It is quite rare for children to author books. However, a few of them have been exceptional in the literary world.
You probably have not heard of Michelle Nkamankeng of South Africa, who became Africa’s youngest author at age seven.
Born in Johannesburg, the now 11-year-old Nkamankeng launched her first book “Waiting for the Waves” in October 2016, making her the youngest author from Africa to be added to the list of the top 10 youngest writers in the world.
She started writing at a tender age of five and by six she had written two books – “Waiting For The Waves” and “The Little Girl Who Believes In Herself”.
The road to becoming a writer was inspired by her visit to a local bookstore where she’d realized that most children’s books were written by adults.
“I was like, why can’t children also explore and share their own stories with the world, for the world to hear their voices and see their imagination,” Nkamankeng told Global Citizen. “Through telling your story, you can inspire the world and you can make people realize that they can also do more in the world.”
Her first book came to live following an adventure she had with her family at a beach resort. The book was completed on 31st of March 2015, but was only published in September 2016. The book is part of the eight-part series which include Waiting for the Waves, The little girl who believes In herself, The little mouse and The Golden Ring.
Her second book was published in May 2018. Meanwhile, the second book “The Little Girl Who Believes in Herself” continues with the Titi starts to believe she has the potential to achieve anything she sets her mind to, regardless of her gender. She recently published her third book “The Little Mouse”.
Nkamankeng fell in love with reading from the age of four. At the launch of Pan-African Literature at Windybrow Theatre in Hilbrow sometime back, she stated: “Reading exposes our mind to different cultures and languages of the world. You can still write books in your own language, it does not have to be English. Great leaders became great because of the inspiration they got from reading books. “
Her book – Waiting for the Waves – is about a little girl named Titi who is having fun with her family at a beach resort but then she has distressing fear of waves. The story tells a captivating tale that highlights the thin line between love and fear – her love for the big waves tied with her fear of this giant force of nature.
Besides her excellent academic performance at school and her book writing hobby, she also does ballet, gymnastics, netball, swimming and music.
Nkamankeng has the full support of her family; Laurentine Nkamankeng her mother and manager, her father Paul Nkamankeng, and her siblings Shawn, Sheena and Marion.
She started the Michelle Nkamankeng Foundation in November 2016 with the help of her mother and manager, Lauretine “Lolo” Nkamankeng, to help empower other children who are from less privileged communities. Through the foundation, Nkamankeng introduces other children to the world of literature through reading sessions, writing workshops, and motivational talks.
Nkamankeng hopes to attract sponsors who will be willing to buy her books and facilitate free distribution to children and adults who can’t afford to buy literature.
Today Nkamankeng is an activist, motivational speaker, celebrated author currently writing her 8th book, multiple awards winner with a clear message: “Stay encouraged and follow your dreams”.
Her advice to other aspiring young writers is, “Do not be afraid to go for your dream. Do not give up, even if you make many mistakes or face obstacles.”