Azad India Foundation (AIF) was founded by Yuman Hussain in 1998 to seed initiatives in education & primary health care. The organisation's activities reach out to marginalised women, adolescents and underserved children from rural and urban areas of the Kishanganj district in Bihar.
We are delighted that AIF is participating in our Freedom to Read campaign for the second year in a row. They are also our first partner-translator this year to have completed their goal of translating 70+ Surjapuri bilingual books (English-Surjapuri and Hindi-Surjapuri). In an email interview, Yuman Hussain, Executive Director of Azad India Foundation, tells us about the importance of bilingual books and how these books have helped children read and learn in their mother tongue.
The Azad India Foundation team and the children in their learning centre in Bihar
“Azad India Foundation is delighted to be part of the #FreedomToRead campaign for the second year in a row. Foundational learning skills like reading are essential for a child’s progress. StoryWeaver is a unique platform that allows children to learn these skills joyfully in their mother tongue.”
- Yuman Hussain, Executive Director, Azad India Foundation
We are delighted that Azad India Foundation has participated in the Freedom to Read campaign for the second year in a row! How does it feel to be a part of the campaign for the second time?
It feels great to be part of the Freedom to Read campaign once again and to complete the translations well before time! The credit goes to the team. It was quite challenging this year as we chose to create bilingual books in English-Surjapuri.
Do tell us about the Surjapuri community and language: What is the mother tongue footprint and what resources are currently available? What are the challenges faced by Surjapuri children when they enter school?
Surjapuri is a dialect that is spoken in the Seemanchal area comprising Kishanganj, Araria, Katihar and Purnia of Bihar, and with minor variations in some parts of Bengal, neighboring Kishanganj.
I am currently not aware of any resources that are available for children in the local dialect of Surjapuri. In most schools, children learn in Hindi. In some schools, they are also taught in Urdu.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the Surjapuri books created from last year’s campaign are being used? Do the children have any favorites?
We have taken printouts of the Surjapuri books from last year’s Freedom to Read campaign and these are being used in classrooms for supplemental reading. Some of the STEM books are being used to explain maths and science concepts. The kids really like Gappu Can’t Dance (Gappu nachwa ne sakche) and enjoy enacting it in class. However, Fat King Thin Dog (Moto Raja Patla Kutta) is their all-time favourite!
This year, you’ve chosen to create bilingual books in English-Surjapuri and Hindi-Surjapuri. Could you tell us about the need and benefits of these books?
Bilingual books help children understand concepts easily, and if created in the local dialect, then it becomes so much easier for children to learn. The English-Surjapuri books are great teacher learning material (TLM) for non-Hindi or English speakers. Through StoryWeaver, we have access to thousands of free storybooks. We are aiming to create at least 200 books in Surjapuri on the platform.
We do not have reading material/storybooks in English for our children, so these bilingual books for level 1 and 2 are helping our children learn and read English. Aakansha, our India Fellow at AIF, helps with the reading sessions in English–Surjapuri.
Do tell us about your team who worked to create these 70+ Surjapuri bilingual books, and how they went about the translation process.
We have an enthusiastic young team of translators: Chand Quasar, Juhi and Saqlain, supervised by Muzzamil, who rose to the challenge once again. First, they translated storybooks from Hindi to Surjapuri. Then, I added the English version and uploaded the books on StoryWeaver. It was slightly challenging finding the corresponding words/sentences in English that matched the Surjapuri version, but it was fun.
Azad India Foundation's Team Badhte Kadam
Thank you so much, Azad India Foundation, for giving children the #FreedomToRead in Surjapuri!
You can read all the storybooks translated by Azad India Foundation here.
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Every year, StoryWeaver marks International Mother Language Day (IMLD) to remind us all that learning to read in one’s mother tongue early in school makes education more engaging, meaningful and enjoyable for children.
Suzanne Singh, Chairperson, Pratham Books, says: “Children love stories and they are an important part of a child’s growth and development. Children need storybooks that they can relate to and that are in languages that they speak and understand. Through StoryWeaver, we are trying to address the inequity in the availability of reading resources by providing open and free access to over 18,000 storybooks in 224 languages and fostering the respect for cultural and linguistic diversity.”
In 2020, we're ringing in International Mother Language Day by helping volunteers conduct more than 1000 reading sessions for children in over 60 languages! This week, volunteers from around the world are using StoryWeaver’s digital repository of multilingual storybooks to read to children in several languages, including mainstream Indian languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu), indigenous languages (Kuvi, Pawari, Santali), vulnerable languages (Gondi, Korku), classical languages (Sanskrit) and other languages from around the world (Arabic, Igbo, Nepali).
