Moms cultivate reading culture with kids online

The founding mothers of Ethnikids (from left: Precious Mdlalose, Khumo Tapfumaneyi, Mpho Maje, Kgalalelo Nazo and Tina Akuoko.
The founding mothers of Ethnikids (from left: Precious Mdlalose, Khumo Tapfumaneyi, Mpho Maje, Kgalalelo Nazo and Tina Akuoko.
Image: Lebo Skywalker

When a group of five mothers were tired of hunting down diverse literature in book stores and libraries, they knew they needed to fill this gap in literature. When they finally found a scattering of books that their children could relate to, they saw a business opportunity. And thus, Ethnikids was born, and this month they are celebrating a year in business.

Khumo Tapfumaneyi, who does sales and marketing at Ethnikids, shares that the bookstore started off as a passion project. Describing it as a side hustle, the team collected a number of books that they would send to subscribers. The subscribers gave information on their children’s age, home language and gender and the Ethnikids team would ship books to every quarter.

Image: Supplied

“Our main mission is to affirm children and empower them by allowing them to see themselves in the material that they consume,” said Tapfumaneyi. It was in October 2017 that they saw a larger demand for the books on their website and decided to morph Ethnikids into an online bookstore. The books they offer are written in all 11 official languages, and thanks to the rising demand they will include other African languages, Shona being at the top of the list. The online store allows parents to search for books according to language and the appropriate reading age ranging from 0 to 11.

Ethnikids has collaborated with Nirox Foundation Sculpture Park, Sandton Library and Future Nation for a number of their events where they feature author readings. Last Saturday, they celebrated their one year anniversary with six children’s writers including their most popular book, Mzansi Nursery Rhymes by Tumi Wessie, which was read to the children at the event. “Normally, that would appeal to the children but adults were taken back to their days back in crèche. Everybody was singing along and it was just a beautiful moment.” 

Tapfumaneyi was also proud to have had Sindiwe Mamgoni, popularly known as the “Mother of Stories”. She did her first Johannesburg-based reading of a book she wrote in partnership with Stellenbosch University titled Skin We Are In. “I t’s important that we have events where they can meet the author, listen to the story and engage with the story in other ways. And those have been received very well.”

Starting Ethnikids as a business came with its fair share of difficulties, especially since none of the five women in the team are from a publishing background and they often felt like outsiders. “People were telling us, ‘black people a re n’t really interested in reading’ or ‘how can you just focus on protagonists of colour?’ There were a lot of limiting beliefs that we were able to overcome because we don’t know any different.” To house a book under Ethnikids is not difficult, but Tapfumaneyi says they take into consideration excellent grammar and beautiful illustrations.

Ethnikids will be celebrating Africa Day on May 26 with authors Nthabi Sibinda, who wrote Lula and Lebo, and Zanele Ndlovu, who wrote uMakhoyana . To purchase a book visit www.ethnikids.co.za or follow them on Instagram and Twitter @ethnikids_co as well as their Facebook page at Ethnikco

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