Durban – A University of KwaZulu-Natal lecturer and writer, Ntokozo Mthembu, is encouraging parents to teach their children to read in vernacular languages before they learn a secondary language to preserve culture.
In her 10th series of children's books, “Funda Ukufunda noTippie indlovu”, Mthembu focuses on identifying sounds, colour and rhythms, all in IsiZulu.
She says helping children to read in their vernacular languages has been her objective, together with three other authors, through a series of educational books they have produced.
Highlighting the content of “Funda Ukufunda noTippie indlovu” she says there are several foundational learning benefits children will derive from her book.
“Tippie, the purple elephant, is multiracial, multicultural and the proudly South African main character that all children would relate to. His friends in the book are Fundi, Sisanda and Bongani.”
The book embraces diversity – apart from isiZulu, there are also isiXhosa, Afrikaans and English versions. It is an inclusive book that promotes language skills in a sequential and developmental way.
“Some of the other foundational learning benefits children would derive from the book includes improved ability in identifying sounds, colours, numeracy, rhymes and comprehension,” she says.
The books delve into children’s daily adventures, and the world is shown through their eyes.
The collection also provides lessons to society on constructive ways to work collaboratively and embrace diversity.
It also enhances the reader’s vocabulary and comprehension abilities through colourful and modern illustrations, depicting a child’s culture and daily encounters. The book is not grade specific, but progressive, and it can be used to teach isiZulu at various levels, she says.
Her fellow authors, José Palmer and Reinette Lombard who are pioneers of the project, say they have drawn inspiration from President Cyril Ramaphosa, who aspires to make children competent readers in at least one official South African language.
Lombard says they all share a common goal and vision of helping children to become fluent readers.
“We believe children that can read (with comprehension) are children that can learn. Learning with Tippie is an adventure as it has unique and interesting stories. It introduces children to high-frequency words through visually explicit illustrations,” she said.
The book is published by Lapa Publishers, a division of Penguin Random House SA, and it is available at several bookstore and online shops.