Topical Guide to Southern Africa’s Children’s Literature

Introductions to the Author and the Subject

This Library Guide has been compiled by Sydney Zifodya, a student in the Library and Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Southern Mississippi.

This Specialty Library Guide is for Children’s Literature representative of Southern Africa. While all of sub-Saharan Africa is typically grouped into a single category, it is still full of diversity in country, culture, and language. Some elements of stories from one region translate very well to other regions just as all good stories have a universal appeal to them, but there is still something missing from the representation when all of Africa is covered by a single region’s depiction. Even Southern Africa as a region has a wide variety of experiences, landscapes, languages, and cultures. For the purposes of this library guide, we are using Southern Africa as separate from Western Africa or East Africa, though there is some overlap. Most of the studies on the subject are quite dated, and for this guide we are focusing on journals and references from this millennium. All of the sources will be post-independence (or post-minority rule) unless otherwise noted.

The target audience for this guide is two-fold. First, it is for librarians seeking to add diversity to their respective libraries or educators or parents in both the United States and Southern Africa hoping to discover sources specific to Southern Africa. For Americans, having sources geared towards children specific to the geographic location can be used when teaching world history, cultural studies, or geography. For residents of Southern Africa, having stories which may be more familiar to the child either in content or context can encourage and embolden literacy. Celebrating the child’s mother tongue can also aid in teaching foundational subjects as well as enrich the culture. Many of the sources could easily be used for dual purposes to search other regions with a similar goal of finding sources more specific to a particular region or country rather than tackling the continent as a single unit.

Secondly, this guide would be useful for any who should wish to add to the field of research regarding the promotion and promulgation of children’s literature in Southern Africa produced by residents of Southern Africa.


The Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English, accessed on Credo, most relevant entry is “Children’s Literature (South Africa)”
This gives an overview of the colonial nature of South Africa’s history as regards children’s literature with a focus on the European immigrants. This article is specific to South Africa, but the history is similar to that of the rest of the region to some extent. This encyclopedia has other topically relevant entries as well.

The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature has an entry on African Literature which brings the history of children’s publishing on the African continent up to 2003. It focuses on Southern Africa.

Gale Literature Criticism is a database that contains (along with a host of other things) useful historical research on the subject. There are many articles from pre-independence and newly liberated times. Because of the amount of change the region has undergone in political structure over the last fifty years, this research is currently most useful as a look at what was said during the time and how much has not been updated since.

Journal Articles

  • Literature of Social Transformation: Helping Teachers and Students Make Global Connections.
    Neely, A. (2011). Literature of Social Transformation: Helping Teachers and Students Make Global Connections. Language Arts, 88(4), 278-287.
    Highlights the usefulness of studying results of oppression in other localities to help Americans address injustices within home culture. Includes useful lists of books.
  • Shin, J., Sailors, M., McClung, N., Hoffman, J. V., Pearson, P. D., Kaambankadzanja, D., & Mwale, L. (2019). Access to local books: The effects of Read MALAWI from a children’s rights perspective. Literacy, 54(3), 74-90. doi:10.1111/lit.12198
    A study on the dire need for locally published material in both mother tongue and English for children in Malawi.
  • Shall the Lamb Feed Together with the Fox?
    Dube, B. (2004). Shall the Lamb Feed Together with the Fox?: Destroying Race and Gender Stereotypes in Zimbabwean Children’s Readers. Journal of African Children’s and Youth Literature; Reprinted in Children’s Literature Review, 157, 125-172.
    This addresses the important role school readers play. Reading lessons are more than literacy—books paint a picture of the world, and children know when it doesn’t match reality.
  • Optimising Learning, Education and Publishing in Africa: The Language Factor
    Ouane, A. & Glanz, C. (Eds.). (2011). Optimising Learning, Education and Publishing in Africa: The Language Factor. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning; Association for the Development of Education in Africa. doi:
    This study was published by UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning as an overview of the history, politics and complexities regarding language education and publishing in sub-Saharan Africa. It is more a book than a journal but thoroughly academic in nature and so belongs under this heading
  • Books About Africa
    Edinger, M. (2014). Books About Africa. Horn Book Magazine, 90(1), 52–58.
    This article is a reminder to American teachers to look at the whole picture when preparing to teach African literature to an American audience. This article is less academic in nature but still serves as helpful instruction to educators.


  • Pukupedia The Puku Foundation is working to upkeep a list of children’s books in all of South Afirca’s spoken languages.
  • Martin, J.C. (2016). Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time. Zondervan. Give Your Child the World is an annotated bibliography divided by region and age of child. This bibliography is for books from all around the world, but is useful nevertheless.
  • Mpesha, N. (2007). African Children’s Literature: A Bibliography. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
    This bibliography is relatively recent but includes works in kiSwahili, making it more useful for Eastern Africa than Southern. Nevertheless, it is a useful compilation.
  • Reading Zimbabwe is made as an encouragement to Zimbabweans to focus on local literature with sections specific to children’s literature, adult literature, and authors.
  • Kids Travel Books is a most thorough children’s book list by country. It is constantly updated, but no bibliography or reviews.
  • African Storybooks is a collection of open-license children’s stories in over 200 of sub-Saharan Africa’s native languages. These can be read online or printed.
  • Namibia books is a bookshop focused on promoting books published in and about Namibia.
  • Rati and Friends is a resource for children in Botswana for learning in Setswana. Material is not exclusively printed.
  • Colours of Us is a blog by a South African mom making lists of useful multicultural children’s books. This list is all South African books.
  • The Children’s Africana Book Award is presented to books published within the US about African cultures. Despite these limitations, it can be a helpful list of newer publications.


Publishing Ecosystem Talk: Anna Bertmar Khan – Senior Technical Advisor, Dubai Cares (Sweden) from Intl Publishers Association on Vimeo.

Anna Khan gives a compelling argument for teaching children in their native tongue, which, in turn, is a compelling argument for publishing books in these languages.