Now, poetry is an evolving language. We are seeing that there is more to poetry than the dead white men of high school text books. That before Lebo Mashile, there was Jayne Cortez and June Jordan. That poetry can have agency, and that emotional complexity does not always have to be trapped in complicated language.

What language/s do you write and perform in and what motivates that choice?

English. Because the way in which this freedom was/is structured meant that my parents felt it was best for me to prioritise English so my brothers and I could be successful in life. Even if it was at the expense of our home language.

You have said that people can use poetry as a healing tool – a way of feeling safe inside our own bodies. How can writing be a form of self-care?

From a young age I learned that journaling was a way of making what I was feeling and experiencing real. I think, when you are silenced, writing especially can be an important way of existing. I have seen that free writing exercises often leads people to unexpected places: “Wow! I didn’t even realise I was feeling like this.” In existing, in “saying out loud” what you are living through, you can heal from it, or discard it. You can claim some power over it.

It’s hard to break into South Africa’s very small publishing industry. You’ve proven that going it alone can be a great solution, by self-publishing your own very successful book of poetry. Can you tell us a little about what that involves?

My debut poetry collection, Undressing in front of the window (2015), taught me that no one will willingly open doors for you. You have to knock, or break the doors down yourself. And in order to do that, you must always be willing to learn. Self-publishing requires more than just raising funds. You still need a good team. And it’s not an easy process. It’s difficult, expensive work…but fortunately also deeply rewarding!

Your publishing company, Impepho Press, is a self-described “Pan-African” publishing house. Are you currently accepting submissions from authors?

We just announced our first open call, open throughout September. We are accepting submissions from people born in Africa and people of colour from the diaspora. This includes gender non-conforming people.

For those not able to afford books, are there other ways to access writing from poets working across our continent?

I think the biggest tragedy is that everything costs money. So even if I say the internet is a way of accessing the work of international writers of colour, data is expensive. And access to technology is a luxury. I think more and more second-hand books shops and the bigger libraries are getting better at stocking some contemporary writers at a steal. But the internet is probably the best bet, for now, because access to literature is seen as a luxury.

How can parents, friends and teachers encourage young people to tell their stories creatively?

By encouraging young people to express themselves honestly and without fear of intimidation or prejudice. Exposing ourselves to art also encourages us to be inspired by art!

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit:

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