Tweens: Why we publish for tweens

In an average South African Grade 4 class of 35 learners, 28 of those children can’t read for meaning in any language, as reported by the latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).

This is a scary thought. At this age, children shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”. They need to be able to extract and analyse information from what they read to build their knowledge and understand what they are taught. How will our children learn if they are unable to read? 

This “tween” age of 8-12 years is critical for children to transition from mere word recognition toward true literacy. To achieve this, parents and teachers must make sure that tweens have access to relatable, age-appropriate books that make them excited to read. 

When we began exploring what tween fiction is available in South Africa, we found that very few local publishers were putting out high-quality books for this age bracket. Where were our South African Harry Potters, Percy Jacksons, and Wimpy Kids? Where were the South African heroes and clowns to inspire and entertain our children? 

It is clear that our South African tweens are not graduating from being read to, to reading on their own for pleasure. Research shows that reading for pleasure is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status. Along with the alarming PIRLS findings, this fact drove us to begin filling the gap by publishing South African stories for South African tweens written by South African authors. 

From this conviction, the Clockwork Books imprint, Zazi Books, was born. Zazi Books aims to bring the awe and wonder of fiction to a new generation of readers as they discover the portal to a world of imagination and whimsy that we, as book-loving adults, experienced at that age. We want to inspire a love of reading in South African tweens through books that tell stories they can relate to. The simple magic in these stories can teach children not only to tap into their imagination but also to communicate more effectively when they are adults. Stories that spark a love of reading in childhood can eventually transform into powerful and world-changing activities in adults who consume, engage with, and create literature of their own.

So, you see, like the heroes we once read about as children, we have a dream to make a radical difference by adding books to the surprisingly sophisticated literary toolbox of a tech-savvy generation. After all, if these tweens can understand the subtext in a meme that references pop culture from before they were born, they will easily be able to translate into their own growth the beautifully woven metaphors in representative stories that have powerful magic not requiring a wand or sorting hat. And that, as they say, reads.


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