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First Words in Print (FWIP) or Isiqalo (‘the start’ or ‘the beginning’) is an award-winning project which places books in their home languages into the hands of children younger than six. It was awarded the IBBY – Asahi Reading Promotion Award in 2004, was a finalist for the 2004 Arts and Culture Trust Award and short-listed for the 2007 Astrid Lindgren Award.

The project was initiated in 2000 when Centre for the Book (CFB), in partnership with the Nordic Council of Ministers, hosted a workshop to discuss the urgent need in South Africa for children aged from zero to five to be given access to books. At this workshop consensus was reached on the importance of placing books directly in the hands of children in the age range of zero to five years, to stimulate their interest in books as objects of pleasure and entertainment. They also identified a need to develop in children and their families a sense of books as treasured possessions that could be used and shared in many different ways in the home, rather than being simply sources of information and formal learning in school. Workshop participants noted that there were virtually no indigenous South African books designed specifically for very young children. These were books that reflected the real daily lives and communities of children in urban and rural settings, that were rich in pictures and light on text, that included familiar rhymes and songs that children might hear at home, and that were available in the home languages of the majority of South African children. The workshop resolved to initiate the FWIP project.

The aims of FWIP are as follows:

  • To enhance a reading culture in very young children to stimulate their development by giving them books;
  • To encourage South African writers, illustrators and publishers to produce appropriate literature for children aged 0 – 6 years;
  • To distribute sets of picture and story books in all South African official languages to children to help build a common culture of literature for future generations;
  • To facilitate and encourage a culture of reading within the communities where the project is implemented.

The first phase of the project, the pilot phase, started 2002. The second phase ran from 2004 to 2005, the third in 2007 and the fourth phase in 2009. During these four phases 14 books were developed, all of them were translated into the 11 official languages of South Africa. By the end of 2009, a total of 67 260 packs of books (236 190 books) were distributed in various provinces in South Africa.

Click here for information about the books.

Click here for information about the areas of operation.

Click here for information about the research and evaluation.

For more information contact Children’s Literature Coordinator, Phakama Matoti at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .