A few years back, I had a domestic help, who was from the state of West Bengal. She had three kids and all of them were studying in a government senior secondary school, in Delhi. However, since most books are printed in English and Hindi, her children who spoke and read Bengali fluently, couldn’t cope with the syllabus. Consequently, they failed their course.
In a country as diverse as ours, where 22 languages are officially recognised and several hundred “mother- tongues”, are spoken, why it is that most books are still printed primarily in English and Hindi? This is one of the major reasons why almost half of India’s children do not read at grade appropriate levels.
This led Bangalore-based Pratham Books, a not-for-profit publisher of children’s literature, to come up with a multi-lingual online platform called StoryWeaver, which invites children from across the world to read stories in the languages they spoke and studied in. StoryWeaver was created in 2015 and it is an innovative initiative that endeavours for every child to discover the joy of reading. It was initially launched with a repository of 800 books in 24 languages.
The stories in StoryWeaver’s repository are free to read and use, as they are available under the Creative Commons licenses. 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.
The ideology behind this endeavour is 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.
Hence, they are giving translations and languages 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.
StoryWeaver is also doing a great job of preserving many tribal languages. They have converted books into many rare languages such as Banjari, Lambadi, Kuruk, Oraon, Gondi, Mundari, Sadri, Santhali and Kora. These languages don’t have a written tradition, so, to preserve stories in such languages (that may otherwise be lost), StoryWeaver translates them into mainstream Indian languages.
StoryWeaver also provides tailor-made, hyper-local content for specific organisational needs as they also create and transform books into 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.
Many 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.
We applaud the effort that Pratham Books are putting in this endeavour and we wish them best of luck, for the same!
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