StoryWeaver is a well-known and loved platform of freely accessible joyful stories for children in languages that they are fluent in. The Rosetta Foundation’s volunteers have made a contribution to this cause by translating on StoryWeaver in several languages. For the occasion of the upcoming International Literacy Day next month, which is also the anniversary of the beginning of StoryWeaver, we interviewed one of our favourite partners.
Tell us a little about StoryWeaver and how it all started.
In India, as in many parts of the developing world, there are critical shortages of reading resources for children – not enough books, in not enough languages, compounded by issues of poor access and affordability. Cognizant of this gap, Pratham Books was set up as a not-for-profit children’s book publisher in 2004 with the mission to see ‘a book in every child’s hand’. Despite significant successes in publishing over 2,400 books in 23 Indian languages and distributing over 30 million storybooks and story cards in India, we believed that much more needed to be done to address the scarcity of reading materials that existed for children.
We believed that a combination of open licensing and technology could act as an enabler and equalizer for millions of underserved children. Pratham Books launched StoryWeaver, a digital platform of multilingual children’s stories, on International Literacy Day 2015. All content on StoryWeaver is openly licensed under one of the most liberal Creative Commons licenses – CC BY 4.0. Users can read all the stories online, offline or even by downloading and printing the storybooks. But more than that, StoryWeaver is a collaborative platform that has enabled the creation and localisation of content at scale. By providing simple tools that enable users to translate and version or create new content, the platform has grown from 800 stories in 24 languages to 4,500 stories in 84 languages of the world.
What have been the most successful projects that The Rosetta Foundation’s volunteers have been involved in translating for you?
StoryWeaver was envisioned as a means by which we could significantly scale the creation of storybooks for children in their language of fluency, whether it’s a mainstream language, or a minority, tribal or endangered language. The global network of volunteers of The Rosetta Foundation (TRF) and Translators without Borders (TWB) helped scale up content in nine languages on StoryWeaver, including international languages like Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Swedish and Spanish, and Indian languages like Bhojpuri and Punjabi. We also have Sindhi, Nepali and Mongolian projects in the pipeline. The 30 stories translated by the community of volunteer translators have been read and downloaded over 1,000 times from StoryWeaver!
Currently, StoryWeaver is being accessed by users from 190 countries and one of the key reasons for its growing reach is the platform’s widening language footprint. In the two years since its inception, we have seen more and more requests pouring in from educators across the world to add languages to the translation engine, so that they may translate and create joyful reading material for children who need them.
The translation expertise provided by TRF and TWB has widened StoryWeaver’s language footprint and, together, we have taken definitive steps towards tackling the dearth of freely accessible, good quality early reading material in mother tongue languages.
How have these translated stories benefitted the communities this initiative supports?
StoryWeaver is frequently used as a supplementary resource in classrooms in India and other parts of the world. Globally, university departments and literacy organisations are using StoryWeaver to further their work in improving literacy. The Asia Foundation’s Let’s Read! initiative is one of them. The programme pledges to provide storybooks to children across the continent via e-libraries that are accessible on any device to increase the availability of content in ethnic minority languages. The Thai stories translated by the volunteers of TRF and TWB have been included as part of this Let’s Read! initiative. Some of these stories have been further versioned in the S’gaw Karen language by its native speakers on the Let’s Read! platform, potentially impacting the reading and learning of many children.
Kyle Barker, Assistant Director of the ‘Books for Asia’ program at The Asia Foundation shares the following testimony: “We found it extremely helpful that a number of the fantastic books on the StoryWeaver platform were already translated into Thai. The Thai translations on StoryWeaver are of high quality, in both accuracy and capturing the spirit of the story. This allowed the S’gaw Karen community of translators on the Let’s Read! platform to be comfortable with and concentrate on capturing the most representative translations of the stories into the three scripts of their mother-tongue language¹.”
With International Literacy Day coming up in early September, what is your take on the importance of reading in your native tongue and its contribution to literacy?
We believe that every child should have access to joyful stories in their mother tongue. Our vision for StoryWeaver is to create a global repository of freely accessible early reading resources in mother tongue languages so that all children can learn and practice reading, which is an essential pathway to literacy.
To mark the important occasion of International Literacy Day, every year we gear up for the biggest celebration of the year – our ‘One Day, One Story’ campaign, where we pick one storybook and invite volunteers to do storytelling sessions with children in their communities. Last year, over 3,000 volunteers joined us to spread the joy of reading by conducting over 3,200 storytelling sessions for thousands of children, many of them with otherwise poor access to books and the magic of stories. This year, while the volunteers are signing up for the storytelling sessions to be held on September 9th 2017, our sparkling community has translated the chosen story, Kottavi Raja and his Sleepy Kingdom, into 12 new languages, including Surjapuri, Sanskrit, Kumaoni, Bahasa Indonesia and French on StoryWeaver. Every version added helps the story travel further and be read and enjoyed by many more children.
Suzanne Singh, Chairperson of Pratham Books shares: “Stories form an important part of a child’s growth and development. They introduce new words and ideas into a child’s world and expand the boundaries of their minds. It is our continuous effort to make many more stories available in languages, including ones that are underserved and underrepresented in the mainstream.”
We have enjoyed working on StoryWeaver projects. Has it been a good experience for you?
TRF’s work to eradicate the knowledge gap based on linguistic discrimination aligns closely with our goal to put ‘a book in every child’s hand’ and puts creative collaboration at the core of our working relationship. The coordination support from TRF – its resources for importing completed projects from their own platform and publishing onto StoryWeaver – has been tremendous and timely. There has always been clarity in communication and processes with TRF.