IBBY-Yamada 2009: Canada

Unknown 2 Known: Children’s book-making project

In 2007 and 2008, with funding from IBBY, the Extra-Mural Education Project in Cape Town, South Africa, piloted a children’s book-making project in one of EMEP’s partner schools, Vukani Primary in South Africa.   EMEP practitioners work closely with a group of young volunteers at the Zimele Community Development, as well as with University Interns, to manage and deliver the project. 

There has been growing confidence, self-esteem and enjoyment on the part of the children, as well as increased interest and support from the Vukani staff members.  At a 'book launch' the school's principal attributed improved literacy scores to the project.  

The following aims were adapted from IBBY’s original guidelines and complement EMEP’s and its partner schools’ aims very well: 

  • To empower children with knowledge, confidence, and essential communication skills through story telling (oral, written, and visual).
  • To instil in children a strong sense of individual pride and belonging through community interaction and the preservation of family and cultural history.
  • To foster children’s familiarity with and love for books, by exposing them more to existing children’s literature, and exciting art supplies that the children and the volunteers have not had much access to before. 
  • To enhance the children’s technical understanding of books, by emphasizing the different elements of books, such as pagination, layout, titles and dedications as well as story components (characterization, conflict, resolution etc).
  • To incorporate a focus on the therapeutic aspects of story writing.
  • To improve literacy scores.



The children who participate in the project are encouraged to write stories of everyday life: the Known and at the same time to collect stories from their parents, grandparents, and neighbours: family anecdotes, folktales and legends: the Unknown.  

Project volunteers and teachers help the children turn these stories into written stories, developing essential writing skills and preserving these stories for others to share.  Children also illustrate the stories, incorporating visual forms of narration with the written.  At the end of each project period, all the children make their own handmade book of their favourite story using lots of creative art supplies.  Scans and photocopies are made of each book to create a permanent record of the community’s stories and the children’s work, and are distributed to the school library, local library, and other organizations.  

Throughout the process, participants are exposed to more children’s literature, storytelling methods, book-making techniques and, along the way they learn to cherish books as resources of knowledge, imagination, emotion, and shared experience.  Because of the high level of poverty in the local communities, each child is given a small meal and a drink at every session.  

At the end of the project a 'book launch' was held and each of the children get to keep the original hand-made copy of their book.  All the parents, teachers and those interested in the project are invited to the celebration.   One of the volunteers wrote: Last week we had a 'book launch' with our latest group of Vukani kids.  It was very sweet.  Some of the children read their stories for an audience of teachers and EMEP staffers.  Even though a lot of the stories were in Xhosa, from the response of the audience, we realised that there is a lot of talent among those little kids.  It is such a privilege to play a part in making it possible for them to express and practice their gifts.