This June, as we remember the Soweto youth who protested the use of Afrikaans and English as the languages of school instruction amongst other injustices, the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign calls on aspiring and established authors to donate their original African language stories.
South Africa faces a critical lack of children’s literature in indigenous languages and Nal’ibali believes is is these stories that motivate and inspire children to learn to read and help them sustain this essential habit.
‘For children to fall in love with reading, they need to hear and read stories in languages they understand and to see characters that they can relate to reflected in books. An important part of this is seeing children that look, think and speak as they do and who live in settings likes theirs,” says Brigotte Naicker, Content Developer at Nal’ibali.
According to the Publishers Associated of South Africa (PASA), 65% of children’s books published between 2000 and 2015 were produced in English and Afrikaans, and just 7% in South Africa’s most widely spoken language, isiZulu.
Nal’ibali produces, translates, illustrates, and freely shares original, good quality children’s stories in all 11 official languages to address this imbalance. Since 2012, it has produced more than 400 audio stories and printed more than 500 stories in its bilingual newspaper story supplement distributed to reading clubs, literary organisations, partners, and the public in all provinces.
To help the campaign maintain a supply of fresh African-language stories for free distribution to children and caregivers, Nal’ibali is calling on new and established authors to donate their African-languages stories.
Authors of selected stories will receive guidance from Nal’ibali’s publishing team, helping them to find their voices as storytellers in different South African languages. Further, their stories will be edited, translated, and potentially illustrated by the campaign before being shared on its official on-air, print or online platforms.
“This is also an excellent opportunity for aspiring authors to have their stories published. And, to support these authors, Nal’ibali will be holding a free virtual workshop on how to write children’s stories on Wednesday, 23 June,” adds Naicker.
Hosted by professional storyteller, children’s author and Nal’ibali Literacy Mentor, Madoda Ndlakuse, the workshop will take participants through the crucial considerations for writing for children. These include why and when stories need to enjoyable rather than educational, the importance of locally contextualised settings, themes and characters, and the difference that language can make in terms of exposure to mother tongue texts as well as what to bear in mind in terms of translation.
The webinar will also include a keynote address by Africa’s youngest award-winning author, 14-year-old Stacey Fru. Fru will be encouraging participants to get involved, no matter their age or experience, highlighting creativity and passion as essential drivers of success.
Testament to Fru’s rallying call are the lived experiences of authors such as Melody Ngomane and Bubele Retshe whose writing careers Nal’ibali has kickstarted.
Says Ngomane: “I used to listen to Nal’ibali’s stories on the radio and knew that working with such a large-scale national campaign would ignite my career as an author.” Since submitting her first story in 2019, Ngomane has found her storytelling voice and now writes stories in a matter of hours rather than days. With Nal’ibali’s guidance, Ngomane has had five stories accepted by the campaign for use on its multilingual national platforms.
Guidelines on the type of stories that can be submitted to Nal’ibali, as well as where to send them are available on the Nal’ibali website, www.nalibali.org, as are details of the mini writing workshop taking place on 23 June.