An evening with PRAESA, the 2015 ALMA Winner, at the International Youth Library
Every year in late spring, the International Youth Library has the great pleasure to present the new Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) winner to a German audience. PRAESA, the 2015 winners, travelled to Schloss Blutenburg in Munich on 3rd June. For them, the Munich visit was the conclusion to a busy ALMA award week in Sweden, which had been filled with school visits, interviews and presentations, including the grand prize giving ceremony at Stockholm Concert Hall just two nights before.
PRAESA, Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa, is an organisation that promotes reading and literature for young people in different languages. For more than twenty years PRAESA has combined latest research with creative methods to find new ways to make children in South Africa discover the joy of books and storytelling not only in English and Afrikaans but also – and most importantly – in their mother tongues.
The ALMA evening opened with two musical pieces by Munich musician and multi-instrumentalist Ardhi Engl. Playing on various instruments that he created from everyday objects, such as a piece of plastic pipe or a set of badminton rackets, Ardhi Engl entertained and delighted the audience in between speeches and presentations with his experimental compositions.
Dr. Christiane Raabe, the library’s director, warmly welcomed the guests of honour and congratulated them on winning the world’s largest prize for international children’s and young adult literature. Her welcome address was followed by the laudatory speech held by renowned German children’s book author Kirsten Boie. Boie, who has been supporting humanitarian projects in Swasiland for years, stressed the importance of reading and storytelling. She stated how grateful she is that ALMA does not only honour the creators of children’s literature but also the people who strive hard to bring children and books together. To her, reading is a core skill that children need to learn in order to develop empathy with other people, express their own feelings more adequately and form their own opinions. She strongly believes that books and stories enable children to change the future world for the better – a belief that she shares with Astrid Lindgren and with PRAESA.
Kirsten Boie’s enthusiastic praise for PRAESA’s work was taken up by South Africa’s Consul General in Munich, George Monyemangene, who also confirmed the importance of education and reading for children in South Africa. After his short, entertaining speech, Carole Bloch, director of PRAESA, and her colleague Ntombizanele Mahobe took to the stage. Their informative presentation included an introduction to the organisation’s history and its founder Neville Alexander, as well as a short video clip with impressions from their Nali’bali reading clubs and various training sessions. One highlight of the evening was the brief reading from a picture book in Xhosa, a language that most of the 140 people in the audience had never before encountered.
After the official part of the evening had concluded with another musical piece, the majority of the audience happily stayed on to engage in lively conversation with the ALMA winners and other guests, and to take a closer look at the information leaflets, posters, and books in various languages that PRAESA had brought with them.
Many thanks to Carole Bloch, Ntombizanele Mahobe and Malusi Ntoyapi of PRAESA, for a wonderful evening at the International Youth Library! We are sure that, with their help, many more children will discover that stories and books have the power to change our lives…
Claudia Söffner, English language section of our library