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Alex Smith

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Formative Reading Experiences: S.A.Partridge

sallyseaBearing a treasure of books and a small monkey, S.A.Partridge came for afternoon coffee. They were gifts for baby Elias. Sally said the books were those she had loved as a child and one of them was her own copy of a most beautifully illustrated Peter Pan. Seeing these books reminded me of a blog series I did a few years ago on ‘Formative Reading Experiences of African Authors’ for the Little Hands Trust. At that time, I didn’t interview Sally, a literary star, one of South Africa’s very finest authors of YA fiction and soon to be an international name. So here now are Sally’s formative reading experiences:

1. What is your earliest memory of books and reading?
We couldn’t always afford new books, so my father used to tell me stories about Super Leonard (based on his own adventures of course) These adventures ranged from cowboy capers and dramatic helicopter rescues to shark encounters where he always came out tops. My parents encouraged creativity, so my imagination flourished. I grew up on home-made stories and naturally, I made up my own as well. My parents were, and still are, avid readers, so my Mom used to take me to the library often to foster this love of storytelling.

2. As a small child, what book/s were your favourite?

When we did buy books to keep they were absolutely treasured. My favorites were Peter Pan by J.M Barrie, The Faraway Tree and the Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton. As I got older I sought out anything with a mystery element to it, like the Nancy Drew series. My Mom used to scour jumble sales and church fetes for second hand books so she had a large collection of Agatha Christie novels. I grew up loving these too.

3.Where did you grow up? Do you have a particular memory of a library, bookshop or other place of books in your hometown?

I grew up in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, so my Mom and I used to regularly visit Claremont library for our week’s reads. Even after we moved, the first thing I did was locate the nearest library. I can’t live without books.

4. As an adult, in the role of parent or caregiver, what has been your experience of reading with children?

I really love reading at schools. I love the reactions and the enthusiastic responses I get afterwards. After all, this is my target market, and its a captive audience to read to. Spending time with my readers is one of the perks of being a young adult writer.

And here are some of the other wonderful authors born or living in Africa who responded before:

Sarah LotzMy earliest memory is being shocked senseless by Beatrix Potter. Is there anything more disturbing than The Tale of Samuel Whiskers? The image of Tom Kitten being casually rolled into a roly-poly pudding by a giant rat gave me claustrophobia and nightmares well into my twenties, and I blame Ms Potter for my obsession with horror literature. I was equally terrified by Dr Seuss’s warped illustrations (still am). Read more about Sarah’s formative reading experiences…

Susan Kiguli I do not know if it is possible to express adequately what sharing another world and space or being part and parcel of an exciting creative process, and to feel that it is acceptable as well as good to imagine means even to a young mind. As a child, in books I found the power to dream, to laugh to hide my face behind my palms in pure terror. This is where I could think freely and sympathise with children unjustly treated by friends and adults, it was the corner where I was allowed to gawk at illustrations of delicious food without being reminded to mind my manners! I loved the words and the pictures with their strong primary colours. Read more about Susan’s formative reading experiences…

Henrietta Rose-Innes My mother taught me to read as well. We had a series of strange readers, in lurid colours and containing rather peculiar stories. There was one I remember vividly which involved little red demons invading some poor peasant household, putting the little old lady and the little old man in a sack and poking them with little red fingers, and – I’m not making this up – cutting their dog in half! Now that’s one illustration that’s branded into my brain. Where did she get those books from?! They were great. It seems there were no saccharine children’s books in our house, or if there were I don’t remember them at all. The ones that stuck with me were the ones that stirred me up. I believe that children have a great capacity for pretty complex emotions – wonder, dread, melancholy, exhilaration – and I don’t think it does them any harm to be mystified and even a little terrified by what happens within the sanctuary of a book. Read more about Henrietta’s formative reading experiences…

Lisl Jobson The Pinetown library had a long red verandah and going there was a regular and very special treat. But long before we learned to read there were always bed time stories that my father told without a book. Always theatrical and never quite the same – The Tale of Little Coffeepot and Songololo Girl’s Shoe Shopping Expedition were my favourites. Read more about Lisl’s formative reading experiences…

Gabeeba Baderoon I remember my mother and father reading to my sisters and me. We would go to Hanover Park library, choose our books and sit in the small wooden chairs next to the child-sized tables. I loved disappearing into the faraway worlds of fairy tales and legends. Read more about Gabeeba’s formative Reading experiences…

Beverley Naidoo Not having books is not always just about lack of money. It’s also about those in power recognising how important and valuable books are as ‘mind food’. We need to remind our leaders that young people should have the freedom to read, imagine, think and ask their own questions about the world which is already passing into their young hands. Read more about Beverley’s formative reading experiences..

Karina Brink Confession time: When I was a child I loved books and stories, but hated reading them myself (until I was 13!). So my earliest memories of books, or rather stories, are of somebody reading them to me, usually my grandfather who was a magnificent storyteller as well. I remember that whenever my brother Krystian and I visited our grandparents (which was often) our grandfather would tell us stories, known ones but also some invented by him. Our cousins Ala and Tomek lived with our grandparents, so he always had a small kindergarten group around him, listening. He also bought us an LP player and many LPs with fairytales and we listened to them every night before falling asleep. So most of the stories I remember from childhood came to me as sounds only, not captured into physical objects one could page through. Read more about Karina’s formative reading experiences…

Sindiwe Magona No books feature in my early childhood. There were none in the village where I was born and it was when we came to Cape Town and had the exceeding good fortune of a neighbour who worked as a domestic servant for a family with children who read and gave her books and comics to take home that I entered the world of books and reading. My parents never bought books and the only books we ever paid for were school books. But from age five, I made up for lost time. Read more about Sindiwe’s formative reading experiences here…

Helen Moffett I have a vivid memory, a few months before my fourth birthday, of a teacher friend of my parents putting a book in my hands and giving me my first reading lesson. I remember how desperately I wanted to unlock the code that would let me understand words on pages. I remember acutely where we were (on the stoep of the farmhouse where we lived), the old-fashioned pictures, the first words (“Oh! Oh! Oh! Baby falls down!”). Read more about Helen’s formative reading experiences here…


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    April 1st, 2014 @06:03 #

    I'd love to collect some other formative reading experiences for other blogs, if anyone would like to answer the questions please let me know (or if you prefer you could answer them with a comment here).

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rachel Zadok</a>
    Rachel Zadok
    April 2nd, 2014 @10:55 #

    It's a great idea and would make a cool blog roll for Short Story Day Africa this year. Last year we did The Interview. If you'd be interested in collaborating and creating this year's blog roll? Email me and we can discuss: info at shortstorydayafrica dot org.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    April 2nd, 2014 @19:18 #

    Sounds most intriguing (even though I'm not sure what 'creating a blog roll' means' exactly). I'll email now, thanks Rachel.


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