Children’s stories written in the mother tongue can unlock major benefits
Thursday, December 10, 2015 – A child’s imagination is an amazing thing. It can conjure dragons and fairies out of thin air and spur the creation of fantastic, make-believe worlds. Much of the time these worlds are fuelled by stories a child has heard or read.
Reading and storytelling play a pivotal role in the development of a child. Far from merely cultivating literacy, reading and storytelling also unlock other parts of a child’s brain. Studies show that reading and storytelling help develop memory and vocabulary and bolster comprehension skills amongst other benefits.
Of course the way in which children initially relate to their world in general and reading in particular is through their use of the mother tongue. Paradoxically, children’s books written in South Africa’s eleven official languages are in short supply.
Maskew Miller Longman in partnership with Pearson South Africa is attempting to address the matter through the Maskew Miller Longman (MML) Literature Awards which invites writers across the board to submit original, unpublished stories written in their mother tongue. The aim of the awards is to encourage a love of reading in learners’ mother tongue and develop quality literature for youngsters across all of South Africa’s official language groups.
The awards are currently in their ninth year and are the only national literature award of their kind. As such, they play an important role in South Africa’s language story, especially in light of a general shift towards English teaching mediums across the educational sector.
Every year a different genre is introduced. This year, children’s fiction was the genre of choice. Hundreds of stories were submitted, roughly half of which were written in African languages. After much deliberation, the competition judges managed to whittle down the entries to eight winners who were announced at Pearson’s head office in Cape Town on the 25th of November. The winners are as follows:
· Jelleke Wierenga for ‘Mensekind teen die monstervlieg’ (Afrikaans)
· Bridget Pitt for ‘The Night of the Go-away birds’ (English)
· Sipho Richard Kekezwa for ‘Icebo Likamalusi’ (isiXhosa)
· Emmanuel Nkosinathi Nazo for ‘Imbewu Yomuthi Obabayo’ (isiZulu)
· Mabonchi Goodwill Motimele for ‘La Fata Gal Le Boe Fela’ (Sepedi)
· Thatayaone Raymond Dire for ‘Ngwana Sejo o a Tlhakanelwa’ (Setswana)
· Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho for ‘Mveledzo na Zwighevhenga’ (Tshivenda)
· Conny Masocha Lubisi for ‘Xixima’ (Xitsonga)
A prize of R7, 500 was awarded to each winner whose work will be considered for publication by Pearson. Finalists were awarded R3, 500 each. The winners range from award-winning writers to those just starting out in the world of writing.
For example, Mr Nazo is a fulltime senior primary school teacher who runs arts classes and mentors community theatre groups. He entered the Maskew Miller Longman (MML) Literature Awards because he had introduced storytelling and writing to one of his classes and “had to lead by example.” Another winner, Mr Kekezwa is a church leader who offers freelance language services. He has entered the Maskew Miller Longman (MML) Literature Awards five times and won three awards.
Celebrated children’s and young adult author Diane Case delivered the keynote speech at the awards. She spoke of witnessing children’s reactions to stories and how stories told in a child’s mother tongue “make children feel relevant and allow them to articulate their South African world.”
The awards were presented by Brian Wafawarowa, Pearson SA Executive Director for Learning Resources. Says Wafawarowa: “Pearson is proud to be a part of this annual celebration of literature in South Africa’s official languages. Literature is an important element in improving literacy in our country. We encourage people to read and enjoy literature in their mother tongue and support all initiatives that help improve education in some way.”
Commenting on the awards, Tshivenda winner Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho said: “I found the MML Awards to be a strong foundation and [base] for writers like me who still see writing in indigenous languages as a cause worth celebrating.”
In a bid to further support aspirant writers across all language groups, Pearson hosts free writers workshops. The February 2015 workshop was hosted by renowned author and illustrator Niki Daly and was attended by 2014 MML Literature Awards Tshivenda winner Khalirendwe Nekhavhambe who remarked that it provided her with invaluable knowledge and skills that left her feeling empowered, motivated and confident as a writer.
About the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards
2015 marks the ninth annual MML Awards. The awards are currently the only literature award of their kind which offer prizes for literature written in South Africa’s official languages. The awards aim to develop literature primarily for 16-18 year olds. Maskew Miller Longman is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pearson South Africa which is committed to developing quality literature across all South African languages.
Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, providing educational materials, services and business information through the Financial Times Group. Pearson serves learners of all ages around the globe and employs more than 40 000 people in over 70 countries. For more information, visit www.pearson.com.