UCT alum’s book chosen for South Africa’s World Read Aloud Day

27 January 2021 | Story Carla Bernardo. Photos Supplied. Read time 4 min.
UCT alum Sihle Nontshokweni is a bestselling children’s author and programme manager at the University of Pretoria.
UCT alum Sihle Nontshokweni is a bestselling children’s author and programme manager at the University of Pretoria.

Nal’ibali, the South African reading-for-enjoyment campaign, is inviting caregivers across the country to partake in World Read Aloud Day, where the chosen book was authored by a University of Cape Town (UCT) alum.

The official South African story this year, Fly, everyone (Afrika), fly, was commissioned by Nal’ibali and written by Sihle Nontshokweni, a UCT alum. The book has been translated into all of South Africa’s official languages to reach a record-breaking three million children.

On World Read Aloud Day on 3 February, caregivers are encouraged to read Nontshokweni’s book aloud to children of all ages. This call to action is part of a global campaign to highlight the importance and benefits of reading aloud to children of all ages. And there are many, notes Nontshokweni.


“Fly, everyone (Afrika), fly is a story about the power of imagination and dreaming.”

“Reading aloud to your children is a profound exchange. It inculcates that there is value in books. It provides fresh, riveting themes to talk about together, building bonds between caregivers and children,” Nontshokweni said.

“In this way, children experience reading as a satisfying activity [and] this ignites the will to learn to read for themselves.”

Participating in World Read Aloud Day, and reading aloud in general, shows children how books work and how to read – this allows them to enjoy stories that are beyond their current reading ability and develops their vocabulary and language skills.

Power of imagination

Fly, everyone (Afrika), fly is a story about the power of imagination and dreaming. It is about a young boy named Afrika who dreams of becoming a pilot. While he has never flown in an aeroplane before, he uses his imagination to fly and travel. But then he finds out that his friend Josh also wants to be a pilot and has already been on an aeroplane. Afrika becomes concerned that this means his dreams are invalid.

Fortunately, his grandmother reminds him and Josh that they can, in fact, share the same dream; that there is ample opportunity for both boys to pursue it.

Sihle Nontshokweni graduated with undergraduate, honours and master’s degrees from UCT’s Department of Political Studies in the Faculty of Humanities.

The book is Nontshokweni’s second and follows the best-selling success of her debut children’s book, Wanda, which was co-authored with Mathabo Tlali.

Wanda is a classic book that engages children at a level that they understand about the large and complex topic of identity, exploring the theme of hair in former Model C schools,” explained Nontshokweni.

Wanda invites children to a place of confidence and self-acceptance at an early age, through intergenerational transmission of confidence, cultural pride and in seeing how an elder generation of women has embraced their beauty and hair.”

In addition to her writing, Nontshokweni – who has undergraduate, honours and master’s degrees from UCT – works as a programme manager for the Sikelela Scholars Programme at the University of Pretoria. She is also pursuing her PhD at the university.

The programme is funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and supports over 500 National Student Financial Aid Scheme recipients with the goal of reducing barriers to academic success, thereby ensuring that students complete their degrees and are prepared for employment.

Participation information

There are different ways to participate in this year’s World Read Aloud Day – and to get a free copy of Nontshokweni’s book.

Nal’ibali will host special read-aloud events in six provinces, distribute story cards at taxi ranks in four provinces, and pamphlets will be delivered door to door.

Members of the public who wish to get involved can visit the Nal’ibali website or text “WRAD” to Nal’ibali on WhatsApp (060 044 2254) to pledge to read to a child. It also allows you to access the official story and the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa’s guide to sharing the story with preschool children.

Participants are encouraged to share pictures of their read-aloud sessions online using the hashtag #MyWRAD2021.

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