Ethnikids box makes kids’ reading easier
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.