The Power of Open Licensing!

Posted by Remya Padmadas on August 09, 2019

“Open source is a philosophy and a movement, and what makes open source thrive is the community that grows up around it.” says Abby Kerns in The Newstack. Community has no physical or geographical definition but rather is defined by a shared attitude, interest and goal and spans  geography, religion and political affiliations. Stories are the soul of open-source platforms, which prompt children to rapid fluency in their mother tongue, before they can read simple sentences in English. 

Illustration by Huynh Thi Kim Lien for 'Don't Wake the Baby!' 

Pratham Books’ StoryWeaver and Room to Read are partnering to combine the power of open, community and stories so that children can read over 400 storybooks in English, Bengali, Chinyanja, Chitonga, Hindi, Khmer, Lao, Marathi, Nepali, Sepedi, Sinhala, SiSwati, Kiswahili, Tamil, and Vietnamese. “Room to Read and Pratham Books share a common commitment to providing underserved children with high quality storybooks. We are delighted to have Room to Read’s books on our digital platform, StoryWeaver,  which are now available under open licences, so that children everywhere can discover the joy of reading”, says Suzanne Singh, Chairperson Pratham Books.

Room to Read is a non-profit organization that seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in low-income countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Founded on the belief that “world change starts with educated children," the organization focuses on working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children. 

They have partnered with StoryWeaver to publish 200 of their original language titles and their English versions on the StoryWeaver platform under the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license. The StoryWeaver team has worked closely with Room to Read on editing these titles for publishing in Engalish, doing image enhancements and migrating the books to the platform. Alisha Berger, Global Publisher at Room to Read says “We are thrilled to partner with Pratham Books’ StoryWeaver to bring our books into the digital space for the first time. We hope these 400 openly-licensed books will inspire, motivate, and share the joy of reading with the wide and engaged audience on Storyweaver, as well as showcase Room to Read’s 20-year commitment to making exciting and fun books for children in their local languages.” 

Having these storybooks under the CC BY license on StoryWeaver takes these Room to Read stories to a larger audience, worldwide. At the same time, it gives the StoryWeaver community new stories to read and translate, thereby giving children around the world access to more stories in their mother tongue. Many of these stories have already been versioned into other languages like Punjabi, Filipino, Malayalam, French, Italian and others. Here’s hoping the stories continue to grow so as to put a book in every child’s hand. 

If you would like to partner with us please write to [email protected] 

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Manning Sutton is the founder and director of Apprendre Sans Frontieres (Learning Without Borders), a non-profit organisation that provides technology and educational materials to primary schools in French-speaking African countries like Senegal. To supplement the course curriculum, the organisation provide books (in the form of PDFs and creative commons), websites (Wikipedia, Khan Academy etc.), photos and videos to teachers. 

The organisation currently has about 200 books for primary school students. However, low literacy rates, no internet access and the absence of library materials including children's books are some of the challenges that the organisation faces. To create storybooks in mother tongue languages like French, Learning Without Borders partnered with StoryWeaver.

Jordan Hairabedian, who works as a researcher at Learning Without Borders, is a student at Sciences Po Aix, an Institute of Political Sciences in France. In May 2019, he organised a week-long translation hackathon with fellow students at the university to translate storybooks into French for Learning Without Borders.

This was Learning Without Borders’ first experience organising a StoryWeaver translation sprint. A closed Facebook group was formed to aid communication regarding translation and review of each story. Jordan translated StoryWeaver's translation sprint guide, which provided the best practices on translating for children, to French. 

Jordan shares, “The stories translated were published after peer-to-peer reviews. This was followed by each story being rated by the language/ translation experts from within the group. These ratings were made the basis of assessment and awards for best translations from the sprint.”

53 stories were translated into French in this sprint. You can browse through some of the stories from the sprint here.


Julia Hang and Jordan Hairbedian translating stories into French as part of the hackathon organised by Learning Without Borders.

Learning Without Borders has piloted an offline, solar-powered digital library in Senegal, that can be used in the remote areas of the country that do not have access to electricity or the internet.

Sutton hopes to see story books translated from French to languages like Pulaar and Serer, and eventually to Mandinka, Balanta-Ganja, Mandjak, Hassaniya Arabic, Noon, Jola-Fonyi, Soninke, and Mankanya. He also plans to share the StoryWeaver methodology with the Ministry of Education to see if books can be created locally, in local languages. 

As for us, we’re just excited that our translation resources are being used to translate storybooks into languages around the world, so that more children can benefit from it and partake of the joy of reading!

If you would like to conduct a StoryWeaver translation sprint, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

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