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Meet Zukiswa Wanner: Our WRAD storyteller

There is no doubt that Zukiswa Wanner is one of South Africa's most talented authors and storytellers. Her debut novel, The Madam, was published in 2006 and since then Zukiswa has remained relevant and one of the most important voices of our time.

This year's World Read Aloud Day story, 'The final minute', was written by Zukiswa. She will also be the storyteller at the official World Read Aloud Day event taking place in Mofolo Stadium in Johannesburg on 1 February 2018. 

So, what does Zukiswa think about the power of reading aloud to children? Read on to find out. 

1. Do you think it’s important for children to be read to in a language they understand, such as their mother tongue?

Absolutely. I think the more languages children can speak, the more empowering it is. And of course mother tongue in particular helps them understand certain nuances pertaining to their selves. 

2. As a writer and novelist, do you think the literary landscape in South Africa currently embraces and promotes the writing and reading of books in a variety of South African languages?

Unfortunately not. And a lot of this has to do with power relations in South Africa. While black people are running government, the economy, including the publishing economy, is largely in non-black hands and those tend to have the dominant narrative. And the dominant narrative is that black people do not read OR buy books so therefore there is no need to make available books in their languages. Where books are available in other languages that are not English or Afrikaans, they are usually only used as coursework for schools or availed from direct orders to the publisher. As an example, my children’s book Refilwe has been translated into other languages beyond English and yet if one is lucky enough to find any copies of it in bookstores, it’s usually just the English version. 

3. How did your love of reading and writing come about?

My love for reading started when I was a child because I saw my parents reading and children tend to emulate their parents. Writing came to me much later. I had just returned home to South Africa, working with the late Alf Kumalo at his museum and I found myself with a lot of free time in-between visits from tourists, archiving his amazing and large photograph portfolio and writing proposals so the museum could get funding (we never did get any from all the people Alf believed would give something to protecting the heritage that was his photographs).

4. What’s your favourite book and why?

I think it’s next to impossible for any reader to have just one favourite book. I have too many favourites and as I read, on average, two books a week, I am wary to name any one book as by the time this gets published, I may have a new favourite. 

5. Whose responsibility is it to foster a culture of reading amongst our children?

I think it’s a collective responsibility: family/guardians and schools. When I was in primary school in Zimbabwe, our timetable had 45 minutes of quiet reading in class every day. We also had a library period once a week where we would borrow books from the school library. We would generally finish our books so fast that we would circulate within the class. I think, in many schools in South Africa, this is not happening.

Have you made your pledge for this year's #WRADChallenege? 

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