This side of my professional life grew
naturally from the many book talks I am asked to give at
for Children and on Children’s Literature
In 2007 and 2009 I gave a series of workshops
for adult writers on behalf of Maskew Miller Longman as part of
their competition for writers in indigenous languages. This
involved a punishing round-the-country programme in most of the
nine provinces of South Africa, giving three-hour workshops to
up to 30 people in each venue who want to improve their writing
The focus was on excellence in writing for
children – and in finding it in published books. Most of the
participants had never been exposed to really good, contemporary
writing for children. The workshops were divided into sections
focusing on aspects that I believe to be critical, particularly
the landscape of Africa in story for children here. Excepts were
read from books published all over the world, as well as in
Africa and a very practical outline was presented of how to go
about writing for children today.
Child’s Point of View
I developed the ideas from these workshops
for a workshop I presented in Dar es Salaam in 2009 for the 9th
Pan African Reading Conference, under the auspices of the
International Reading Association (IRA).
My Story Our
Another project that involved a nine-province
tour was the Every Voice Counts initiative by the Parliamentary
Millennium Project (PMP). This very ambitious undertaking wanted
to record the thoughts, dreams and hopes of children throughout
the country. It involved visits to 26 schools, most of them very
rural and extremely disadvantaged. The team visited schools for
the deaf (Johannesburg) the severely physically and mentally
challenged (Durban) and many schools where there were either no
books, or very few. Working with the children to facilitate the
stories was an experience that has changed my life.
The printed results were impressive. The
stories were first published on a weekly basis in ReadRight (the
educational supplement of the national Sunday Times) and then
10.2 million copies were published nationwide in all major
newspapers as part of the education recovery programme after the
teacher’s strike of 2007. The stories were published in book
form by The Parliament of South Africa under the title My Story
… Our Stories and launched on 16th September 2009 by Mr J
Mahlangu Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces
(Speaker of the House).
Kalahari Peoples Network Workshops
After the launch of the Kalahari Peoples
Network in 2008 (www.kalaharipeoples.net), it became obvious
that we had to also provide basic technology workshops and
develop writing skills with the young people who were eagerly
wishing to be connected to each other and the rest of the world.
Alphabetical literacy alone is not an adequate skills-base for
effective use of the Internet.
This is a thrilling task involving working
with young people from remote rural areas and involving
Afrikaans as well as English language skills. We have completed
nine workshops in Northern Cape, Namibia and at the !Khwa ttu
Educational and Cultural Centre near Cape Town. Over the years
we have seen a steady increase in interest as various NGO
projects, including our own, begin to make a difference.
I have acted as facilitator for all of these
workshop as well as teaching. The most recent (August 2011)
involved three venues, including !Khwa ttu, Living Landscape in
Clanwilliam and University of Cape Town. A highlight was a visit
to Archbishop Desmond Tutu where our trainees were encouraged to
aspire to tertiary education. An article about the workshop, by
one of the trainees, can be found at:
Children’s Book Network
For five years I have been involved in reading workshops for children who can read, but don’t. Working with 10 to 12 year-olds is a challenge and a delight. We give themed workshops at weekends and in school holidays where artists, poets, musicians, poets, illustrators – and many diverse creative people – create excitement around books and reading.
To find out more, please go to
Workshops in 2017 - 2018
Writing workshops for adults wanting
to try their hand at writing for children are planned for 2017 - 2018
in Stanford (near Hermanus, Western Cape). Anyone who is
interested in attending should contact Lesley on
In January 2018 I have been asked to give a writing for children workshop as
part of the UCT Summer School Programme.
In 2017, I was the organizer of the Book Week For Young
Readers (BWYR), which precedes, and is funded by, the
Franschhoek Literary Festival. This involved contacting and
coordinating sixty book people, who attended 120 school events
throughout the valley. Over 7 000 children were reached by an
author, illustrator or storyteller during the 4-day event. I
have been asked to coordinate the event again in 2018.