Winning Streak!

Sibo’s blog is an international winner!

People! How cool is this? My blog, as in the one that you read in the African Reporter every week (which also runs as a real online blog on my website) is a Global Blog Awards 2019 Winner. Seriously, you could have knocked both me and Ginny over with a feather.

Ginny saw the competition advertised on Facebook in April and entered the blog without really thinking about it too much. Last Monday, she got an email saying that our blog was one of 7 finalists out of the 258 participants that entered the Global Blog award.

The company that runs the blog competition, Ukiyoto, judges blogs not only on the content but the creativity, uniqueness, originality and focus as well. We are honoured, not to mention seriously chuffed, that they thought Sibo’s blog ticked all those boxes.

As part of a winner’s package, Ukiyoto will publish a book of my best blogs—a minimum of 15,000 words. So Ginny better get cracking and pick out the goodies. This book will then be marketed and sold around the world.

Do you have a favourite blog? Remember you can always search for topics. Let us know in the comments if you do.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough she got an email a few days later saying that she’d won another competition. This one was from The Writer’s College (UK, New Zealand and South African based online writing college). She’d submitted 600 words about her best writing tip.

Ginny used The Dog’s Blog as an example—the column she used to write for the Springs Advertiser. Not only is her article placed on their winner’s webpage as great writing advice, but she also won some cold hard cash!

The thing about competitions is, if you don’t enter them, you simply don’t stand a chance of winning. It’s not like playing the Lotto, or taking a raffle ticket, where it’s all up to chance either. It takes some effort to enter a competition, but the end result can be wildly exciting.

There are lots of different competitions out there, not only one for people who write. But if you are a writer, and have a good writing tip up your sleeve, why not visit this link and try your hand in the next ‘best writing advice’ competition.

Go out and make your own good luck people!

Sibo

Pop-up Book Fairs… or unfairs!

Position is everything when it comes to a book fair in a mall.

Last Saturday there was a pop-up book fair at our local mall. Initially, there were about 35 authors who had originally promised the organiser that they’d be there. Sadly, several of them cancelled at the last moment and we ended up with around 15 authors.

To make matters worse, the mall had positioned the book fair near one of the less-used entrances, in a closed off area that was darn near invisible unless you knew it was there and went looking for it.

There was no signage either.

Ginny and the organiser bounced around in the walkway, trying to entice people to at least come and look.

It’s amazing how many people are not interested in books. They’d simply say “No!”

So it’s not surprising our South African reading statistics are terrible. Reading should be done at home too. If kids see their parents reading, they’d be more likely to pick up a book. There was an article on EWN two weeks ago that proclaimed “Nearly half of SA children have never read a book with a parent”.

This is unbelievably sad.

Because our book fair was stashed in a well-hidden nook, it meant there were very few feet traipsing around the tables laden with books and other goodies. Some authors tend to entice readers with cookies and brightly wrapped chocolates. I’m not sure why they do this—Ginny certainly doesn’t—but possibly they think if a potential buyer snags a chocolate they’ll feel obliged to stay a little longer, read the back of a book or two and maybe even buy one.

The authors were not pleased with the lack of customers. Ginny used the quiet time to prowl around the tables and check out the other books. She came across a totally delightful, award winning story called ‘Smelly Cats’ written by a young girl named Stacey Fru. She wrote it when she was only seven. It has charming illustrations and the story is awesome. Stacey, now twelve, has written several more books and, amongst other things, is a motivational speaker. Check her out on Facebook to see just how fabulous she is.

Ginny’s mum bought Smelly Cats as a birthday gift for Isabella—her great grand-daughter (Ginny’s granddaughter) who is turning seven this year. We know her mum will read it to her, and soon she’ll probably be able to read it herself.

Judy Skeggs aka Ginny’s mum chatting to actress Milan Murray, who also writes kids books.

Take time out to read to your children please people.

Sibo

Expo’s are Awesome

It’s not what you know… but who you know when it comes to sponsorship.

