StoryWeaver is India’s first open source, digital repository of multilingual children’s books from Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s book publisher. As a mission focused, non-profit children’s books publisher, we wanted to provide unfettered access to reading resources in mother tongue languages to all children.
On StoryWeaver, users can access thousands of multilingual stories for free. All content on the platform is openly licensed under CC-BY4.0, one of the most liberal Creative Commons Licenses. Users can read, download and print all stories and images on the platform, as well as use the tools embedded on StoryWeaver to create and translate content into more languages and versions.
StoryWeaver was launched on International Literacy Day in 2015, and since launch it has grown from a repository of 800 stories in 24 languages to one with over 7900 stories in 111 diverse languages of the world. Our 650,000 plus member strong community is spread across over 220 countries and have read our stories both online and offline over 2.6 million times.
StoryWeaver has opened up a stream of collaborations with organizations, both in India and globally. Educators and literacy organisations are using the platform to create resources and share stories in the classroom. Language groups are creating and translating stories to languages often overlooked by mainstream publishing while education technology organizations are gamifying the content for local language learning applications.
StoryWeaver has a simple, clean, non-bandwidth intensive interface that can be accessed via a variety of devices including mobile phones. The stories are available in different resolutions to reduce the data to download and increase the speed of the download. Stories can be downloaded through part-time online access and saved in an offline library for use. All the content is discoverable, interoperable and accessible, and for that all the text on StoryWeaver is Unicode compliant. This has allowed the content to grow and scale seamlessly. The content to be transported to different devices easily, and it also allows users to create content in their desired language without needing to download special language keyboards. This is imperative, with the complexity of having so many global languages in varied scripts.
In addition, Unicode compliance has allowed us to add new languages with relative ease, even those with complex scripts like Khmer. Today, StoryWeaver offers users the chance to read, create and translate stories in a plethora of languages: from mainstream Indian and International languages, to tribal and minority languages, and even languages categorised as threatened or endangered.
By harnessing the power of technology and open licenses and adding the creative power of an engaged community, StoryWeaver is working towards addressing the global scarcity of multilingual reading resources for children.
Reading is many things, but it always begins with access to text.
In India, and across many parts of the developing world there are critical supply shortages for reading resources for children - not enough books, in not enough languages, compounded by poor access and issues of affordability. UNESCO’s report on mother tongue literacy states, “children should be taught in a language they understand, yet as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to education in a language they speak or understand”. The lack of reading material in mother tongue languages can also be linked to children’s inability to read at grade level expectation. As most publishers cater to middle and upper income urban audiences, demand based economics dominate, to the detriment of creating books for economically weaker groups, where the profit motive is low. Cognizant of these on ground realities, Pratham Books launched StoryWeaver. The platform combines the power of technology and collaboration to break down the barriers that limit access to the most valuable thing we have to give to our children, knowledge.
StoryWeaver has given stories wings to soar and reach the children that need them the most. Our amazing community of educators, parents, language champions and story lovers are united by a common desire to take more stories in more languages to more children.
In the two years since StoryWeaver’s launch, the digital repository has grown from 800 stories in 24 languages to over 7900 stories in 111 languages. Close to 65% of all new language additions on the platform have come at the request of our community, and stands testament to the need for more stories in more languages. Our community has helped create hyperlocal, digital libraries in languages that are otherwise overlooked by mainstream publishing.
As a classroom tool, StoryWeaver provides educators access to thousands of stories, across genres, reading levels and in multiple languages, for use in the classroom. Teachers can tailor existing content to suit the needs of their students or create brand new teaching resources. Educators have used the platform to create early reading material in minority languages like Tibetan, tribal languages like Kora and Santali and endangered languages like Kurdish. Schools have downloaded and projected our stories on to classroom walls, printed them for after school resource centres and used them to create digital libraries for students and teachers.
Content from StoryWeaver has also been gamified on affordable learning apps for disadvantaged children to improve their English, while Bookshare uses StoryWeaver to create accessible content for print impaired children. The fact that our stories are available in local languages on the African Storybook Project, Bloom Library, World Reader, iArabicReader and mobile literacy apps in Vietnam and Indonesia is a testament to their universality.
StoryWeaver is also playing a small but significant role in the preservation of languages across the world and has helped create content in languages often unrepresented in the mainstream. Nothing exemplifies this better than the work done Suchana, an organisation working working with Adivasi (tribal) children in Birbhum, West Bengal, India. Without active intervention, it is very possible that the next generation would not use Kora and Santali, the tribal languages spoken in the region as a first language. Suchana found the creation of mother tongue learning materials in Santali and Kora a slow process till they came across StoryWeaver and its easy-to-use, embedded translation tool. To date, 68 stories have been translated to Kora and Santali using the Bangla script and 10,000 copies of the books have been printed and distributed.
These are just a handful of examples of how communities, organisations and individuals are using StoryWeaver to create hyperlocal content that suit the needs of the learners they work with.
StoryWeaver envisions itself as one of the largest repositories of open source, multilingual stories for children. As we grow, we will continue to improve our community’s experience on the platform and experiment with new and exciting formats in which we can take stories to children. We have already made headway into this with the launch of PhoneStories in 2017. Simple, beautifully illustrated books were brought to life with audio-visual enhancements to create PhoneStories that could be enjoyed on mobile phones - an important instrument in the last mile delivery of digital books to under resourced children. We hope to continue to inspire and empower everyone from first time writers, to professional translators, to illustrators to other book publishers to join the open source movement.