Storytelling is an essential forerunner in children’s literacy development and an important way of preserving culture and language. Yet many of the same stories appear in different parts of the world: passed down from generation to generation, retold in various languages and with different cultural adaptations. These classic fairy tales contain important moral lessons and universal human truths.
As part of Literacy and Heritage Month, Standard Bank and Nal’ibali – South Africa’s reading-for-enjoyment campaign – will be bringing three time-honoured stories to South African children by retelling them with the help of popular local performers in South African languages and with modern, relatable local contexts.
These stories will be told live and for free to the public through a series of three Facebook-live sessions commencing on Wednesday, 08 September, or International Literacy Day.
‘‘By giving classic fairy tales a modern spin and having South African artists retell them with culturally relevant settings and characters, we are not only promoting local talent, languages and culture, we are also exposing South African children to internationally recognised stories and lessons,’’ says Yandiswa Xhakaza, Nal’ibali CEO.
Eight out of every ten children in South Africa are functionally illiterate, meaning that they cannot read or write at a basic level. However, children who are exposed to great and well-told stories in languages they understand are motivated to learn to read and write for themselves.
This special project is an extension of Nal’ibali’s collaboration with Standard Bank. The partnership launched in 2020 and began as an emergency COVID-19 literacy and education intervention. A custom-designed initiative ensured that caregivers supporting their children’s education and literacy journeys at home received support through interactive WhatsApp groups with trained experts.
“As a bank, in addition to investing money, we also want to grow human capital and connect in meaningful ways with fellow South Africans. Reading and sharing stories with children is one of the most powerful gifts we can give them, more so in languages they can fully understand. And, children who regularly read for pleasure perform better in the classroom, regardless of their family’s social or financial standing,” adds Kirsten Greenop, Head: Regulatory Advocacy, Stake Holder Engagement and CSI at Standard Bank South Africa
Little Red Riding Hood, The Ugly Duckling and The Frog Prince will be retold by headline performers Sihle Nontshokweni (an award-winning international writer, storyteller, Ph.D. candidate and host for The Ultimate Book Show); Buhle Ngaba (a multi-award winning South African actor, writer, and theatre activist) and Sanelisiwe Ntuli (a veteran storyteller and long-standing narrator on South Africa’s biggest radio station, Ukhozi FM) in isiZulu, Setswana, and English.
In support of the storytelling drive, Standard Bank volunteers will be building on their literacy skills with special storytelling training from Nal’ibali before hosting their own story sharing sessions with children this September.