Yoza to boost reading among SA youth PDF Print E-mail

South Africa’s parents and teachers are about to get a little less annoyed at local youth for being perpetually glued to their cellphones.

If you want to get a teenager to do something, your chances of success will increase if you present it in such a way that the task will seem more appealing to them. The Shuttleworth Foundation decided to take that approach when it launched its m4Lit (mobiles for literacy) pilot project last year.
The project, which is aimed at encouraging the youth to read and write more, was kicked off when the Foundation released an m-novel (or mobile novel) which had been written especially to be read on in short installments on cellphone displays.
The first m-novel was a short (twenty page long) but captivating teenage adventure called “Kontax”. It was published in a cyber library and on popular mobi chat platform MXit. The Foundation invited readers to use their cellphones to actively participate in the project by leaving comments on chapters, voting in opinion polls and entering a writing contest.
The response was so overwhelmingly positive that it led to the release of a second “Kontax” story earlier this year. To date, the stories have been read more than 34 000 times on cellphones, the writing contest attracted more than 4 000 entries, and over 4 000 comments have been received on the individual chapters of the stories.
Encouraged by the enthusiasm of the young readers, the Foundation has now launched an entire library of these interactive, free cellphone stories. Called Yoza, the m-novel library currently has a collection of about four ongoing m-novels in different genres –teen chick lit, soccer and adventure – with more in the pipeline. Yoza will even have a classics section in which public-domain titles such as “Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet” will be published.
New chapters are published daily to keep the young readers coming back for more. Stories are currently published in English and isiXhosa, but eventually Yoza hopes to have stories in other languages as well.
Steve Vosloo, founder of Yoza, says: “For the foreseeable future the cellphone, not the Kindle or iPad, is the e-reader of Africa. Yoza aims to capitalise on that to get Africa's teens reading and writing.”
"South Africa is also a place that is what I call 'book poor', but cellphone rich. So we thought that if they're there are anyway, then let's get them reading and writing there."
Yoza can be accessed via any WAP-enabled cellphone at http://www.yoza.mobi/, or on MXit. Readers can also join the Yoza Facebook group.
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