Last week Ginny, Lets Look Publishers and I had great fun. We had a stand at the Africa Health Expo at the Gallagher Convention Centre for three whole days. It was an exhibition with loads of fancy medical equipment and interesting products, with people from all over the world exhibiting.

The delegates and visitors (and there were more than 10,000 medical professionals that attended this expo) wandered around, soaking up all the fancy, high-tech displays of technologies, products or services, on their way through the huge halls to the conference venue.

There were many interesting talks and lectures by top professionals from South Africa and the rest of the world during the three days. This is because medical professionals have to continually renew, refresh and update their knowledge when it comes to healthcare.

Informa, the London-based company that hosts this huge annual event, generously donated over R600k from the conference proceeds this year to the South African charity organization, Reach for a Dream.

Hundreds of people passed by our bright, simple, not-at-all-what-they-were-expecting-to-see-at-a-health-expo stand.

They’d stop and read the Sibo banner first. You could just imagine what they were thinking… What the @#$! is this all about?

Then their eyes would wander around the stall and alight on the interesting Sibo book covers or the snazzy wall charts. They’d be intrigued.

Lets Look Publishers have a huge variety of wallcharts on just about any topic that you can imagine, but obviously, we displayed all the health-related charts at the expo – trauma, TB, stress, anxiety, pregnancy, the brain, rape, the human body etc etc etc. You can check out the complete catalogue here.

Then somebody would pounce on the person or group and explain. On occasion, we ran out of people to explain yet the delegates would just hang around, patiently waiting their turn.

But sometimes people would just skid to a halt, shake their heads and exclaim “Tell us about Sibo!”

Turns out the medical community is just as interested in our books as the educational sector. Some nurses moaned because we don’t have titles on general safety, avoiding burns, washing hands, special needs and type 1 diabetes… YET!

The University of Pretoria Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control also had a stand at the expo, which was fabulous, because we worked with them a few years ago and wrote this book together. It’s being used in Limpopo to help bring about life-style change as far as avoiding malaria goes. We could just tell people to go and see for themselves how well Sibo works!

Ginny made fabulous contacts at the expo and we’re hoping that some of them translate into new Sibo titles on health-related topics. As we’ve explained in a previous blog, we like to find funding for interesting new subjects so that the books can be given out freely to kids.

Many children in South Africa do not own a single book.

That’s so sad. Worse, according to a recent survey, over 70% of our children cannot read for meaning in Grade Four. That’s just tragic. We all have to help fix this situation in any way we can.

Sibo’s books appeal to kids. They have bright, interesting illustrations that speak to the text. The stories are written in rhyme with important information gently woven into the storylines.

One of the subjects that also came up was entrepreneurship, something that has been dear to Ginny’s heart for ages.  Little people need to learn from a young age that if they want something, they should come up with clever ideas to help turn their dreams into reality. These days there is a culture of expectation. Hold thumbs that we can find a sponsor for this title too.

Thanks very much to Informa for facilitating our stand at the Africa Health Expo.

Stay tuned folks, we’ll be reporting back on all the interesting projects and books that transpire.

Happy days!

Sibo

Libraries are Lovely

Borrow a book from your local library today!

When last did you set foot in a library?

In the last few years, libraries have become somewhat obsolete, what with e-Books and the internet. Tasks and assignments that would have automatically driven one to the local library can now be looked up online with very little effort.

The whole culture of being in a space where one could trawl through volumes to:

  • find the necessary information
  • read it
  • be considerate of other users in the process
  • look after the borrowed book and return it in the same condition, to avoid the cross clucking of an irate librarian

has almost disappeared.

In reality, libraries are still fabulous places where all sorts of things happen. They don’t only have a wide selection of books to choose from, but also have motivating speakers, holiday activities, story hours and other interesting events.

They’re safe havens of quiet and solitude. Some libraries have areas where kids can do their homework. Photocopies can be made or one can just sit quietly and read.

The City of Joburg recently tweeted that they have extended selected library’s hours to be open on Sundays between 9am and 3pm.  This is awesome news.

