Selecting literature for beginner readers in South Africa

  • Liesel Hibbert
  • Marius Crous


This article explores complexities of choosing appropriate reading material which may provide maximum engagement for beginner readers in Southern Africa, with the aim of instilling a lifelong love of reading. The article presents a case in favour of literary criteria as base line for choices of reading material for beginner readers. Furthermore, the article outlines general characteristics of reading material for beginner readers, as well as specific criteria to be considered in the Southern African context, taking into account the linguistic diversity which exists in formal education and the vast literacy backlog in the region. Furthermore, it is argued that translated children’s stories should ideally be adapted rather than literally translated, in order to meet the requirements of what is universally regarded as good children’s literature for beginner readers. A culture of reading can only be instilled by adhering to the following criteria, i.e. ensuring affective engagement, maximum meaning-making potential, delight, the engagement of the imagination for the purposes of developing the creative mind, and strong identification with the material for the purposes of developing a sense of agency.


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Author Biographies

Liesel Hibbert
Liesel Hibbert is currently Professor in the Department of Applied Language Studies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. Her PhD work at the University of Cape Town was on political rhetoric in South Africa. She has spent many years in teacher training, has taught Academic Literacy, South African Writing, Business Communication and Research Methods for Master’s students in the Management Sciences. Her current work with graduate student examines notions of literacy in a global world, focusing on ethnographic case studies in local economically marginalized communities. One of her most recent publications related to the above issue, is ‘Local and global perspectives on overcoming literacy challenges in South Africa’ which appeared in the International Journal of the Sociology of Language in 2010.
Marius Crous
Marius Crous lectures in the Department of Language and Literature at NMMU. His interests are Afrikaans literature, creative writing and translation studies. His third volume of poetry is due in 2012.  He is also a regular reviewer of books in magazines and newspapers.