Books Beyond Words, the weekly event hosted by South Africa’s annual reading awareness week, National Book Week (NBW), dedicated to encouraging leisure reading and promoting the importance of books, clocks 300 minutes of story magic, mischief and memories this weekend.
NBW has been inviting storytellers every weekend since the lockdown began in March, for a live event to tell children an interesting story, including from their own books. NBW is a joint initiative of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) and The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.
Over the past 15 weekends, some of South Africa’s most celebrated raconteurs and well-known actors have taken to the tablet, live streaming stories of hope and happiness. The lockdown, a first for many South Africans, had people trying to figure out how to maintain a sense of normalcy despite the restrictions on movement and social gatherings.
“With schools, libraries and bookshops closed (in Level 5) during the lockdown, we wanted to quickly find a way to get the children thinking out of the box, to use the cliché. Online storytelling lent itself to the process and ticked all the safety boxes. Over the past decade, the SABDC has worked with several storytellers who are masters of elaboration, who can tell a story with enthusiasm and excitement in equal measure,” says Elitha van der Sandt, CEO, South African Book Development Council.
“Thanks to the efforts of our storytellers, we are now also an imagine-nation. They bring such vivid imagery and language to their craft that children and parents can see with the mind’s eye the characters and the story unfold.”
This weekend will see the return of actor Craig Urbani with a English story “How the zebra got its stripes” and radio anchor Dina Christiaan, who adds an African flavour to the day with “Xami tsi /hirib tshikha” (The lion and the jackals) in Nama.
The library of past stories is available to download from National Book Week’s Facebook page. Parents and children wishing to join the live experience with other South African families can do so on NBW’s FB page every Saturday at 11:00am.
“The book industry both here in South Africa and globally has really come together as a community during the pandemic, providing respite through free access to books to hosting online storytelling sessions. The act has built on the rich, African tradition of oral storytelling by combining powerful narratives with new technology,” says van der Sandt in conclusion.
“The pandemic will accelerate the use of multimedia in storytelling and enhance the art and craft of telling a story. When it is written about in the future, our avatars will be living happily ever after online.”