Odd Bookers: Books You Have to Read Before You Grow Up

By Kelly Ansara

I realise I’m addressing this theme from a rather one-dimensional viewpoint. I know that I could’ve been more creative with the idea of playgrounds and books, and how they can be mental playgrounds that do wonders when it comes to transforming your world. Thing is, if you didn’t already believe books were playgrounds, chances are you wouldn’t be here reading this anyways. 

Working in publishing, I see some pretty horrific statistics regarding the reading ages in South Africa and how, on average, our children start their schooling almost 8 years behind that of the rest of the world. Basically, they’re behind before they’ve even started. The SABDC (The South African Book Development Council) performed a study recently — well 2016 — and found that 21% of South Africans don’t have a library near them. More worrying, 58% of South Africans live in households where there isn’t even a single book present. Reading, it seems, has become a privilege in South Africa, a very expensive hobby that some might consider a luxury. It’s crazy to think that not everyone in SA has access to these types of mental playgrounds.

So, what I’d like to do today is tell you about the books I think every child should have, and, if you get the opportunity to buy that kiddo in your family a book, consider the below:

  • Books to Teach


How To Manage Your Money Like a Grownup by Sam Beckbessinger

A practical guide to handling your money because you’re never too young to start saving. Manage Your Money Like a Grownup, by bestselling author Sam Beckbessinger, aims to get younger readers thinking about the basics of money by providing them with a solid foundation in financial education which most grownups today never had.

With illustrations, jokes and fun facts designed to appeal to even the most easily bored reader, this book covers all the basics South African teenagers need to know about money.

We are One by Refiloe Moahloli

This is one of those books I wish I had as a kid. A lyrical picture book that teaches us about friendship and Ubuntu while celebrating how different we are.

Also available in Afrikaans and isiZulu.

  • Books to Entertain


Where Is Lulu? Illustrated by Clyde Beech; Written by Mohale Mashigo; Designed by Nkosingiphile Mazibuko; Edited by Lisa Treffry-Goatley

This book, concerning Lulu and her whereabouts, is part of a project that is just near and dear to my heart. Book Dash designed a publishing model that harnesses professional creative volunteers to vastly reduce the time and costs involved in creating beautiful new books for children. This book is inexpensive, beautiful and brief, the perfect addition to any child’s library. See more about Book Dash here: https://bookdash.org/

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is considered a classic and either one for kids who are more proficient in reading or whose parents have a few minutes to spare before bedtime. This is a magical story about the titular little prince who journeys about, visiting different planets along the way.  This book deals with themes of loneliness, friendship, loss and love. You can find some gorgeous editions around for really affordable prices. 

Matilda by Roald Dahl

This was my favourite book as a child. Something really resonated in me when I picked up my copy of Matilda. A genius child who loves reading and cannot find a place for herself in her family and at school, Matilda uses the power of reading to unlock a superpower of sorts. 


I hope there’s something here for that special little someone in your family (or you!), and I encourage you, if you’ve got the time, to read to them, buy books for them, and, perhaps most importantly, read with them. And, if you don’t have a child within your circles of nearest and dearest, please find an NGO or support initiatives like Book Dash to help get South African children reading. It’s a worthy cause because every child deserves a playground both outside their home and inside.