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Little Hands

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Formative reading experiences of Prabashini Moodley

In the province of sugar cane and pineapples, in the city where Ghandi was once refused permission to enter the first class cabin although he had a ticket, and long before literary tourism in KZN, and The Heart Knows No Colour and A Scent So Sweet, Prabashini Moodley had little hands and this is what she read …

Praba’s earliest memory of books and reading:

I have such lovely, warm memories of my mum reading the stories of The Three Little Pigs, Wee Willie Winkie, Hansel and Gretel, other rhymes, and fairytales with lovely drawings, especially on those cold, dark winter evenings. Mum read with such expression I can still see Wee Willie Winkie running up the stairs! Of being firmly held by the hand by my late dad so I could not dash across the busy Longmarket Street in Pietermaritzburg and head into the library where all those books were screaming out to me to be picked up and taken home for company.

Praba’s picture books:

Wonderful Wizard of OzMy all time favourite as a child was the Wizard of Oz series by L.Frank Baum. I loved the tale of Dorothy and her friends and could not wait for the next trip to the library so I could pick up another book in the series just to follow the adventures of Dorothy and her trio of pals.

Praba, as an adult, reading with children:

I was thrilled when my niece, Divanya, started a love affair with books.(Whenever I stay over at my sister’s I share her books, fairy tales that allow me to revisit my childhood.) Knowing that a child has learnt to read from a single word to a sentence, a paragraph, a page and then the whole book fills me with joy for I know that once a child can read, and is taken in by wonderful storybook drawings that child will never be lonely again for books are a wonderful source of companionship.


L. Frank Baum on Fame:

L.Frank Baum

In a children’s book he gave his sister, L. Frank Baum wrote : “I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp, which when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.”

This is quoted from a fantastic L. Frank Baum online exhibition presented by the Library of Congress.

Oz Populism & L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz

‘Baum gave us a delightful and unforgettable way of illustrating a number of Gilded Age issues, from Populism and the silver movement to the Gilded Age presidency, from the problems of labor to the insurrection in the Philippines.

Thirty years ago, Henry M. Littlefield looked at The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and saw things no one had seen there before. More recently, William R. Leach has shown us another new way of looking at the book, a way that emphasizes a different side of the Gilded Age–the fascination with the city and urban abundance, the rise of a new industrial ethic, and so on. Leach’s argument is just as compelling as Littlefield’s. “Factual” or not, both are impressive achievements.

But even more impressive is the achievement of L. Frank Baum himself. In the preface to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum stated that he wanted to write a new sort of children’s story: a modernized, American story, shorn of all the Old World images and motifs. He was tremendously successful in this, producing not only the first real American fairy tale, but one that showed American society and culture in all its wonderful diversity and contradictions, a story so rich it can be, like the book’s title character, anything we want it to be–including, if we wish, a parable on Populism.’ (Quoted from Oz Populism by David B. Parker)

The Culture of Reading Project (2002–2005)

Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey. Along came a spider<br />
Who sat down beside her And frightened Miss Muffet away.

We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way. When we first do something, we will probably not do it well. But if we keep on doing it, have good models to follow and helpful advice if and when we feel we need it, and always do it as well as we can, we will do it better. In time, we may do it very well.(John Holt)

‘Accepting and promoting approaches to early literacy learning that support the repositioning of stories from the periphery to the centre implies that if there is not enough to read, something has to be done. This is a classic “chicken and egg” situation where publishers claim there is no market for children’s reading materials in African languages. Yet there can be no demand unless the benefits and joy of reading are demonstrated. The cross-disciplinary cycle of collusion34 (unwillingly or willingly) over time to keep children’s literature “supplementary” to basic textbook production for literacy development has to be broken.

Referring to Senegal, Fagerberg-Diallo discusses the significance of the “convergence of contexts” for helping to root literacy as a regular community practice among a group of “new literates” and others in Pulaar, a Senegalese local language with a recent written tradition. One context was “imposed by the outside” where a national or international development project created conditions in which people needed to read to be part of the economic process. A second was “internal”, created by the new readers themselves who became activists for getting others to learn to read and write the local language so as to use it in important community functions. The third context was “promoted” in the sense that during the process, good books were developed and effective teacher training was undertaken: “Very simply, the more books there are, the more that people read; and the more that they read, the more they want to continue to learn”’.

(Quoted from: Theory and Strategy of Early Literacy in Contemporary Africa by Carol Bloch — if you would like an copy of the full document I can email it to you.)

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>
    August 22nd, 2008 @16:07 #

    Praba, the way you mention seeing Wee Willy Winky running up the stairs is a great reminder of how vivid young childrens imaginations are - and stories fuel fantasy play, which is in some ways the being in and living out of stories, and it how young children learn... convincing arguments for why all children should have access to great story/picture books in languages they know!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    August 22nd, 2008 @21:24 #

    Ha! We had that Wee Willie Winky book too. Now I see it, I remember it was my sister, Megan's. Remember wondering why it said he was wearing a nightgown when he is quite clearly wearing pyjamas only!


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