A year ago, on the occasion of International Literacy Day, observed on 8 September, Pratham Books started StoryWeaver, an open source, digital repository of 800 stories in 26 languages, with the aim of seeing a book in every child’s hand. The website also offers the option of translating stories into multiple languages.

In just 12 months, this has had a sizeable impact and expanded to 2,000 stories in 49 languages, both Indian and international. And now, on the first anniversary of its launch, StoryWeaver has taken a pledge, with its Freedom to Read campaign, to add 15 new languages.

“Almost all the new languages have been added to the platform at the request of our community," says Suzanne Singh, chairperson of Pratham Books, in an email interview. “With the Freedom to Read campaign, we hope to make many more stories available in languages that are underserved and under-represented in the mainstream."

The confidence that StoryWeaver, which collaborates with organizations in India and abroad to make stories available to children across a wide geographical spread, had in the initiative only increased after it saw the impact on the ground. While it provides stories to the African Storybook Project, which has translated them into several African languages, perhaps the most heartening evidence of its success within the country can be seen in the work of the organization Suchana in West Bengal and Odisha. It has translated the stories into the tribal languages Kora and Santhali, using the Bengali script.

The StoryWeaver website
The StoryWeaver website

“In the six Kora villages where Suchana is working, the language has never been written before…. Without active intervention, it is very possible that the next generation would not use it as a first language. So as a living language, it might not last beyond the next couple of decades," says Singh.

It’s symbolic and fitting then that the Freedom to Read campaign culminates on 21 February 2017, which is celebrated as International Mother Language Day. Besides Suchana, i-Saksham, which runs learning centres in the backward districts of Munger and Jamui in Bihar, is attempting to inculcate a reading habit among children by providing digital books in Hindi and English.

StoryWeaver hopes its new campaign will encourage many more such collaborations that will enable children to read in the language of their choice, and help preserve languages that are not part of the mainstream.

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