StoryWeaver and Humana India workshop

Posted by Menaka Raman on June 28, 2017

Riddhi Dastidar recently joined Pratham Books as Outreach Manager. Here she writes about our recent workshop in Delhi, with Humana People.

On a scorching summer day in June, we found ourselves in the winding bylanes of Kishangarh in Delhi, looking for the Humana India Office. We entered to wooden floors, quiet reading spaces filled with books in multiple nooks and a massive German Shepherd dog draped languorously across the gate to welcome us in.

Humana People to People India is a part of Humana International's network of 31 organisations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas working across a range of issues from from health to microfinance. Our overlap in interest comes from their work in Education.

HPPI's educational programmes aim to equip people with knowledge and skills to break the cycle of poverty and fulfill their potential. Their five programmes are Necessary Teacher Training Programme (NeTT), Academy for Working Children, Girls Bridge Education, Step up Centers and Prarambh. NeTT and Prarambh focus on incubating quality teachers.  Humana had invited their NeTT master trainers from different states to spend the day with us to know about StoryWeaver and how can it be used to bring in a reading culture in the classroom, as well as serve as a resource pool for our teachers. We also had trainers from other organizations like Stir Education and Pratham who added to the diversity of the group.

We started by getting to know the workshop participants a little better by discovering their hidden talents. Someone mentioned they were good at working with special needs children  while another teacher found travelling interesting. Stories give way to many emotions and what better way to establish that than to begin the session with a story? The audience giggled and winced and tried to come up with a solution to Bheema’s problem in the process realising  with us how important stories are to classrooms!

How stories help kindle curiosity and develop lateral thinking in children.

After we walked through how StoryWeaver works, our philosophy of reaching as many children in need as possible in their native tongue, and hence our embrace of Creative Commons, it was time for the teachers to get their own hands dirty. They practiced curating lists of stories on specific themes (from Math concepts through biryani making to a Level 1 reading on Traffic lights). They got into groups to take a stab at translating stories into Hindi and finally even creating their own story from our set of open illustrations.

To break down the concept of ‘filters’ on StoryWeaver to help select the desired kind of tale we drew a parallel to online shopping - Amazon and Flipkart being commonly recognized.

An interesting story we explored brought out the critical role illustration can play in a book. We read 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना', and the teachers pointed out that as Didi became happier, the book bloomed from black and white into colour - hence even a child struggling to read the words would be able to grasp what was happening!

By the end of the workshop we had a couple of first-time story-writers in our midst. The teachers were beginning to share the challenges of balancing something as ‘inessential’ and essential as  the time to read for joy in class with the demands of administrative work and completing the syllabus. Waseem, one of the trainers from Stir mentioned that the main reason we work is actually the children. Very often lost in the pressures of checking very real demands and tasks off the checklist, we forget the heart of it - which is the relationship being built with the child. He pointed out that stories could be a great option to reverse this disinvestment and foster strong relationships.

We came out of the workshop with many of the teachers coming up to us to ask for follow-up training with their organisations, and excited to see how they would go on to integrate stories into making different kinds of academic learning interesting - be it learning about division through biryani or just taking 20 minutes out of the day to Drop Everything And Read!

To see more images from the workshop, click here.

If you would like us to conduct a workshop with your organisation, drop us an email at storyweaver@prathambooks.org

 

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The Creative Commons Community Activities Fund

Posted by Menaka Raman on June 21, 2017

                                              

Via Creative Commons

"The Community Activities Fund is a mini-grant program aimed at supporting individuals and communities pursuing activities aligned with the network values and principles stated on the new Creative Commons Global Network Strategy. These grants are meant to provide quick, practical-level support for activities, projects, and events done by supporters and advocates of Creative Commons – from kickstarting projects, facilitating travel and mentorships, to supporting the organization of CC-themed events around the globe."

Read more about the Activities Fund here.

If you're an organisation or educator using StoryWeaver to create openly lincensed, multilingual reading resources for children, and are looking for funding, then do consider applying for the fund! 

All the best.

 

 

 

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In a world dominated by print, images and videos, imagine not being able to access content vital for your day-to-day functioning: weather updates,  homework assignments, timetables… This is the reality for an estimated 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired. Accessible content is even harder to come by if you belong to the 90% of print impaired individuals who come from low-income settings.

Harnessing technology for the greater good

Enter Benetech. The U.S based organisation isn’t your run of the mill tech company. It’s a nonprofit whose mission is to empower communities in need by creating scalable technology solutions. Their work is varied: from providing a safe space for human rights defenders in over fifty countries to document human rights violations to equipping environmental conservationists to protect ecosystems and species all over the world. One of Benetech’s  projects is Bookshare: and it’s transforming how over 400,000 people with disabilities read.

 

Bookshare is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities.

A print-disabled person is "a person who cannot effectively read print because of a visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disability". Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats, and reading tools, Bookshare offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. The Bookshare library now has over 475,000 books and serves more than 400,000 members.

BookShare works in 70 countries across the globe, with India having particular focus, as it has the largest number of persons with disability in the world. With outreach in all states, they are providing accessibly content in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati and Marathi with plans to add Kannada to their offering.

Providing children joyful reading material in many languages

BookShare is sourcing its multilingual content for children from StoryWeaver. Since all content on the digital repository of multilingual children’s stories is openly sourced and available in open formats, BookShare has been able to take ePubs from the platform and  convert them to the DAISY Format. DAISY (the Digital Accessible Information System) is the emerging world standard for digital talking books for people who are blind or have a print disabilities. This format has been under development for over ten years, with most of the world's talking book libraries now employing the standard in some form or the other.

Dr. Homiyar Mobedji, Disability Expert, Program Management [India], Benetech  says “Daisy is the most accessible format, for persons with print disability as a Daisy Book can be in various forms. Bookshare offers its members the opportunity to download content in either daisy text only, daisy with images, audio or BrF formats (embosser-ready electronic braille files). A reader can either download the book and read it on his own device, such as laptop, desktop, Android or IOS device, or use a dedicated Daisy player. Users can also read our content online using our web based reader.”

“Our strategy is to empower individual organizations so that they can reach out to many more on our behalf. This leads to a multiplier effect, which can be difficult to monitor in a country as vast as India. However, if our membership numbers give the indication that we are moving in the right direction.” shared Dr. Mobedji.

Bookshare’s outreach work brings them into close proximity with schools, colleges and institutions working with the print disabled. They have more than 7500 members in the country, and approximately 500 new members every month.

The nonprofit’s main focus in India is to create textbooks and children’s books, as these are both in high demand. The organisation has already shared the syllabus from a number of states including Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, NCERT and IGNOU.

More stories in more languages

“For our section on children’s books we are uploading titles in Indian languages from StoryWeaver.” shared Dr. Mobedji

Bookshare is working directly with a selection of schools in Pune, where a curated list of Marathi titles have  been chosen from StoryWeaver as part of the All Children Reading Project which promotes early grade reading with the help of technology.

“The stories were loved by our children of 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade, who can now almost recite all the stories by heart. The teachers have observed that as the children loved the stories, they accepted braille reading, which was difficult when the children were only given textbooks to read. Some of the children have improved their braille reading tremendously, which is a major achievement.” Dr. Mobedji recounted.

By openly licensing all the content on StoryWeaver and making them accessible in open format, we are proud to be associated with Bookshare and their efforts to take reading to ALL children.

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