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Little Hands

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Carol Bloch’s formative reading experiences

Carol as a little girl being read to by her mother
Once long ago, in a port town not far from mountains where elephants roamed beneath a sky filled with Flycatches, Kingfishers and Sunbirds, there, in an age before the new linguistic world order and PRAESA, Carol Bloch had little hands and this is what she read…

Carol’s earliest memory of books and reading:

The Tall Book of Make BelieveI remember vividly the library we visited in Burgersdorp when I must have been about 4 or 5. My memory is of the somehow completely satisfying smell of books, which seem to have gone up to the ceiling in rows and rows, having to be accessed by adults on long wooden ladders against the wall ( or maybe this was in a shoe shop!!) . I remember many weekly visits to our local library in Walmer in Port Elizabeth clutching my little pink library cards, and handing them to the librarian in exchange for the 4 or 5 plastic covered, always hard cover books feeling incredible anticipation for the pleasure yet to come once I got home and could get involved with the chosen books.

Carol’s picture books:

The Mouse in The Tall Book of Make Believe
I remember sitting on the arm of a chair next to my mom, who was reading a story about a little bad mouse who couldn’t stop himself from doing naughty things all the time – I still have a vivid illustration in my head of this tiny mouse looking up from cutting with a huge pair of scissors, and this enormous woman’s hands on her hips and looking down at him in an exasperated way. I remember feeling enormous pity for the little mouse – From a thin hardcover book called the Tall Book of Make Believe.

Carol, as an adult, reading with children:

I worked as a preschool teacher in the mid 1980′s in London and I used to read endlessly – sitting on cushions with 3 to 5 year olds – that was when I realised the power of stories – most little children absolutely love curling up with stories – and along the way, they start learning how to read. I then had my own two children, who grew up with us reading as one of the most enjoyable daily times together … and then in our work in schools, I have spent lots of time trying to get teachers reading (for enjoyment) with children as part of learning to read (and write!).

Carol with the Little Hands books

We have entered a new phase in the history of the African continent, one where, despite the often overwhelming challenges, those of us involved in legitimating multilingualism feel that there is a meeting of minds between language workers at the South -South level and between the South and the North. Ironically perhaps, we seem to be ‘speaking the same language’. The year 2006 has been proclaimed the year of African languages. We are joining forces, in a spirit of collaboration to bring our various strengths together in different and complementary projects. At a time when Soviet society looked bleakly on creativity, a well-known Russian poet, Kornei Chukovsky took it upon himself to defend and nurture what he called the ‘linguistic genius’ of young children. He was inspired by children’s tremendous ability to imagine and play, and saw it as a privilege to write for them. We would like to conclude our input today with a challenge to the great writers and artists of Africa. Join us in demonstrating our respect and value for our children and their future. Unleash your own ‘ linguistic genius’ to inspire the young of Africa. It would be a mark of the ultimate commitment to the development of African languages, if each and every African writer were to write just one story to add to the treasury of Stories Across Africa in the course of his or her normal creative work. This is our challenge.

Neville Alexander and Carole Bloch
PRAESA, UCT, Cape Town July 2004

Look Who Loves You! -- a book produced by PRAESA in collaboration with UNICEF

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">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    August 6th, 2008 @23:47 #

    Dr Neville Alexander is the speaker at the next 'Difficult Dialogues' taking place on Wednesday, 13th August at the Student Learning Centre, Anatomy Building, Medical school, UCT, Anzio Road, Observatory. It will take place at 6pm and all are welcome. His subject is: "Has the rainbow vanished? The meaning of national unity in the new South Africa".

    “Dealing briefly and as simply as possible with the legacy of colonialism and apartheid in respect of social, especially racial, identities, Dr Aexander will make reference to topical phenomena such as affirmative action, Black Economic Empowerment, the "Chinese Dilemma" and xenophobia, He will raise the critical question: is it possible to re-imagine South Africa's people in such a manner that racial identities are not perpetuated automatically via state and civil society, specifically private sector, practices. The conditions under which and the underlying values that will facilitate the realisation of such a vision will give rise to the "difficult dialogue" we have not really had in South Africa since Olive Schreiner's original writings about national unity exactly 100 years ago”.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Jo-Anne</a>
    September 14th, 2008 @12:54 #

    I enjoyed your formative reading experiences and also remember the Walmer library very well. We most often used to go to the city-centre library in PE, which was a magical experience. All those levels and towers and dark nooks with the smell of old books.


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