Avoid the Summer Slide! 10 books to help improve your child's reading over the holidays

"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." - Marcus Garvey
"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." - Marcus Garvey

Local online bookstore Ethnikids was founded by five moms set on empowering African children by making diverse reading materials easily accessible. Here founding member Khumo Tapfumaneyi explains what the American term 'Summer slide' means and how to avoid it with her list of children's book must-reads. 

'Summer slide' is a term that originated in the U.S. to describe a decline in reading ability typically experienced by learners over the Summer Holidays.

Research shows that by reading just six books over the holidays – learners can maintain or even improve their reading ability over the holidays.

Here are some of our favorite picks to do just that: 

Mpumi's Magic Beads

This fantastic story about a group of friends at an inner-city JHB school has recently won two literary awards! It is penned by poet and child author Lebohang Masango, and is a must-have in any self-respecting home children's library. Available in all 11 South African languages.

Yes, Yanga 

The third book written by accomplished children's author Refiloe Moahloli. It tells the inspiring story of Yanga – a young boy who starts out playing the common childhood game of '3 Tins' and rises through the ranks to become a champion and play cricket at National level. Available in English and isiXhosa.


The international bestseller written by Lupita Nyong' o explores the themes of colourism, self-love and acceptance. Beautifully illustrated and full of star-power.


A brand-new offering from first-time authors Sihle Nontshokweni and Mathabo Tlali. The book is about learning to love one's hair, and teaches children to stand up to bullies. Available in English, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Afrikaans.

Khanya's magic book of rhymes

Khanya's magic book of rhymes transports little ones into a world of rhymes about family, friends and so much more! It is the second book written by child author Khanya Masina, and is a visual delight.

In Africa with Avi & Kumbi

In Africa with Avi & Kumbi is written by historian Nomalanga Mkhize and takes children on a journey throughout Africa to learn about key events that took place in African history such as apartheid, slavery, ancient civilizations, independence and some of the key players in those events. It's written in story format, and is a great, informative read for adults as well.

Izilwane zase Pulazini/Diphoofolo tsa Polaseng

Izilwane zase Pulazini / Diphoofolo tsa Polaseng are beautiful bilingual board books in English / isiZulu or English / Sesotho. They are written by author/publisher Mosa Mkhize and are a great way to introduce toddlers to farm animals in multiple languages. 

Obnoxious Naledi and the Poppysmic Fairy

This delightful book reminiscent of Dr Seuss teaches children quirky words like 'Poppysmic' – the sound one makes when they put their lips together. It's written by first-time author Tracy-Lee Easthorpe, and the story ends with a lovely lesson for the kids.

Mizz President 

A touch-in-cheek humorous tale by Mapule Mohulatsi about a little girl called Lerato who becomes President for one day when the leader falls ill. Stunning illustrations, and a great conversation-starter!

Gogo's list 

Our final pick is a winner of acclaimed Golden Baobab award for excellence in African children's literature.

It's written by Ghanaian Portia Dery, and has been translated into isiXhosa by Xolisa Guzula. Gogo's list tells the story of Fatima who is on a mission to help her grandmother with her to-do list.

Visit our Storytime hub and download free children's stories in a variety of South African languages here

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