In the State of the Nation Address in June 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa drew attention to the dire need to create a culture of reading in South Africa. He stated that if we are to ensure that within the next decade, every 10-year-old is able to read for meaning, we need to mobilise the entire nation behind a massive reading campaign.
In support of the President’s reading campaign, former Miss South Africa, Ntandoyenkosi Kunene, and PhD candidate and lecturer, Thokozane Dyosini collaborated with Brand South Africa and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to host a reading session of their book for children on the weekend on 7 November 2020. Their book, entitled ’Cory in the Universe’, aims to teach children about the Coronavirus.
Generally, the narrative about the Coronavirus has been aimed mainly at adults, and the book seeks to fill a gap by addressing children and enlightening them about what was happening around them in language that they can understand. The edutainment book, previously launched in collaboration with the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, is unique in that it is available in all 11 official languages, thereby encouraging parents and guardians to make reading part of a child’s everyday life.
“We wanted to create a story that was representative of who we are as South Africans. This is also about taking pride in our languages; we feel like our indigenous languages, post-apartheid, have been marginalised for a very long time and it’s time for them to shine and come to the forefront where they can be celebrated” said Dyosini.
“Our greatest passion will always be literacy for children. We created this children’s novel with the South African child in mind. This novel aims to tell the Coronavirus story through diversity, inclusivity and representation as a means to walk the children of South Africa through this rather difficult time for the world” said Kunene.
During the preparations for the 2019 edition of the South African Book Fair, Stats SA released its General Household Survey 2017. The results of the survey showed the alarming statistics that nearly half (47,6%) of children never read a book or drew (44,7%) with a parent or guardian. It is research like this – along with studies showing that nearly 80% of children in grade four cannot read and understand sentences in any language – that further underscores the importance of platforms that promote reading as part of the everyday lives of South Africans. Cory in the Universe is currently available for purchase at selected bookstores.