Joining the library is easy. All you need is your identity document or driver’s license and a Municipality account. There’s a short form with basic details to complete. Parents can list their dependents on the form and they get their own library cards.  Books are normally issued for a two week period. Be warned though, if you bring them back late, you’ll have to pay a fine of R2 per book per week—even if they are only one day late.

If you borrow a book, it stands to reason that it needs to be looked after. Why… obviously, because many other people will want to read the same book!

Whilst the World Wide Web is incredibly useful, sometimes nothing beats a decent reference book that can be still found on a library shelf.

My friend Ginny’s local library even hosted a pop-up book fair, where a group of authors gathered and showcased their work. The books were for sale too, with a percentage of the sales being donated to the library. A win-win situation!

Join your local library—you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Many of our South African children have problems reading, this is a great way to help.

Sibo

Empowering Children – one page at a time

Fun, easy to read books with interesting information woven into the story-line.

Did you know that there are fourteen titles published by Lets Look Publishers in the Sibo Series? Every month we make one of those books free to read on the website. Except for Sibo Looks Right, our road safety book, that’s always freely available.

These books are all about empowering kids with knowledge. They’re in rhyme (we call it wacky rhyme) are fun to read, with interesting facts and information sneakily woven into the storyline.

I know a person is not supposed to brag about their own stuff, ahem, but these books are best-sellers because many of the titles have sold more than 2000 copies. One of them (Sibo on the Move) also won awards. How cool is that!

Yes, yes Sibo, I hear you say, why are you bothering us with all this chitter-chatter about your books?

Let me explain. The way we publish our books is a little different.

Ginny comes up with an idea for a topic and finds funding for that particular book so that it can be distributed freely to kids, schools and libraries. (Many children in South Africa do not own a single book and we want to help change this.)

To date, organisations like Gautrain, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, University of Pretoria Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control, Department of Arts and Culture, Nash Nissan, South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement, BASF, the chemical company, Super Group as well as some private individuals have sponsored titles in the Sibo Series.

Topics covered are the following (in order of date they were published):

  • Global warming – Sibo Makes a Difference
  • Growing your own veggies – Sibo and the Veggie Bed
  • Saving Water – Sibo Saves Water
  • The sea and sustainable resources – Sibo and the Sea
  • Space – Sibo in Space
  • 3 R’s (recycling, reusing, reducing) – Sibo Tackles Trash
  • HIV AIDS – Sibo Thinks Positively
  • Nanotechnology – Sibo Sizes Things Up
  • Biodiversity – Sibo Likes Life
  • Chemistry – Sibo Mixes Things Up
  • Animals – Sibo Saves a Stray
  • Malaria – Sibo Fights Malaria
  • Road safety – Sibo Looks Right
  • Etiquette using public transport – Sibo on the Move

We still want to write on subjects like bullying, careers, immunology, maths, engineering, mental disorders, saving money and planning.

If any organisation out there would like to invest in Sibo and help us empower children, please contact Ginny (ginz.stone[at]gmail.com). Of course, you could have a book on your own topic too.

It’s also a great advertising opportunity.

Sibo

Be Safe on the Roads Please.

It that time of year when people take to the roads, but in order to get to your destination safely, you need to drive properly.

A reminder of the major rules when using the road:

  • Buckle up. Make sure everybody in the car is wearing their seatbelts before you even set off.
  • Do not drink and drive. You might think it is okay to have a few toots and then get behind the wheel, but your concentration is impaired and you are not as responsive as you usually are. Anyway—it’s illegal!
  • Pull over if you are tired. Falling asleep behind the wheel is the ultimate danger to yourself and everybody else on the road. Don’t let yourself get to that stage. Pull over and have a nap. Or do what my Dad’s friends do—whenever they are going on a long road trip, they take turns driving, one hour each. It sounds a very short time, but it breaks the journey up and makes the whole thing more doable and much safer.
  • Stick to the speed limits. This is a biggie. Every year people die on the roads because some wally thinks it’s okay to speed. Those limits were not put there to irritate you; they are there to keep you safe. Just obey them, okay!
  • Do not use your cellular phone when you are driving. Unless you have a hands-free kit that is. No answering calls, definitely no texting, no checking your inbox quickly, no taking a pic of that gorgeous sunrise or sunset—it might be the last one you’ll ever see if you do.
  • Kids—no shouting, arguing or playing the fool in the car when your parentals are driving. It can cause them to lose their concentration which is dangerous.

