Books promote comprehension of African languages

Learners enjoying reading at Vula Bula Books.

While English is the language of business and necessary for entry into a professional career, it is still important for your child to know how to read an indigenous language.

One reason for this is it lays a strong foundation, giving them the cognitive skills they need to learn English.

Being able to read in their own African language also connects children to their culture and heritage, while boosting their sense of self-esteem and identity.

The Vula Bula book series, published by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy, is very effective in teaching your child to read an African language proficiently.

Available to learners in Grades One to Three, these readers (books) offer a range of entertaining stories for children in isiXhosa, isiZulu, isiNdebele, Sesotho, Sepedi, Setswana, Xitsonga and Tshivenda.

The institute is currently in the process of producing readers in Siswati and will publish books for children in grades higher than Grade Three in the near future.

The Vula Bula African language graded reading series offers carefully structured graded texts for early, emergent and fluent readers in beautifully illustrated stories that are contextualised to the young reader’s inner world and life experiences.

A learner reading a book.

Both short and simple, the readers contain predictable text to facilitate and encourage reading for enjoyment.

Simple sentence structures and familiar vocabulary enable rapid reading progress, while clear and detailed illustrations help to understand.

The graded readers can be used for shared, group, guided, paired and independent reading. Several texts include facts about animals, friends and family, places in our environment, and South Africa.

Stories encourage self-reflection, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Masennya Dikotla, the chief executive officer of the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy, says the institute’s series of Vula Bula African language books offer numerous benefits for children.

“Through reading these books, children learn to speak and read an African language,” he says.

“They learn to identify letters and about the structure of words and sentences.

“Additionally, they also learn to read with understanding, about the connection with letters and sounds while also increasing their vocabulary.

“Another advantage is that the stories within the books are set within a context children can relate to.”

The Vula Bula Books are a great way to empower children to read effectively.

The Department of Basic Education launched the Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) Policy in 2015 for Grade Ones and the policy will be introduced incrementally until 2026, when it will be introduced in Grade 12.

The policy states that it is compulsory for all schools to offer previously marginalised official languages to learners in all schools currently not offering any African language, other than Afrikaans.

In promoting the IIAL, Molteno’s Vula Bula series is now available in some government schools.

Molteno is promoting greater use of their storybooks in private schools and former Model C schools.

In addition to making their books available in schools, Molteno recommends parents buy Vula Bula books for their children.

Through providing them with these readers, children become aware that reading is a pleasurable experience that doesn’t only have to happen in school.

By reading at home, they strengthen the skills they’ve learned within the school environment.

If you would like to access Vula Bula books for a child or a school, contact the Molteno Head Office on 011 484 6245 or visit their websites at or

Malebo Tseke

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