It’s no secret that over the years Wimpy has remained a South African favourite for both young and old, and as one of SA’s most loved family restaurants, children are close to Wimpy’s heart and core to its offering.
Wimpy believes that entertainment can also be educational and has committed to bringing “edu-tainment” to life through reading. Following the success of the partnership between Wimpy and Ethnikids last year, a new collection of books has been written based on five different South African folktales and are available in all 11 official languages, as well as in Khoekhoe/Nama. The initiative shines a spotlight on Mzansi’s rich cultural heritage and the importance of children reading diverse material.
In a country with 11 official languages, mother tongue language books are not part of the mainstream nor are they readily available. With the widest selection of inclusive children’s books in South Africa, Ethnikids, founded by five moms, specialises in providing children with diverse, multicultural, multilingual content and tales that represent the rainbow nation’s melting pot.
Ethnikids custom wrote and designed the books to align with Wimpy’s vision of developing a collection of children’s stories based on folktales while promoting inclusivity, diversity and characters of colour. This partnership enabled the involvement of top-quality authors and illustrators, with narrated versions of the books also available on Wimpy’s website.
While English-language books featuring Eurocentric narratives are readily available, they lack cultural context that enables children of various backgrounds to identify with the stories they are told. According to the South African Constitution, everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice. Studies also support that language diversity in literature creates smarter, happier children who are more likely to succeed later in life.
“We have a literacy crisis in South Africa, with many children not showing any interest in reading. After years of searching for books with characters that look like our children, it worried us that many children’s narratives were being excluded. It’s important for children’s self-image to relate to what they read, to understand more about other cultures and to breed tolerance,” says Khumo Tapfumaneyi, Ethnikids co-founder. “To spark a love of reading, we need to provide children with material that they can identify with; they need to see people that look like them in the stories they read,” she adds.
Maintaining language and traditions through literature enables cultures to be preserved for future generations, as the ritual of storytelling and cultural folktales underpin the values of society. “These books will offer children a myriad cultural values such as identity, quality time with their families through reading, learning about other cultures and helping to build their confidence – all while maintaining and preserving their home language,” adds Tapfumaneyi.
This year’s campaign includes an interactive online and in-restaurant experience encouraging children to engage with the stories. Children can choose their own ending by scanning a QR code at the back of the books, using their own imagination to expand on the narratives.
English books will be available at Wimpy restaurants with a Kids’ Combo Meal and online versions of the books will be available at https://wimpy.co.za/kids/ in all other official languages, as well as in Khoekhoe/Nama.
The campaign will include a second phase which will introduce puppetry in the storytelling journey. Here kids will be able to collect 3D cardboard puppets from each of the featured books. These fold-out scenes will include different characters and allow kids to make use of their imagination, acting out scenes and making up their own characters.
“We are passionate about igniting a love of reading and it’s important that we create a sense of pride in who we are and where we come from in a way that children are familiar with,” says Wimpy Marketing Executive, Jacques Cronje.