January 23, 2019

Expression of interest for the development and production of Indigenous Language Reading Resources for children in South Africa

1. Introduction

There is a crisis in South Africa in that the majority of children are not reading; not reading enough, and not reading with meaning. Over the last 10 years, both local and international research has found that 29% of Grade 4 learners are illiterate, while 58% cannot read for meaning. More than 70% of the poorest half of our children cannot read with comprehension by Grade 4. As a result, children face learning difficulties in languages and all other school subjects throughout their schooling careers. One of the biggest reasons for reading challenges amongst South African children is the lack of reading material available in indigenous South African languages, both fiction and non-fiction. Books that do exist often do not reflect the realities of the majority of South African children, are not very interesting, or translated in ways that are linguistically age inappropriate.

As part of its strategy, the Zenex Foundation would like to contribute to building an ecosystem of African language reading resources targeted at young children aged 5 - 11, over the next 5 years.

The main objective of this project is to produce an abundant variety of readers which would be accessible to schools and homes, to encourage a rich and diverse culture of reading. A second objective is to nurture and support upcoming and new Black mother tongue language authors to encourage a continued supply of children’s books that contribute to building the foundational literacy skills of our children into the future.

The Zenex Foundation seeks to reach out to organisations who are involved in the production, specifically in the commissioning and/or editing, and proofreading and/or dissemination, and use/uptake of children’s books.

2. Call for Expressions of Interest (EOI)

This expression of interest is targeted at publishers, writers/authors, illustrators, editors, researchers, producers of stories, self-publishing entities and individuals who are interested in participating in this FOR-SOCIAL-GOOD endeavour in developing children’s books in AFRICAN LANGUAGES. This project is intended to contribute to a larger movement of nurturing a culture of reading and love for reading in South Africa. The wish is to also encourage new ways of publishing (supply) and alternative models of distributing and marketing children’s books in South Africa (demand and use).

We invite suitably qualified people and organisations to respond to this expression of interest to develop and produce indigenous South African language readers, multi-lingual and that include the heritage languages.

English and Afrikaans language reading material are excluded, given their abundance, choice and availability as compared with African language readers.

Organisations/individuals/collectives who are willing and keen to be innovative, dynamic and alternative in their production model (supply and demand) underpinned by the approach of this project - from commissioning to editing to publishing and dissemination and use of children’s books - are invited to send us their proposals. Zenex encourages collaboration between organisations where there is a fit.

3. Guidelines and Criteria for Production of Children’s Books

Your EOI should indicate whether your interest is in specifically one or more of the following four processes in the book production cycle:

  1. Commissioning of writers and illustrators and/or the story development process
  2. Editing and proofreading
  3. Publishing, dissemination and usage
  4. Contributing existing titles under open license.

It is envisaged that not just one “bidder’’ will be selected. The innovative and cutting edge nature of the pitch is important for Zenex. Please elaborate on how you understand and undertake the project, its implementation, operationalisation of the concepts/process, usage and cost structure. Depending on the proposals received, Zenex may encourage collaboration between successful applicants.

The following criteria will be used as a guide for the selection of children’s readers:

3.1 Criteria for the commissioning of Indigenous (South) African language Children’s Books:

3.1.1 TARGET

  • Only books that are originated in the indigenous South African languages and dialects (excluding English and Afrikaans) will be accepted – please state which language/s you will focus on.
  • Target is to produce 500 original titles over 5 years. This excludes existing titles that current authors wish to submit as part of this project.
  • Books to be written for children in Grade R, 1, 2, 3, 4 or age 5 – 11.
  • 50% of the selected books are intended to be read in school for literacy (teaching) purposes. These books will have to be graded for each of the appropriate grades.
  • 40% of the selected books are intended to be read by the child for enjoyment and leisure purposes. Books will be levelled for each of the age groups.
  • 10% of the selected books are intended to be read by an adult to the child. Books will be levelled for the appropriate age groups.


  • The ratio of titles accepted, of fiction to non-fiction texts is 60:40 respectively.
  • Demonstrates an awareness and reflection of the realities of South African children’s multilingual contexts, multiple contexts and multiple experiences.
  • Cognisant of and sensitive to language, ancestral and cultural resources that children bring from their diverse home contexts.
  • Facilitates rich reading experiences for learning, reading and engagement with the beauty of language. The books need to be enjoyable and informative.
  • Facilitates rich reading experiences for the building of self-identity, self-worth and locates children as part of a local, national and international community.
  • Fiction/non-fiction texts with mathematical, science and other subject-specific concepts/themes are strongly encouraged.
  • The Storytelling/narrative needs to be interesting, captivating and include meaningful text that builds vocabulary.
  • Mixed media and text types are welcome: Stories can encourage singing, use of resources, instruments found in homes and class environments, including games.
  • Multiple literary genres are encouraged, including wordless storybooks.


  • Build, nurture and mentor new talent of authors, illustrators, in the relevant languages.
  • Support talent of those who have not had their work published and quality assured due to exclusion, affordability or opportunity.

3.2 Criteria for editing and proofreading of Indigenous (South) African language Children’s Books:

A Steering Committee will be set up to provide guidelines and requirements that are compliant and aligned with the South African curriculum and language policies.

  • Build and nurture new talent of editors, cultural translations, language editors, proof-readers in the relevant African languages.
  • Assess books for appropriateness and suitability in different learning contexts, diverse classrooms and language orientations.
  • Build and support talent of African language and linguistic professionals.

3.3 Criteria for publishing, dissemination, accessibility and use of books:

  • While the copyright of the stories will reside with the author, the readers will be released under an open license to facilitate the distribution and accessibility of the work. Attribution to the author (and Illustrator) will be made.
  • All Books produced within this project will be made affordable or free.
  • All books produced within this project must be available as an open education resource (OER) in both a print-ready format and in a digital format that can be read on or offline.
  • Innovative models that build in solutions that facilitate the actual USE and reading of books by children will be an advantage.
  • Alternative models of publishing and distribution of reading books that both create a demand for books and promote the value of reading is encouraged. This should take into consideration:
    • Access to key groupings that have the most contact with a critical mass of South African children in our communities (e.g. libraries, schools, parents, workers, etc.).
    • Affordable technology platforms accessible to poorer communities.

4. Task interpretation, Deliverable and Indicative Budget

  • Kindly submit NOT more than a five pages EOI outlining how you understand the task and how you will undertake the task.
  • Affirmative action principles will be used to assess applications.
  • In preparing your indicative budget, management/administration costs must be limited. The bulk of the budget needs to be allocated to capacity building, authorship and the production and dissemination of the readers.

Only shortlisted EOI will be notified. We thank all applicants in advance for taking the time to submit EOI. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think may be interested in applying.

Closing date: Monday, 11 February 2019

General enquiries should be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Ruth on (011) 481-7833.