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DigiKids: Nal’ibali and the journey of reading

Today is World Literacy Day and we’re big fans of reading, whether its with a book or via a screen. But, most of all, we’re even bigger fans of cuddling up with our kids for a good old bedtime story.

The benefits of reading to children when young, and reading with them later on are well documented but, what we feel can’t quite be encapsulated in research, is the distinct ability of reading together, and how it creates a lifetime of memories for you and your children.

Books though, can be expensive to purchase and that makes them relatively inaccessible for many South African households. Moreover, a large portion of the South African population does not live close to a public library.

Enter Nal’ibali, a reading-for-enjoyment campaign that uses the power of storytelling to inspire children towards reading and writing. Nali’bali (isiXhosa for “here’s the story”) creates reading clubs and mobilises communities across the country to make literacy a major goal.

Screenshot 2014-09-08 09.42.55

Library in your pocket

Mxit has just launched Nal’ibali as an app on their platform, making it as  simple, yet pretty, addition to their portfolio of educational applications. You’ll find a collection of short stories on Nal’ibali, perfect for kids between the ages of 5 and 12. Nal’ibali’s library houses stories in six South African languages, and includes vibrant illustrations. By making Nal’ibali available on Mxit, stories and educational tips for parents and caregivers are now easily accessible, no matter what.

I’ve thought about Nal’ibali quite a lot this weekend. We are a family of readers, and my daughter goes through books like I go through mobile phone battery (I recharge my phone twice a day, if that helps to give you some context). I imagine that, for us, Nal’ibali will be most useful for long car trips or while we’re on the move somewhere.

Nalibali - literacy day 01


As we are most regularly co-readers, where either she or I will read aloud, we took Nal’ibali for a test run over the weekend. We read “The Rainbird”, as retold by Joanne Bloch and illustrated by Mieke van der Merwe. An intriguing tale of the “bird that makes rain”, The Rainbird is very much a traditional folktale, that places the child protagonist, Ketti, as heroine.


2. Nal'ibali Story (English)


I won’t give away the plot too much but, safe to say, we loved it. Short stories like this have a way of igniting a conversation or prompting an activity. The Mxit app includes suggestions for story-related activities at the end of the text – for The Rainbird, there’s a craft activity that kids can try.

But, the proof is in the pudding – what did my kid think of reading a story on Nal’ibali? She said: “I like that it’s on your phone. We can read stories when we’re out!”

The app makes it easy to scroll and access stories, so kids can read on their own or with their parents. The Nal’ibali app also includes a bunch of useful tips for parents, polls, quizzes and a downloads section, which contains audio stories.

To access Nal’ibali download Mxit, go to apps, and search for Nalibali.

On World Literacy Day, let’s get reading!


This article was originally published on DigiKids.

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