How the NAC grant will help Zazi Books

Zazi Books Kumbomntwana Author Development Programme has embarked on a journey to publish three books for South African tweens in isiXhosa, isiZulu, and English – works of fiction that are relevant, enjoyable, and accessible – that are the first steps towards building a canon of fiction for our children.

We’re grateful to The National Arts Council (NAC) of South Africa for its grant of R200,000 towards the Zazi Books Author Development Programme as part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme. The council agreed with our assessment that the lack of relevant, representative, and enjoyable indigenous-language fiction for South African tweens is one issue contributing to a larger, more worrying set of findings about the sub-standard reading ability of our country’s Grade 4s.

Zazi Books is passionate about addressing this issue. Literacy and comprehension are vital tools for children to learn critical thinking skills, build cognitive function and stamina, and boost academic achievement—to mention just a few benefits of reading. 

Publishing is a costly business with long-tail returns, and an indie publishing house like Clockwork Books doesn’t have such capital readily available.

The NAC grant will help us provide part-time employment for a total of 16 South Africans working in publishing and the creative industries, work alongside three authors to develop their craft, and cover some of the costs of writing, translating, editing, typesetting, and publicising these three titles.

We want to help tweens fall in love with reading and benefit from all the social, academic, and personal rewards that reading brings. We believe that making affordable and relatable books available for tweens will encourage reading for pleasure, which is a surefire way to improve our kids’ literacy. We also know how important it is that these stories are available in their home language. 

While ambitious, we are committed to our innovative Kubomntwana publishing approach, where we work closely with our writers to develop their skills and creativity and improve the quality of their output. It is an investment of time and effort that many established publishers are unwilling to front, but it is essential to driving change in the sector.

South African tweens are struggling to read, but this crisis can be turned around. Zazi Books and Kubomntwana play a pivotal role in the South African publishing industry’s contribution to achieving that goal.

About Zazi Books: Zazi Books is an imprint of Clockwork Books, a local independent publisher based in South Africa. With a focus on publishing fiction for tweens in indigenous languages, Zazi Books seeks to provide young readers with engaging, relatable stories that celebrate the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of South Africa.


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