Club needs help to drive reading

Buyiselwa Magama tells a child about one of the new books available to book club members.

Each month, the women from Little Zebra Books head across the street to Muizenberg Junior School, where they hand books to the drivers at the school’s transport area.

The recipients of these books are members of a book club that offers children a bilingual book each month.

Programme manager Eleanor Ker said the shop was producing books for more than 120 children each month and that number was growing.

“We are also getting requests from across the country for these bilingual books,” she said.

“When we started,” added Ms Magama, “we were handing them out to the children, but it was complete chaos. Now we just give them to the drivers, and it’s working much better.”

The drivers know every child by name, and they make sure that the books are passed out correctly.

Children who have not yet signed up can take home a form for their parents to sign, and they will start receiving a book the next month.

In addition to the books distributed to the junior school, other parents come by the shop each month to pick up a new book for their child.

The Little Zebra Book Club is free and every month members get a full-colour bilingual book (in English and one other language of their choice).

The books are published in all South African languages, as well as Shona.

Any parent or caregiver can sign up their child by visiting the Little Zebra Books shop.

Little Zebra Books governing board chair Minah Koela’s children are part of the book club.

“Reading books with your kids is the best way for them to get ahead in life in terms of their education. But it is also a way for you to connect with them. You really feel close to your children when you read to them. I’m Xhosa, so having one of the Little Zebra Books that are in Xhosa and in English helps my kids to be strong in English and also be strong in Xhosa.”

Muizenberg resident Sean Meredith agrees, saying, “We spend 10 minutes each morning reading the LZB books for English and isiXhosa with our two boys. They are short enough to keep their attention and good enough to help us learn.”

All the books are designed and printed in the Little Zebra Books shop.

However, Ms Ker said their funds had run out and they only had enough ink and paper to produce books for one more month, putting their growing book club and the love of literacy it was creating, at risk.

Little Zebra Books is a non-profit, producing illustrated mother tongue books for children in South Africa, Mozambique, and Angola and has been running for two years in Muizenberg.

“The book club programme has proved to be hugely popular, and has grown exponentially since it started at the beginning of the year. Because of this growth, the grant which we received at the beginning of the year toward the programme has run out. This means that now we’re looking for other funding options so we can continue to provide books completely free to children in the book club. At the moment, we’re trying to find a local printer who would be willing to sponsor the printing of books for the last four months of the year, or looking for other grants and donations from interested benefactors”,”said Ms Kerr.

Learn more at littlezebrabooks.com or to help in any way, call Ms Ker on 074 309 0809 or email her at eleanor@littlezebrabooks.com

The shop is open Monday to Friday, from 1pm to 5pm.