For the full text of Lorato Trok's acceptance speech click here.
For the full text of the laudacio by Jury President click here.

2004: Prize giving ceremony at the Cape Town Congress

The Italian Club in Rugby provided the festive setting for the presentation of the IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award 2004. However, on the way to the evening celebration participants were treated to a visit to the ZipZap Circus, where young people entertained everyone with their daring acts on the high trapeze, juggling with fire, mono cycle tricks and their general exuberance. After reaching the Italian club, Jury President, Xosé Antonio Neira Cruz, gave the laudatio and together with the representative of the Asahi Shimbun, Atsushi Osaki presented the $US 10,000 cheque and diploma to Lorato Trok who is the project co-ordinator of First Words in Print, the winner of the 2004 IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award. This book development project aims to ensure that all young South Africa children have access to the stimulation of picture books and story books in their own languages.

Xosé Antonio Neira Cruz called IBBY members, “builders of books, tellers of stories, painters of words [whose] world is made of words or images to illustrate words.. With our words, we will try to sow new seeds even as we tend the harvest of the seeds planted by others before us.” He told them that they had “finally come to Africa to talk about dreams and words; we’ve come to celebrate the endless creativity of Africa and to learn more about how books reach African children. We know already that there are many obstacles in the way of the African people who try to make this happen, but we also know that what they can teach us can fill all our houses with unexpected discoveries and intensely stirring dreams.” He praised the winning project for “having filled the South African houses with words and with books. With these gifts has come, as it often does, the hope of a better world for everybody.”

In her acceptance speech, Lorato Trok, speaking on behalf of all those involved with the project said that the IBBY-Asahi Award “is a victory for all South African children who have long waited to read and enjoy books that depict the surroundings they live in, and most importantly in their own languages. What better time could be to receive this award than now as we are celebrating ten years of democracy in our country! The problem of illiteracy in South Africa is one of the most vicious legacies of apartheid. In homes where the adults are illiterate or functionally illiterate, the children stand little or no chance of developing the literacy skills they will need to be able to make sense of their school environment when they begin formal schooling. There is a perception that African people have a culture of non-reading. I dispute this. I grew up in poverty and neither my mother nor my father was a reader. What I know is I have always loved books and reading. I would pick up anything with words on it to read. There weren’t any books in my native Setswana language that I could read except textbooks. The only thing that kept me from owning books was that my parents couldn’t afford to buy us books, and there was no library in our area nor in any of the schools I attended. What we rather say is African people love books and reading just as much as anyone, but because the majority of them are poor, buying books is not a priority in terms of need. We often equate books with intelligence and wealth, and this excludes the rural poor, and also makes them feel threatened. With the First Words in Print project we are unearthing the love of reading from children whose parents cannot afford to buy books for them, and in the same way inculcating a culture of reading in that delicate early age, as well as appreciating their languages. We are also saying reading books should be fun. We still have a long way to go, but we are making a huge progress.”