“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney
In a country with 22 official languages and several hundred “mother- tongues”, books are still printed primarily in English and Hindi. As a result, children rarely find reading resources in their native languages. This is one of the major reasons why almost half of India’s children do not read at grade appropriate levels.
Bangalore-based Pratham Books, a not-for-profit publisher of children’s literature, came up with an innovative solution to address the scarcity of multilingual reading resources that exists in India.
In 2015, they created a multi-lingual online platform called StoryWeaver, inviting children from across the world to read stories in the languages they spoke and studied in.
StoryWeaver is an initiative that endeavours to find creative ways for every child to discover the joy of reading. It was initially launched with a repository of 800 books in 24 languages.
Not just a library of stories, it also acts as a facilitator of collaboration between content creators and content consumers.
The stories in StoryWeaver’s repository are available under the Creative Commons licenses, making them free to read and use. They can be translated into new languages and repurposed into new stories by students, parents and teachers. The artworks accompanying the stories can also be freely accessed by anyone.
Pratham Books believes that in order to nurture a generation of better readers who will also become better learners, every child needs to have access to good quality reading material in his or her native language.
With this in mind, translations and languages have been given a lot of importance in the StoryWeaver project. For example, stories are being translated into Sanskrit, a language that has very few reading resources for children.
Other than mainstream Indian languages, books have also been converted into many tribal languages and vice versa. Many rare languages like Banjari, Lambadi, Kuruk, Oraon, Gondi, Mundari, Sadri, Santhali and Kora don’t have a written tradition or their own script. So, to preserve stories in such languages (that may otherwise be lost), StoryWeaver translates them into mainstream Indian languages.
Translators living outside India are also contributing to StoryWeaver by translating books into foreign languages like Japanese, Portuguese, Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish. Books are also being translated into rare and unique foreign languages, such as Farsi, Kiswahili, Xhosa, Khayo and Khmer.
StoryWeaver provides tailor-made, hyper-local content for specific organisational needs too. They also create and transform books in completely different forms such as audio stories, Braille books, YouTube videos and digital apps.
One among the many organisations which have benefited from this initiative is the NGO ‘17,000 Feet’ that works for the education of children in rural Ladakh. With the help of StoryWeaver, the teachers of this organization are now translating stories from all over the world into the Ladakhi language.
By freely licensing its multilingual reading resources, Pratham Books has taken a giant leap forward in its mission of putting ‘a book in every child’s hand’. Today, StoryWeaver has 2000 stories in 46 languages, with more than 60,000 downloads and almost 2 lakh reads. A truly wonderful initiative by a bunch of passionate folks who believe that stories can change a child’s world!
In this video, take a look at how StoryWeaver works.
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If you cannot view this video, click on the link here.