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Little Hands

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Imraan Coovadia’s formative reading experiences

Not too far away and not so long ago, in an age before Green-eyed Thieves, Imraan Coovadia had little hands and this is what he read …

Imraan’s earliest memory of books and reading:

Books are continuous with my childhood memories. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. I do have a very clear impression of the moment I taught myself to read silently (rather than out loud). I was more impressed with my achievement than the adults I announced it to.

Imraan’s picture books:

Well, it SHOULD have been Danny, the Champion of the World (although that’s not really illustrated). My parents were socialists and gave me short illustrated books from a left-wing British publisher: Mao se Tung and the Long March, Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Toussaint. They were pretty vivid. I still recall the picture of the crowds outside the Winter Palace.

Imraan, as an adult, reading with his son:

It’s WONDERFUL. Especially Alice in Wonderland and ALL of Roald Dahl. I like Roald Dahl even more than when I was a kid … my seven and a half year old son is coughing in my ear at this very minute, and reading this email over my shoulder with a certain quantity of sombre kid’s concern.


Using stories starts as soon as young children begin to be able to communicate their thoughts and experiences in relationships with their significant loved ones. In the USA, Vivian Gussin Paley, has written about her close observations and work with young children, where she helps them use their personal stories as vehicles for learning. Paley writes, “Amazingly, children are born knowing how to put every thought and feeling into story form”. Her work has focused on the primacy of stories as ways of expressing ideas, something which she describes as “the most profoundly human act of all”.
(Quoted from Theory and Strategy of Early Literacy in Contemporary Africa by Carol Bloch)

Aims of The Little Hands Trust
• To support initiatives that promote reading for enjoyment.
• To mentor African literary artists, including writers, illustrators and editors, to produce creative, suitable and appropriate children’s storybooks for children of various ages with a focus on early childhood (ages 0 to 9 years).
• To collaborate with African publishers to increase and sustain publication of children’s books in African languages. To initiate and support translations of stories between African languages, from African languages to ex-colonial languages and from ex-colonial languages to African languages.
• To help to orientate and educate adults in the importance and significance of reading to and with children.


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