AFTER facing the obstacle that their child was struggling with their homework, artist parents Raksha Chabalalsing and Leon Govender, created a book, My First IsiZulu Picture Dictionary to help their son and other pupils facing similar difficulties. Speaking to journalist, Purnal Poonusamy, the duo elaborated on their book.
- Tell us a bit about yourself?
- We are a husband and wife team made up of Leon and Raksha; we are currently residing on the North Coast. We are both artists/graphic designers. Our passion is animation and creating books.
All types of books — story books, comic books, layout and design of school textbooks as well as magazines.
PP: What is the book My First IsiZulu Picture Dictionary about?
LR: My First IsiZulu Picture Dictionary is a fantastically effective way of helping children and adults alike grasp the basics of isiZulu. Through picture and word association learning becomes fun. Thus by improving vocabulary; sentence construction becomes easier and more effective.
It covers over 24 themes and more than 700 words and sentences in an 88-page, full-colour, beautifully illustrated book. At the back of the book we have a glossary of all the words according to their categories with English translation and below the words are sentences constructed with those words both in isiZulu and translated into English.
PP: Where did the idea and inspiration of the book come from?
LR: This concept has been on our minds for a very long time, but when it became apparent that this is something that is an absolute need, was when we ourselves were faced with assisting our son, Yashvir (Grade 4) with his isiZulu homework — we were clueless.
After speaking to other parents and discovering that they all faced a similar dilemma, we decided to do something about it. The children’s grades in isiZulu have all been below average and majority are really struggling to grasp the basics in the classroom.
So as determined parents we decided that we wanted to make a difference not only in our son’s life, but also for that of other kids and individuals.
Raksha and I put together the artwork and hours of research went into all the words and phrases and finally we have My First IsiZulu Picture Dictionary.
PP: Who was the target market when you first conceptualized the book, and has that market broadened now?
LR: This book is suitable for all ages and can be used as an “add on” in conjunction with all existing isiZulu class materials. Basically anyone learning this language will find this book incredibly helpful. Currently we have had children from primary school, high school and even tertiary institutions have obtained copies.
What is more amazing is that we also had people in work environments order the book as it has now enabled them to also learn and improve their isiZulu knowledge.
PP: What are some of the outcomes you wish to see with this book?
LR: We want to get this to as many schools as we can.
Thus far we have already seen results which have been absolutely mind blowing. With grades improving, children are enjoying learning with the book. It also helped bridge the gap of the language barrier bringing people together. It’s amazing and we want this to be the case for as many schools and people as possible.
PP: Tell us a bit of the process of making the book (from idea inception to publication), and who were some of the notable people involved.
LR: Idea — This was a concept Raksha had in mind for a long time. And we finally found the right time to execute it. Artwork — We both were involved in the artwork and layout of this book, I produced the illustrations and she did all of the colours.
Research — We both were involved with research of words and sentences. Editor — We had an incredible editor, Mr Zungu, he is one of the heads of isiZulu at the Department of Education; such a thorough and brilliant man. Publication — self-published.
PP: Any plans for other books in the future (similar or otherwise)?
LR: We have in the works story books in isiZulu; basic, simple stories. Apart from our isiZulu campaign we also have English graphic novels planned, so we are looking forward to it all.
PP: As International Literacy Day has just passed, what are your thoughts on the importance of literacy and making sure that in the future every person is literate?
LR: We believe that literacy is the most fundamental element that will change our society and the world as a whole. It will make an incredible difference to our country. Through our books we aim to reach as many people as we possibly can. We are mainly focused on basics for now, however, we also intend on creating intermediate and more advanced books.
A literate nation makes for a prosperous country and we want to make a difference, even if it’s in a small way the ripple effect will allow for bigger and bolder avenues to help spread literacy in our country and the world.
PP: What is your message to the community?
LR: We are living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and we are surrounded by a kaleidoscope of different people which no other country can boast. Our message to the community is to embrace that.
With My First isiZulu Picture Dictionary we aim to bring people together, and by learning each other’s languages we break those barriers and create amazing bonds between people. This book, to us is one way of helping especially our children make a change and difference to our society.
PP: Anything you would like to add?
LR: This is a book that can be used for the next few years; it is not restricted to any grade or level.