Original children’s literature and readers – the South African experience
Danisile Ntuli, Saturday 14.30-15.00

The writing of children’s literature in the indigenous languages of South Africa is one genre that has been neglected by almost all authors. Academics alike, have also given it very little attention. Publishing companies are known to be reluctant to publish children’s story books in African Languages because there is no marketable demand for them from either the general public or educational institutions. Getting age-appropriate books into the hands of these children has not been easy and is still not easy. School children are served a staple diet of folktales, some of which are found in readers which were published in the 1950s. Although folktales are regarded as the progenitors of all stories, these readers’ contents are outdated and challenging to modern readers.

This paper will attempt to accentuate that contemporary children’s literature in African languages will provide a more effective way for children to learn literacy because it helps with their natural development of language, including listening, speaking, reading and writing. Through sheer enjoyment of a variety of children’s literatures, young children respond positively to literature in the context of their life experiences rather than memorizing isolated letters and words and learning other basic reading skills (Yoo, 1997: 123). The paper will also illustrate that readers in African languages stifle the meaningful relationship between children experiencing literature and gaining literacy naturally. This is substantiated by Huck (1977:54) who states that “the motivation for learning to read comes from the desire to read real books and that imaginative literature must be the content of the reading program”.

Danisile Ntuli is a lecturer at the University of South Africa in the Department of African Languages. She is currently studying for a doctorate. She teaches Zulu literature and is a published author of Zulu poetry. She has recently published a children’s book and has translated some of children’s books by Niki Daly - the award winning children’s writer. Last published articles: “Laying foundations for academic language competence: the effects of storybooks reading on Zulu language, literacy and discourse development” (2005) and “Of kings, jesters and fools: the insignificantly significant role of minor characters in selected isiZulu dramas (2006).