Behind every book is a story. As adults, we still reminisce about getting lost in the many stories we read as kids.
At the end of every book was a list of new words, a bigger view of the world, feeling like we could relate to the character’s journey. And the lessons they learned along the way. This is the beauty and power of reading.
We are all about unearthing Botswana’s hidden gems, and stories, our latest find being Rati. We discovered Rati and her friends, from the Tshikinyega ‘Shake & Roll’ Game. The Mum behind it all, Onica Lekuntwane, shares with us the meaningful backstory behind Botswana’s favourite children’s character.
How Did Rati And Her Friends Come To Life?
I am a mum to a very creative 12-year-old boy. From a very young age, whilst living in Johannesburg, it was clear that my son was differently gifted – preferring to communicate visually instead of verbally.
To make it easier for us to communicate, l would create characters that looked like him and l. And started incorporating them into visual stories about day to day things. When he finally spoke – at the age of 6 – l had created Rati and her Friends.
When we returned to Botswana, mid-2013, l had another cultural shock – both adults and children could not string together a full sentence without peppering it with English words. Some of the children couldn’t speak a word of Setswana!
This is when l decided to use Rati and her friends to make learning Setswana (and other mother-tongue languages) as fun as learning in English.
You Have A Rich Background In Graphic Design. Did You Ever Think You Would Be Writing Children’s Books?
I didn’t start off with a plan to write children’s books. l wanted to create digital and print content that would appeal to kids growing up and learning in Botswana.
When conducting research, l realised that there are no Setswana or mother-tongue books – outside of the school curriculum – which kids can read for leisure.
Whilst working on a solution for this, l also learned of the bigger social ills of sexual abuse and toxic masculinity. And decided to start addressing those first, before the readers and animated content.
What Does Learn And Play Mean To You?
l describe the brand as a window and mirror because l want kids to see the possibilities that are out there, as well as see themselves reflected positively through the media.
Rati looks good with her plaited hair and shweshwe dress. Setso makes clay cows and wire cars. Lesedi has albinism and Khwema is Khwe boy. These are the characters l use when telling stories, teaching language, etiquette, and creativity. This way children have fun as they learn new things.
How Do You Think Parents And Guardians Can Encourage Kids To Read More?
Every child should receive books as gifts. Parents should read to their kids as often as possible, and encourage face to face interaction. We live in a time of gadgets – and as much as they are useful for teaching and learning, they should not be used as babysitting tools, or to replace books and dialogue.
Anything New We Should Look Forward To From Rati?
Many parents have been asking for readers from Rati and Friends, and we will finally be releasing some in mid-September. We will also have some animated content – mostly in Setswana – because of representation matters.
The other books (My Body Belongs to Me, Mmele O ke Wame and Monnatia) are also available.
More Children’s Books In Botswana
Rati And Her Friends are only one of the many children’s books series written in Botswana. Here are more tales for your kids. The list is diverse, but there are many more books out there. These can be found on the shelve or by order from Sebilo Books.
This is a story about a boy who likes to herd goats but has a hard time making friends. The Author’s message to primary aged kids is to find help by communicating, rather than hiding when they’re not happy.
It encourages reading in Setswana as a way of preserving the language and culture.
The Two Kingdoms
At a time when the Kingdom of the Kalahari had neither daylight nor darkness, only twilight skies and a rooster’s crow marked the time. Into this kingdom, twin Tswana princesses are born. Their competition for the throne brought new treasures to the world. Read an inspired myth about the origin of daylight and darkness.
Learn about Botswana’s cultural beliefs and the significance of names, leaders and signs from the ancestors.
The Seed Children
Deep in the forest of Shorobe, Peo is guarding a very big secret. Join her and her new friends as they explore the treasures of nature. Play fun games, unearth fascinating superstitions about trees and learn medicinal and traditional uses of shrubs and trees in Botswana.
Tlou: The Elephant Story
A young maiden with a newborn baby is plagued by hunger, loneliness and unhappiness. In a desperate bid to find the happiness she needs, she flees from her home and leaves her whole life behind.
This interactive book is about discovering how she does this using some exciting facts about the world’s largest land mammal.
Nature’s Cleanup Crew
Vultures are one of nature’s most mysterious yet important creatures. Found all over the world with one important task; to keep the world that we live in clean.
This book allows children to explore Botswana’s northern region where trouble descends on two farmlands and the two farmers wrestle with these misunderstood yet magnificent birds.
Written in Sekgalagadi, this book encourages learning the beautiful dialect while sharing the story of a courageous young orphan boy who comes up with creative ideas to make sure he and his grandmother have something to eat.
Learning From Good Tales
Stealing, bullying, cleanliness, being unkind and the pitfalls of peer pressure are all learned behaviours. Anything learned can be unlearned.
Learning from good old tales has a powerful factor in shaping a child’s values.
This book series introduces Botswana’s animals that the little ones in both English and Setswana.
They may see them all the time but not know much about them. The graphics are fun and easy to follow along.
Priyanka uses her storytelling to playfully educate young children about animal conservation.
An Elephant’s Tale is a playful yet important read in the current race against elephant and rhino extinction. Follow the adventures of Tusky as he braves life in the wild.
A Tiger’s Tale is the epic adventure of Sherni, the grand tigress who befriends Little Monk and the two travel across the world seeking justice for Sherni’s hunted tribe and spread the message of reforestation.
I Am Because I Am
This book is all about self-awareness and mindfulness for kids and teaches them positive thinking. Easy to read and refreshing, it teaches kids from an early age to be kind, loving and compassionate towards themselves.
Inspired by the Author’s own journey of using powerful of affirmations and gratitude to build confidence in herself and her decisions, and how she started teaching this to her young daughter.
For more children’s books in Botswana, check out these bookstores around Gaborone. Did we miss any local books that your kids love? We would love to know about them, leave us a comment below.