There are also rules for walking on the road too.

These are only a few of them:

  • Always walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Don’t ever run across the road.
  • Wear bright clothes at night time if you are walking on the road so that the cars can see you.
  • Don’t walk and text using your cell phone—pay attention to what is going on around you.

Remember, you can brush up on your road safety skills by reading our book, Sibo Looks Right. Thanks to Nash Nissan and other fabulous people, it’s always available 24/7 as a free read on my website just click on the cover.

Lives get lost on the roads. Make sure yours is not one of them.
Mike Ward (Nash Nissan) and Ginny Stone

Be safe people and happy holidays.

Sibo

There is NO excuse not to read.

Reading makes you smart!

These days eBooks make reading incredibly easy. You don’t need fancy equipment and special readers, like you did a few years ago either.

If you are reading this blog in the African Reporter, then you can read. If you are reading this blog on-line, then you can not only read, but you also have access to a smartphone, tablet or computer and the internet.

Even for those people who have difficulty reading, audio books are available. You can listen to them when you are doing something else. Boring stuff like cleaning the house, ironing or travelling in public transport.

There are many different platforms on-line where you can access books.

If you join Amazon or Smashwords—and it’s free to sign up—there are books that you can read for free. Good ones too, you just have to take the time to search for them. Many of the classics are available and often authors have promotions. They give their books away freely to increase their readership.

Of course there are millions of books that cost money too, but they are still cheaper on-line than buying a print copy.

The great thing with eBooks is that you can load lots of them onto your electronic device and carry them around in your pocket or handbag (in the case of a smart phone).  You can’t do that with piles of books.

This is also an awesome time for writers. They no longer have to struggle to try and find somebody who will publish their book(s); they can publish them themselves, on-line.

That’s free too.

You do, however, have to market your own book. It doesn’t sell itself. No matter how good it is (and it better be good) because there is loads of competition out there. You definitely don’t want to be publishing shoddy content.

My friend, Ginny, is known for her Sibo Series, but she’s also written a few other books—do you remember Fudgie, the dog from the blog? She’s busy collating all those blogs into a series of books that are available on-line. You can follow her author profile on Smashwords.

One thing you might remember when you read books online, consider taking the time to go back and leave a review. Writing a few lines is a way of thanking the author for the free book—or even for the books you’ve paid for.

Read more people!

Sibo

The benefits of reading aloud

1st February is World Read Aloud Day.

Last year more than a million people participated in this event. Sounds fabulous, but actually when you come to think of how many people there actually are in this world (estimated at ~7.7 billion in November last year) that is pretty darn pathetic!

Every day should be a read aloud day.

Reading stories to children is probably one of the most beneficial things you, as a parent or older sibling, can do, apart from giving them love, food, clothing and shelter that is.

It’s not only little kids that enjoy being read to either, older kids appreciate a good story too.

Scary fact: South Africa came last in the world in a recent survey. They discovered that 8 out of 10 kids in Grade 4 cannot read for meaning – in any language. What does that terrifying sentence signify? It means that those kids can read the words, but when they have finished “reading” them, they don’t know what they just read.

It makes no sense right? Sadly it’s true, and when you don’t understand what you are reading, it strips away all the joy associated with books.

You, as a parent, have the power to instil a love of reading in your child from early on.

It’s as simple as reading a little story at bedtime. Every bedtime! It’s also a sneaky way of having one-on-one special time with your kids.

When you read with emphasis and expression, it makes the story come alive. Not only does that make it interesting, but the way you read gets your kids to understand how grammar works, without even realising. You pause at a comma and stop at the end of the sentence.

They can hear how words are being pronounced.

Being read aloud to also exposes children to new words and increases their vocabulary.

Literature is also a great way of helping kids understand something that they have not necessarily been exposed to themselves. It makes them more aware and instils empathy.

