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Beyond the printed word

September is literacy month — a time to celebrate reading and writing. September 8 is International Literacy Day and, on home ground, the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) is launching an inaugural National Book Week from September 6 to 13. It is also the month of the annual Readathon headed by READ Educational Trust.

For those with access to a library or a book club, September is about swapping, sharing, reviewing, discovering and, best of all, reading.

But what about teachers and learners who don’t have access to these materials or clubs? And what about those who just aren’t into dusty, heavy old books? Fear not; we are in the digital age.

Literacy has moved beyond the printed word to a range of different media and forms. Below is a rough guide to some of those digital literacy resources.

Mobile novels (m-Novels) are short stories published on cellphones. Yoza is South Africa’s small but growing library of m-novels run by the Shuttleworth Foundation. There are four great new series such as teen soap operas on a cellphone: Kontax (adventure), Sisterz (romance), Confessions (teen issues) and Streetskillz (soccer). There are also once-off stories, such as a Bicycle Ride through Lesotho, and Yoza Classics for the greats such as Macbeth.

Cellphones are not just good for reading on, but also for writing with. Until September 15, READ Educational Trust and Yoza are giving away R100 in airtime each day for the best comment left on any Yoza story. This is part of Readathon which, for the first time, is including cellphones in its writing competitions. There are also writing competitions for each of the four story series. Learners can enter these as many times as they like before September 20 to win prizes. Details and entry forms are available on and also on MXit (go to Tradepost > MXit Cares > mobiBooks > Yoza).

The are tens of thousands of books online — many are free to read online or download. At Project Gutenberg you can download more than 33 000 free ebooks to read on your PC, iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone, Android or other portable device. Many of the books from Project Gutenberg are available at the free site — but there are also reader reviews and recommendations, and the list of books has been curated to avoid duplication. For example, if you search Project Gutenberg for Macbeth you find nine books — different prints from different sources; on there is only one result, which seems to make the searching process easier.

The International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) website has a collection of wonderful children’s literature that is available online free of charge.

If you want to organise books, make or read reviews, create reading groups and more, then check out LibraryThing or Shelfari.

For those who prefer to listen to their books, there are a few options. LibriVox provides free audiobooks from the public domain. For younger readers there are two great audio and visual story telling options: Speakaboos is a site where children can listen to, and watch stories, fables, fairy tales, nursery rhymes and songs. The site also allows children and teachers or parents to record their own voices reading (or singing!) their favourite story, song, or nursery rhyme. Then there is Story Home, a collection of original and classic children’s audio stories read by a storyteller named Alan, all free. For a full list of online reading sites check out Maggie Verster’s list at

Steve Vosloo is the fellow for 21st-century learning at the Shuttleworth Foundation. ([email protected])

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