African language books for children: issues for authors
To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/07908318.2011.629051
Growing interest in bilingual education in sub-Saharan Africa has highlighted an urgent need for reading material in African languages. In this paper, we focus on authors, one of several groups of stakeholders with responsibility for meeting this demand. We address three main issues: the nature and extent of African language publishing for children; the challenges for authors; and the available support. Our analysis is based on interviews and focus group discussions with publishers, authors, translators, educationalists, and representatives of book promotion organisations from nine African countries and documentary data on children's books in African languages in South Africa. Although there is evidence of a growing interest in producing books in local languages, the number of titles is constrained by funding. The challenges for authors include the need to understand the ingredients for successful children's books and for the sensitivity necessary to negotiate the linguistic challenges associated with a newly emergent genre in African languages. Support, in the form of competitions and workshops, relies on external funding and expertise and offers only temporary solutions. We finish with suggestions for more sustainable ways forward.