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Little Hands

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Why Little Books for Little Hands?

All young children love stories – they love being told them, and they love looking at picture books with someone special. In South Africa, a child who doesn’t speak English, or maybe Afrikaans, is often denied the pleasure of engaging with storybooks in their own language. In other parts of Africa, though it may be French or Portuguese rather than English, the situation is similar. And it is not an empty pleasure: story reading stimulates complex rich language and creativity – essential for healthy learning. It forms part of the elusive ‘culture of reading’ that is made up from all the apparently ‘natural’ daily activities with print that are taken for granted by those who have them.

For most young children in Africa, first encounters with books of any kind are at school. And often they get very few picture books and stories, because many teachers themselves are not readers and have been trained to teach reading and writing as mere technical sounding out and handwriting exercises – without storybooks, often in a foreign language and mostly without joy. This is changing slowly – but an important requirement to speed up the change, is to make sure appropriate reading materials are available, and that caregivers who interact with young children know why and how they should use them.

The Little Hands books contribute to helping transform things for young children and their caregivers.