School of Arts Conference

Unisa Children's Literature Awards 2024


In South Africa about 78% of Grade 4s were unable to “read for meaning in any language” pre-COVID-19, in 2023 that figure increased to 82% (Reading Panel 2030). The only way to improve one’s reading ability is to read and this is the same for an ordinary South African child. Thus, access to relatable and interesting books in schools is vital. But how is this possible when there is limited access to relevant African literature especially in African languages?

Furthermore, Publishers Association SA (2016) found that most currently published stories are not relatable enough to South Africa’s majority since most are translations from other languages. Only 2% of children’s books published commercially in South Africa are in an Indigenous South African language (Publishers Association SA 2016). Yet 80% of the population speak a home language other than English or Afrikaans which dominate publications. Moreover, only 8% of our public schools have a functional school library (Equal Education 2016).

As a country we have a responsibility to improve the reading performance of all our young people for the social advantages that reading provides them. While others confront the mechanics of reading and literacy, University of South Africa’s School of Arts encourages the culture of reading, in Indigenous languages of South Africa through its Children’s Literature Awards. This is also aligned with UNESCO’s Decade of Indigenous Language, as it opens doors for the indigenous languages to be recognized.

In the world there is a considerable number of established children’s literature awards and competitions offered by a wide variety of entities and individuals yet in South Africa, there are very few. Through the inauguration of the UNISA’s Children’s Awards in October 2023 Unisa created a platform that hyped and enticed emerging children’s authors and illustrators to write more original South African children’s stories in Indigenous languages. The Awards are also meant to appreciate and recognise contributions made by South Africans to Children’s Literature and literacy.


About the awards

A celebration of children’s authors and illustrators, to honour and encourage the profession.

The awards aim to attract a new generation of emerging children’s authors completely new to writing for children and those not previously published elsewhere within children’s literature genres.

In South Africa, there is a lack of literary text written in African languages, or where these languages are allowed to co-exist. This initiative would avail literary text to children and contribute to literacy development. Therefore, this initiative will be limited to the following indigenous languages in South Africa:

Indigenous Languages

Sepedi isiXhosa Tshivenda Setswana isiZulu Xitsonga isiNdebele Sesotho SiSwati

Children’s Literature Awards’ submission criteria:

  • The manuscript must be purely new (not published or submitted for publication somewhere else).
  • The manuscript must be in one of South Africa’s Indigenous languages.
  • The manuscript must not be a translation of any book existing in any other language or a transcription of an existing oral literature.
  • Submissions must be from citizens of South Africa.
  • The author must not be a child offender (a police clearance will be required).
  • The author can only make submission for one language.
  • Late submissions will not be accepted.


Submission Requirements

The completed entry form, manuscript and Police clearance must be emailed to on or before 16:00 on 31 August 2024.

 Adjudication procedure

Each language will have an adjudication panel which will assess the quality, originality, and relevance of the submitted manuscripts. The manuscripts will go through a blind adjudication review. Each manuscript will be reviewed by a panel of experts with experience in language and literature (children’s literature).


The aim of the nominations is to give the public an opportunity to nominate established authors of children’s literature, from the nine indigenous languages of South Africa. The intention is to recognise and appreciate these authors for their contributions to children’s literature. Therefore, nine authors (one from each of the 9 indigenous languages) will be shortlisted and acknowledged.

Children’s Literature Nominations criteria:

  • The nominee must have published a book or books that are exceptionally outstanding and have made a great contribution to children’s literature.
  • The book must be written in one of the South Africa’s nine indigenous official languages (as mentioned above)
  • The book must not be a translation of any existing written or oral literature
  • Nominees’ books must be currently in print and available in South Africa.
  • Nominees must be citizens of South Africa
  • The nominee must not be a child offender (pre-screening to take place)

Click here to download the nomination form

Children's Literature Awards Entry Form

Submission Requirements

The completed nomination form must be emailed to on or before 16:00 on 31 August 2024.

Important dates

Opening date for submissions and nominations: 01 June 2024

Due date for submissions and nominations: 31 August 2024


Mabina Jimmy – Project Coordinator
012 429 6028

Last modified: 2024/05/08