Top 10 books for your kids to sink their teeth into

Reading from a young age opens the mind and imagination, and also encourages a love of literature later in adulthood.

Book reviewer and columnist Kate Sidley says it's important for families to help create positive associations with reading for young children and recommends books with illustrations.

I think we are living in the golden age of the picture book. There are such beautiful books around for small kids.

Kate Sidley, columnist and book reviewer for the Sunday Times and The Times

Meanwhile Elinor Sisulu, writer and human rights activist, stresses the importance of decolonising children's book and the use of local traditions, culture and folklore in storytelling.

Sisulu commends authors Gcina Mhlophe and Sindiwe Magona for contributing to local written works in this regard and says developing afro-centric children's literature is an important and deeply political project.

It's really at the heart of ensuring that our children's education will no longer be an alienating experience.

Elinor Sisulu, writer and human rights activist

Sisulu explains that children's books are more than just entertainment and - they provide psycho-social lessons and help young people confront fears and challenges.

Story telling fulfills a deep psychological human need. People can use children's books for healing purposes.

Elinor Sisulu, writer and human rights activist

Sisulu and Sidley recommend the following reads for young kids:

  • The Hare and Mr. Mandela by Chris van Wyk (who wrote the children’s version of The Long Work to Freedom).

The Hare finds a R200 note with Mandela’s face and decides to go to Joburg to give it back to him. He has various adventures along the way.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

A hugely successful series which has sold 150 million books worldwide. The book is about a boy named Greg Heffley and his struggles to fit in as he begins middle school.

  • Refilwe by Zukiswa Wanner

A local children's book which retells the classic fairy-tale of Rapunzel with a uniquely South African twist.

  • The Powers of the Knife by Bontle Senne

The first of a trilogy of books aimed at 9-12 year-olds. The book is a fantasy fiction story based in the township setting.

  • The Darkest Dark - by astronaut Chris Hadfield

Beautifully illustrated story about facing your fear – the little boy is afraid of the dark – but also about dreaming big and going on adventures.

  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The classic book recounts the adventures of orphan girl Anne Shirley (11) who is mistakenly sent to a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in Prince Edward Island.

  • Two Of Everything by Babette Cole

Two of Everything tells the story of two prefect siblings, Demetrius and Paula Ogglebutt, with very ugly parents that they want to have an 'unwedding'.

  • Ruby Redfort (series) by Lauren Child

Ruby is a really cool, adventurous protagonist - a code breaker, secret agent and 13 year old school girl. Series finale out now - Blink and You'll Die.

  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Fantastic children’s author – older kids. This is a special collector’s edition that’s been released as a tie in with the movie

  • The Midnight Gang by David Williams

Williams is a popular children’s author (most well-known one was The Boy In The Dress) and he brings out a new book every year. This one is described as a story of friendship, magic and theatre.

If you're in Joburg, take your family to the Puku Afri-kids Festival on Saturday 26 November at the SGI-South Africa Community Centre in Parkwood. Time 10:00 – 18:00. Entry is free.

Listeners also called in to share which books they read to their children or where read to them as kids:


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