30,000 schools in the state of Chhattisgarh, India (of which 15,000 are in tribal areas) have been encouraged to celebrate International Mother Language Day with StoryWeaver by giving children access to books and storytelling in indigenous languages like Gondi, Kurukh, Sadri and many more. Says Dr. M. Sudhish, Samagra Shiksha Chhattisgarh: “On January 26, the Honorable Chief Minister of Chattisgarh announced the use of mother tongue languages while teaching in classrooms. When we heard about StoryWeaver’s IMLD initiative, we felt that this was a great opportunity to take the Chief Minister’s mandate forward and bring mother tongue storytelling into the classroom.”
Additionally, we're also thrilled to announce the launch of open digital libraries in 16 underserved languages, marking the culmination of our Freedom to Read 2020 campaign, which aimed to create digital books in languages that have limited or no children’s books. Through our campaign, over 500 storybooks have been translated into languages such as Amharic (Ethiopia), Basa Jawa (Indonesia), Bodo, Tangkhul (vulnerable languages from North-East India), Kolami (vulnerable indigenous language from Maharashtra), Kochila Tharu and Rana Tharu (spoken in Nepal), Sindhi, and bilingual books in English-Surjapuri, to name a few.
These libraries have been co-created in collaboration with our partner organisations:
And our Language Champions:
A huge shout-out to our Freedom to Read partner organisations, Language Champions, and IMLD reading volunteers! Your efforts will go a long way in helping put a book in every child's hand. THANK YOU!
Stay tuned for more stories from the IMLD reading sessions and our Freedom to Read partners!
In the meanwhile, here are some happy moments from our ongoing International Mother Language Day celebrations:
From a reading session in English-Surjapuri conducted by Azad India Foundation in Kishanganj, Bihar
From a reading session in Arabic conducted at the Qatar National Library
From a reading session in Kolami, conducted at DIET Yavatmal to mark the launch of an open digital library of 100 Kolami storybooks, created by Institute for Multilingual Education (IMLi) and StoryWeaver
From a reading session in Maithili conducted by Aripana Foundation at Gyan Niketan Public School, Darbhanga, Bihar
From a reading session in Amharic, by Ras Abebe Aregay Library in Ethiopia
From a reading session in Karbi, conducted by Pragyam Foundation at Parijat Academy, Guwahati, Assam
From a reading session in Marwari conducted by SNS Foundation, Rajasthan
From a Nepali reading session conducted by Nepali Rana Tharu Samaj
From a reading session conducted in Mayurbhanj, Odisha
At StoryWeaver, we believe that every child deserves to have joyful reading material in her mother tongue. To make this a reality, we have been building all-digital libraries in underserved languages through the 'Freedom to Read' campaign.
In November 2019, we opened applications for the 4th edition of Freedom to Read, inviting organisations and individuals to partner with us to achieve our goal: the co-creation of digital libraries in languages with few or no storybooks by February 21, 2020 - International Mother Language Day. Each of these free-to-use digital libraries will contain at least 50 quality-assured books - creating more storybooks, in more languages, that serve more children all over the world.
We are overwhelmed by the response to Freedom to Read 2020. A BIG thank you to the applicants - we are inspired by your work in the field of literacy and language.
Based on our guidelines, relevance of work, and a rigorous evaluation, we have selected 5 organisations and 18 individual Language Champions to collaborate with us to build and share digital libraries in 20 languages.
Here is the list of partners for Freedom to Read 2020:
|Amharic||Ras Abebe Aregay Library|
|Bodo, Nepali and Karbi||Pragyam Foundation|
|English-Surjapuri||Azad India Foundation|
|Fijian||Fijian Language Society|
|Target Language||Language Champion|
|Chhattisgarhi||Rohit Sharma, Er. Vivek Rathore, Charan Das Mahant|
|Basa Jawa (Javanese)||Theresia Alit, Sigit Apriyanto|
|Kochila Tharu||Sanjib Chaudhary|
|Rana Tharu||Kamal Singh Rana|
|Sindhi||Bhawana Dhameja P, Bharti Menghani|
|Tu'un savi||Francisco Amado Cruz Ramírez|
We shall be getting in touch with the selected partners to discuss the next steps.
We are so grateful to everyone who applied - thank you once again for your participation, interest and support! We shall do our best to reach out to you to explore alternate ways to collaborate.