Improving literacy at early childhood and helping our children read at home

Stories stimulate our imagination and natural creativity; it has been said: “Imagination is the soil that brings dreams to life.”

Zoza [the one who will Come] Shongwe raised in Dumbe, KwaZulu-Natal is a passionate storyteller. He considers himself a writer, poet, inventor and historian.

He tells us he was inspired by his grandmother’s fairy tales and lullabies, moved by his father’s narration of the history of Ncaka (a mountain in Dumbe) and later Mzwakhe Mbuli’s performance poetry.

The former herd boy had the privilege of growing up to the oral literature experience, his imagination was cultivated by this “process of convergence between an individual, willed creativity and communal life”.

Zoza tells us Joja and Bongaza is a book about magic, defence, loyalty, bravery, strategy, tactics and cooperation.

Like Zoza, Joja, the main character, is a herd boy and tactician.

“The story is set in colonial Africa where we find the main character Joja, co-protagonist Bongoza (a magical bull) and a group of thieves that tries to disposes Joja of his cattle but the magical bull intervenes. Then there’s a sequence of events showing the resistance of Joja and Bongoza. In the end they triumph over the thieves.”

Zoza continues: “This story teaches us that unity is strength, we should read this to our children to teach them the values of unity and strategy.”

This book is aimed at children between ages 7 to 12 and features illustrations by Mogau Kekane.

A combination of education and entertainment, a great way to grab the attention of the early development age groups.

Zoza tells us: “According to, 78% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa can not read for basic meaning in any language. In other words, 8 out of every 10 nine year old’s in South Africa are functionally illiterate.”

This is a serious problem.

This book is a step towards addressing the problem, available on which “offers fun and educational storybooks for your kids to read all the way from toddler to primary school years. Our library of books grows every month with new and fun stories for your kids to read and enjoy”.

This app developed by Kgosi Kgosi highlights words as and when they are read to enable fast recognition, has audio functions to assist with reading out loud, empowers children to read their mother tongue, level up reading and offers different genres of books.

Schools and teachers can use to gain instant performance reports, automatically complete assessments, monitor progress and it includes ongoing support. In this time of Covid where parents have to be meeting teachers halfway there is enough story books for parents to help their children become independent readers and to read anywhere, anytime.

Zoza Shongwe, Mogau Kekana, and many other writers and illustrators have collaborated with to keep the tradition of storytelling, stimulating imagination and improving the literacy of our children.

ALSO READ: Mzikayise Nyathi at work: A hopeless heritage; an African tale

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