Eth­nikids box makes kids’ read­ing eas­ier

The Star Early Edition - - TONIGHT -

FROM a wed­ding to a busi­ness idea. That is how Eth­nikids be­came one of the most in­ter­est­ing busi­nesses in South Africa to­day. The busi­ness en­sures that African chil­dren can not only see them­selves re­flected in the books they read but also puts an em­pha­sis on lan­guages spo­ken in their homes.

Eth­nikids is the brain­child of Kgalalelo Nazo, Pre­cious Mo­lete, Tina Akuoko, Mpho Maje and Khumo Tap­fu­maneyi.

They spoke to Tonight about how books be­came their busi­ness. What is Eth­nikids? Eth­nikids is a com­pany on a mis­sion to em­power and af­firm the African child through pro­vid­ing them with di­ver­sity in the ma­te­rial they con­sume. We have a sub­scrip­tion-based ser­vice and prod­uct called the Made for Me box – where we de­liver age-spe­cific, gen­der­ap­pro­pri­ate books to your doorstep. We also in­clude books in pre­ferred South African lan­guages. How did you come about? As moth­ers and aun­ties (and be­ing aware of the need to read to our chil­dren) – we found look­ing for books with char­ac­ters that look like our chil­dren frus­trat­ing and time-con­sum­ing. This is how the Made for Me box came about… It helps you build your own li­brary at home. Made for your chil­dren. Why do we need greater di­ver­sity in chil­dren’s books? Chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture serves as a win­dow (into other peo­ple’s worlds) and a mir­ror that re­flects and af­firms a child’s ex­pe­ri­ences. It’s wor­ry­ing when chil­dren can’t see them­selves in the ma­te­rial they con­sume. One of the big­gest chal­lenges in help­ing chil­dren be­come strong read­ers is the lack of sto­ries fea­tur­ing he­roes and ex­pe­ri­ences they can re­late to. Rep­re­sen­ta­tion mat­ters. Why would one or­der books for chil­dren under the age of 2? Dur­ing the first few years of life, a child’s brain is de­vel­op­ing rapidly. Stud­ies have shown that read­ing to in­fants is a good way to de­velop their vo­cab­u­lary and lan­guage de­vel­op­ment. Chil­dren who de­velop strong lan­guage and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are more likely to ar­rive at school ready to learn. South African chil­dren have rel­a­tively low read­ing speeds ver­sus in­ter­na­tional norms. For ex­am­ple, in Grade 2 your child should be read­ing 50 to 60 words a minute at the be­gin­ning of the school year and 90 words by the end of it. Are your chil­dren read­ing at this speed? Do you know how fast your chil­dren are read­ing? Read­ing is of­ten con­fined to ‘school stuff ’. How­ever, strong read­ing abil­ity is cru­cial to long-term aca­demic suc­cess. And our chil­dren need to de­velop a love for it. It’s a fun way to bond with them and to have some­thing to talk about. Are your books only for black chil­dren? Most cer­tainly not. We source books that have peo­ple of colour as pro­tag­o­nists. But as men­tioned – books are a win­dow and a mir­ror and chil­dren of all races can ben­e­fit for our boxes.

We also in­clude in­ter­na­tional books and books from other African coun­tries. It is im­por­tant that our chil­dren see them­selves as global cit­i­zens. What have been the great­est chal­lenges in build­ing your busi­ness? We’ve had the usual start-up frus­tra­tions of fund­ing and time man­age­ment but when you are driven by pas­sion and pur­pose, it keeps you go­ing. Who are your part­ners? Eth­nikids is run by five amaz­ing and in­cred­i­ble women who have dif­fer­ent skills-sets and a com­mon goal. It also helps that we are friends be­cause get­ting to­gether to work is fun. What’s next for Eth­nikids? We would like to use our net­work and plat­form to pro­vide all prod­ucts aimed at the Afri-child in one place. But for now, we’re fo­cused on the books. Find out more about Eth­nikids at www.eth­nikids.co.za

The Eth­nikids book range.

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