Children's Book Network

Putting children and books on the same page

Children’s Book Network (CBN) is about children, books and friends. Our aim is to promote joy in reading to the extent that children will come to love books. We provide a safe space for our children to let their imaginations fly and give them cultural stimulation and access to knowledge outside of their everyday experience.

We work with children in under-resourced communities between the ages of 9 and 12 (grades 4, 5 and 6). Our programme runs in Stanford, Hermanus, Franschhoek and Mitchell’s Plain. The children involved in our programme often can read, but don’t necessarily do so, or don’t have access to a good selection of age-appropriate books.

The keywords in our programme are Workshops and Toolboxes. Workshops take centre stage when we work with children and really get down to the basics of reading. We have included the ideas developed there to make reading Toolboxes which can be used to reach more children.

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About Us

Where it all began

Three of South Africa’s longest-serving and best known writers for children and young people felt compelled to do something positive about children and reading in South Africa. As a result, Children’s Book Network (CBN) began in 2012, and under the guidance of founders Gçina Mhlophe, Lesley Beake and Sindiwe Magona. 

We began our programme with the Red Hill informal settlement in the Cederberg Region where we worked at building our programme for four years. CBN now operates out of Stanford and works with communities there, as well as with satellite groups in Hermanus, Mitchell’s Plain and Franschhoek.



Our most important work is through themed reading Workshops. These generally take place on weekends, during school holidays, or from time to time over a few days (budget permitting).

These aim to encourage a love for reading in our children, who self-select to be there by bringing back their signed permission slips from home. We focus on a theme for the day, and include time for games, teambuilding activities, arts and crafts, and of course as much reading as possible – paired reading, reading aloud, being read to and silent reading.

Activities done at CBN workshops:

  • Listening to beautiful language
  • Writing in all media
  • Individual journals and stories
  • Photojournalism
  • Children’s own illustrations, photographs and words
  • Mapping in words and illustration - creating home and landscape on paper
  • Communicating: Comparing and sharing landscapes with children in other environments
  • Shadow puppets
  • Song-writing: Songs to build a nation! – Children’s anthems
  • Singing
  • Drumming and playing on rock gongs
  • Landscape in art


A CBN Toolbox is a sturdy book-carrier called a ‘Cadi’ filled with about 60 books. We supply these ‘mini libraries’ to communities and organisations who focus on reading with children. Toolboxes are used by teachers, librarians, social workers and organisations after school, at weekends and in school holidays to run their own Workshops. All this in an effort to instil a love of reading to more children in more communities and to reach our goals.

Toolboxes are  divided into book-bags with core books around a theme. For example, our first Toolbox theme is ‘Books and Stories’, and it has been divided into five book-bags:

  • Books and reading
  • Imagination
  • Heroes
  • The Arts
  • Fun

These Toolboxes spark ideas, give suggestions about activities that will enhance the books and we supply a handbook that explains CBN’s methods of teaching. Included is a CBN Reading Game that makes reading part of the game - and the fun.

CBN Books

CBN Books

The most important part of the programme are the books. Books are carefully chosen by Lesley Beake and Jay Heale, two highly accomplished writers. Based on a book’s complexity and how well they will be received, books are bought and assigned to a Toolbox were it will set off a little spark of inspiration in a young boy or girl’s heart. A variety of styles of reading material are available, from poetry all the way to comic books, there is something for every child. CBN chooses mainly South African books because they are easier for the children to relate to and to inspire them.  

Donate Now

Donate Now

CBN has been building bridges between children and books since 2012. It is time for us to grow and develop what we have built. In order to do so, we require funding to pay rent at our Stanford venue, buy books and other resources, research and develop our Toolboxes, and, most importantly, cover our running expenses and pay our CBN team. 

Donations can be made easily through GivenGain - a safe and secure online portal created specifically for non-profits like ours to receive donations effortlessly. Alternatively, you can make a donation to us through direct bank deposit. Please contact us directly for these details. 

As a registered non-profit organisation, donations to CBN are tax exempt.

CBN is always in need new books to keep the children excited and engaged. Please contact us directly should you want to make a donation of books to CBN. 

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