Young author Hallelujah Khumalo wants other children to know it’s okay not to fit in
Dubbed the youngest published author in SA, Hallelujah enjoys playing the piano, ballet, baking and being a big sister.
Young author Hallelujah Khumalo, who is in grade 1, poses for a photograph, 25 April 2023, at her parents’ home in Sandton. Picture: Sibongumenzi Sibiya/The Citizen
Just like the Setswana idiom says Leina lebe seromo, which means you are your name, at just seven years old, little Hallelujah Khumalo is already living up to her name. She captured the hearts of many people and inspired children across SA with her newly published book, Where I Fit, amid the country’s literacy crisis. When the Redhill School Grade 1 pupil turned five in 2021, she decided to write a book for her friend – How Halle and Liesl became friends – instead of buying a gift, “something straight from my heart, written and compiled by me”, she says…
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Just like the Setswana idiom says Leina lebe seromo, which means you are your name, at just seven years old, little Hallelujah Khumalo is already living up to her name.
She captured the hearts of many people and inspired children across SA with her newly published book, Where I Fit, amid the country’s literacy crisis.
When the Redhill School Grade 1 pupil turned five in 2021, she decided to write a book for her friend – How Halle and Liesl became friends – instead of buying a gift, “something straight from my heart, written and compiled by me”, she says with a huge smile on her face.
“And that book was about our friendship, because we were both starting at new schools and we were not together in the same class any more, so I wanted to remind her how special she will always be to me.”
At six, she already had two books under her name, one published – inspired by her journey as a first grader, making new friends and trying to fit in with all the new pupils – another unpublished and an idea for the third one.
“My third book is also going to be a rhyming book inspired by my favourite author, Dr Seuss, and I can’t wait to share it with everybody.”
When asked what Where I Fit was about and why she decided to write it, Hallelujah says: “The book is about a puzzle piece trying to find out where she fits in, and then learns that it’s okay not to fit in and be unique and special because that is what this world is, colourful and beautiful.
“Because I also felt like I couldn’t fit in many times. I think it was every time I started something new, I felt like I didn’t fit in at Redhill, at tennis, play ball, and even in the pre-primary classes – the hedgehogs, woodpeckers and busy bees.
“I wanted other children to know that it’s okay not to fit in and that no matter what the challenge is, there is always space for each and every one of us in the world.”
Dubbed the youngest published author in SA, Hallelujah enjoys playing the piano, ballet, baking, being a big sister, loves gardening, swimming and an is environmental enthusiast with the hope of being an environmental engineer “and help protect our environment”.
“I want to create a response to the amount of pollution, particularly that in which is created by the fashion industry,” she says.
“Based on a book I’ve read – A Planet Full of Plastic: And how You Can Help by Neal Layton – I want to teach people about the importance of having a clean environment and not littering.”
Following her debut with a TikTok video, which had almost a million views, Hallelujah definitely captured the hearts of many, with some users even saying the country’s future was in great hands, and some even admiring her humility when speaking about her book.
Hallelujah’s parents, Skhona and Theodora Khumalo, started teaching Hallelujah how to read just after she turned three, “because she would always be interested in the things her mom read, she would always ask what she was reading and what certain words meant”.
“That was when we discovered she was very quick to learn, inquisitive and that she would do things at her own pace based on her interests,” Skhona says.
“And that is what we have done with all our children. We listen to them, find what they individually love and support them as a family.
“And with the books she has been writing – from the first one – she applied herself consistently. She sort of becomes focused until she achieves her goal, whatever the goal is, whether riding a bicycle, swimming, piano, anything.”
‘Independent thinker and empathetic’
Skhona described Hallelujah as an independent thinker, empathetic and a genuinely conscious and compassionate seven year old, “it’s really startling and humbling to be the parent who just has to guide her, I mean we learn a lot from her”.
He also says it was interesting to see her development since she was a baby to now.
“She is a go-getter and she believes that there’s nothing she cannot do, but not because she’s good at everything but because she will always try, until she can and that is very inspiring,” says Skhona.
According to mom Theodora, consciously choosing a parenting style that works for her children was the most important thing in allowing them to become who they want to be, “without any pressure or fear”.
“We just want to let everyone be their own person. Our default setting is not to compare our children because they all have their own personalities and we allow them to be who they want to be,” she says.