Please do leave your cell phone in another room when you are reading to your children. Possibly the most irritating thing in the world is having a story continually interrupted by pinging, ringing and a distracted storyteller.

To celebrate World Read Aloud Day we are making ‘Sibo Saves Water’ a free digi-read on the website. It’s a double celebration – the 2nd of February is World Wetlands Day.

Happy reading and listening!

Sibo

Books are Friends

My friend Ginny gives talks in schools sometimes. The topic is “Books are Friends!” It’s interactive and the kids also get to add their two cents worth. This is how it goes:

F is for Friends! Books are better than friends because you don’t have to ask somebody’s permission to go and visit a book (unless you want to go to the library) and books don’t get cross and fight with you. You never feel lonely when you have a book for company and you can have fun escaping into fiction or fantasy. Plus you can use them to find out facts. Reading sets you free!

R is for Reading! You can read a range of books at any rate you want to – fast or slow. You rest when you want to, and if you enjoyed a bit, you can return to it and read it again. You can read about your rights too.

I is for Interesting! Books are incredibly interesting and inspiring. Reading makes you intelligent. You can read important stuff. It’s impossible to get bored if you have a book to read. Of course, don’t forget – books are printed with Ink.

E is for Everybody! Books are for everybody and can be found everywhere. Excellent books explain things and equip you with knowledge. They are exciting and entertaining. Best of all – you don’t need electricity to read a book with your eyes.

N is for Nice! New books are nice too.  Books are necessary, we need them. You can turn to the next page to see what happens in the story every night. Books have names – just like you and I. But you should never ever mistreat your friends.

D is for Dependable! Just like a really good friend, books are always there for you. You can read the daily and when you have finished your book, you can donate it to somebody else to read. They are delightful but you do have to look after them. Dictionaries are great books too. Diaries are books that you can write about your own life. Don’t forget about digital books either!

S is for Story! And for Sibo of course! Some of our story books talk about saving water, electricity and strays. Taking shorter showers and planting seeds.  Separating rubbish and recycling.

On Saturday there is a pop-up book fair at the Alkantrant Library, Lynburn Rd, Lynnwood Manor, Pretoria from 09h00 – 12h00. Come and meet some new friends. Get your Christmas shopping done nice and early.

Lots of love,

Sibo.

The need to read

The 8th of September is International Literacy Day.

So what? I hear many people say. I don’t have time to read. I can’t be bothered to read. Reading is boring… but actually we read all the time!

We read social media updates, road signs, food labels, and information on goods that we buy. We need to know whether we should wash that new item of clothing in hot water or cold water – right? And for that you need to read the label. Or the instruction manual that comes with your latest gadget.

Or what about recipes?

That’s reading, isn’t it?

Many people stick to magazines, newspapers or read on-line, and that’s all good but…

What about reading for pleasure? To escape reality without going anywhere—you can travel the world, learn about new places, time-travel with science fiction and fantasy, or read sloppy romantic novels where the girl always gets the boy in the end (unlike real life!!). What about mysteries or those scary ‘Who dunnits’?

Okay! So books are not exactly cheap, but you don’t even need to buy them—join the library. Or share with friends, as long as you look after the books and return them in the same condition that you received them in.

If you don’t like reading… at least consider reading to your children!

It has been proven that kids who are read to from a young age have a distinct advantage over those who are not.

Children are naturally inquisitive and love to ask questions – when a parent reads a picture book to their offspring, they are exposing them to different things. They can point at pictures and say “What is that?” or “Who is that”. It encourages youngsters to start thinking and asking questions.

It enhances a child’s vocabulary.

In addition to a better grasp of language, reading assists with spelling too.

We all love a good story, and bed-time reading (in any language) instils a love of books at an early age—something that stays with a person for the rest of their life.

Plus… a bed-time story is a great way to bond with your child. You get to sit on the bed, snuggle with your nice clean kid and read. It’s a fabulous way of having one-on-one time in this overly busy world of ours where there is not always quality time for everybody.

Please read more people!

Sibo

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