A collection of African folk tales touches the hearts of South African children

Ethnikids, in partnership with Wimpy, has launched a collection of African folk storybooks in the 11 official languages, which school psychologist Seago Maapola says speak to South African children.

Maapola said it was shocking that literacy levels in the country were “much lower than they should be”, with nearly 80% of 4th graders unable to read in their native language.

“Research has shown that if a child is unable to read at age 13, they will drop out of school and not be able to go to high school because they lack the basic skills they need to succeed. high school.”

Maapola praised the founders of Ethnikids and the authors who have created various reading materials with “multicultural multilingual contents and tales that represent the crucible of the rainbow nation”.

Chicharito author Sihle Nontshokweni said mother tongue books were not mainstream and not readily available, but she was happy to be part of an initiative that will officially change that. narrative.

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Nontshokweni said the most important part of this project was seeing the children emotionally and mentally relate to the characters she and her colleagues created.

A relative, Comfort Tshabalala, said coming from a village to Johannesburg was a culture shock for her and her family. Her son often felt left out when they visited his family because he had become used to speaking only English.

“Every time we come home and he has to mingle with his cousins ​​and other kids, he feels like he’s from another planet, and so these books help him to better learn their mother tongue,” she added.

Ethnikids co-founder Khumo Tapfumaneyi said everyone has the right to use the language and participate in the cultural life of their choice.

Studies also show that linguistic diversity in literature creates smarter, happier children who are more likely to succeed later in life.

She noted that 78% of children were unable to understand what they read by the age of 10 and that only 2% of children’s books in South Africa were in African languages, even though 80% of the mother tongue of South Africans was not English.

Tapfumaneyi also said it was important for children’s self-image to relate to what they read, but also to spark a love of reading.

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