Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Little Hands

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Zukiswa Wanner’s Formative Reading Experiences

In a certain home, in a certain land, before anyone had heard of beautiful Nobuntu the princess Behind Every Successful Man, Zukiswa Wanner had little hands and this is what she read …

Zukiswa’s earliest memory of books and reading:

I remember bedtime stories from my mother. I recall Aesop’s Fables very well and I have since bought a funky version of it for my son (although he seems to enjoy the Xhosa Takalani most)

Zukiswa’s picture books:

My kiddie reading experiences were mainly, like most kids, of the ‘happily ever after’ type. My favourite was Snow White and I remember tensing every time I came to the part when the step mother dresses up and goes to see her in the forest (Zukiswa smiles at this now) … one of those ‘No! Don’t let her!’ sort of experiences.

Zukiswa as an adult, reading with her child:

My son’s amazingly repetitive in what he wants to hear. Although I have got him tons of books, he has a habit of wanting to always hear the same book – currently it’s the above-mentioned ‘Coca’ Takalani, published by Pan Macmillan; last month it was Dr.Seuss One Fish, Two Fish. When I finish reading a book, he wants me to read it twice more which can be quite tiresome when one is reading to a child out of obligation and is equally tired. He also wants me to end all stories with a line from Gcina Mhlope whatever language the story is in otherwise the story is not finished as far as he is concerned. The line is cosi, cosi, iyaphela. It means ‘there, there it is done/finished’.


Leo Tolstoy was an educational reformer as well as a great novellist. He wrote: When he [sic] has heard or read and unknown word in an otherwise comprehensible sentence, and another time in another sentence, he begins to have a hazy idea of the new concept; sooner or later he will … feel the need to use that word – and once he has used it, the word and the concept are his … But to give the pupils new concepts deliberately … is, I am convinced, as impossible and futile as teaching a child to walk by the laws of equilibrium.

“We decided that though there are clearly various roots of literacy to be built upon , if we want to enable African children to learn to “read by reading” and make learning to read easy, they needed to be able to experience and choose from various genres. Moreover, children need what Tolstoy called the “general linguistic context” for vocabulary and concept formation. We thus conceptualised the Free Reading in Schools project (FRISC). Its actualisation coincided with the Western Cape Education Department’s literacy strategy for 2002–2008, launched in 2003. It included the compulsory introduction of a “literacy half hour” in all schools and the supplying of “100 books” over time into every Grade R to Grade 7 classroom. Thus the FRISC became an opportunity for PRAESA to influence the nature of the literacy half hour, and to make suggestions to teachers about using their “100 books”. The intention of the FRISC was simple: to introduce and demonstrate regular reading for enjoyment in appropriate ways, mainly but not only in the mother tongue, to describe its impact, and to support teachers in an ongoing manner. Our main findings were simple too. The children we observed and interacted with, loved being read to and reading for themselves in their mother tongues and in English, not least because of the sense engendered by the nurturing, non-threatening relationships that developed from regular sessions with the story reader-researcher. We confirmed that there is not nearly enough appropriate reading material in Xhosa for regular free reading. Moreover many teachers are unable to commit themselves to being regular reading role models; although they expressed themselves otherwise, their actions showed they seem not to believe in the significance of reading for meaning and enjoyment as part of the literacy learning process. My understanding is that the teachers’ own conceptions of literacy are embedded deeply within their personal language and literacy biographies and if this does not include the experience of how it feels to “get lost in a book”, it is extremely difficult or even unlikely that one can pass on a passion for reading to others.”
(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.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Carole</a>
    July 16th, 2008 @14:02 #

    From an early literacy learning perspective, what Zukiswa says about her little son wanting the same story again and again is a really good sign...though it can be frustrating! The fact that he loves the story and wants to hear it over and over shows that he appreciates one of the good reasons why people read (to be immersed in a story) AND he has worked out that he can expect to hear the same words in a predictable order, as you turn the pages - one of the many clues for a caregiver that a young child is on the way to becoming a reader.


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat