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South African Journal of Childhood Education

On-line version ISSN 2223-7682
Print version ISSN 2223-7674


REED, Yvonne. Countering linguistic imperialism with stories in the languages of Africa: The African Storybook initiative as a model for enabling in and out of school literacies. SAJCE [online]. 2019, vol.9, n.1, pp.1-8. ISSN 2223-7682.

BACKGROUND: In South Africa, and in many other African countries, official language-in-education policy supports the use of learners' primary language(s) in early schooling. In reality, texts in the language(s) of the former colonial power are dominant, with high-interest texts in languages familiar to young learners in short supply or non-existent. Where government education departments have begun to address this shortage, it is mainly by producing graded readers in the 'standard' variety of a language AIM: The main aim of this paper is to demonstrate how quality texts can be provided in a wide range of African languages to stimulate children's interest in reading, across the African continent and beyond SETTING: The African Storybook (ASb) initiative of the South African Institute of Distance Education (Saide) aims to provide illustrated texts in local languages and language varieties that enable children to read for pleasure and for learning. This is done through a publishing model that makes these texts available, cost-effectively, as needed, by teachers, librarians and caregivers METHODS: Internal reports, external evaluations, two interviews with the initiative's co-ordinator and a review of selected texts on the ASb website provided data for analysis RESULTS: The analysis enabled reflection on the challenges faced and the successes achieved, identification of factors that have enabled many of the challenges to be addressed and finally consideration of what the initiative offers as a model for supporting literacy development in local languages CONCLUSION: While the paper tells a story that includes elements of a cautionary tale, it is primarily a story that offers inspiration and guidance to other organisations already involved in, or wishing to embark on, the important project of providing texts for young readers in a wide range of languages

Keywords : African Storybook initiative; literacy in African languages; digital open licence publishing model; cost-effective children's texts.

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