Ras Abebe Aregay Library is a library based in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia. They host storybook writing workshops for children. In the past, they have collaborated with the African Storybook Initiative to host workshops and get more storybooks written and translated. They distribute digital storybooks to agencies and regional bureaus of education and are able to reach children in Ethiopia through their network of schools, parents and NGOs across the country.  

In this email interview, Mezemir Girma, General Manager of Ras Abebe Aregay Library tells us about his #FreedomToRead experience, and the process of creating a digital library of 40 storybooks in Amharic.

Do tell us about the Ras Abebe Aregay Library, its vision, and the communities that you engage with.

Ras Abebe Aregay Library envisions creating a generation of readers in Ethiopia. We engage with the community in Debre Birhan town, Amhara National Regional State through our library. Our involvement in making learning materials and knowledge accessible online to the wider Ethiopian community results in our library serving more people in Ethiopia. 

What are the long-term effects of a lack of easy access to resources in mother tongue languages for the communities that you work with?

In Ethiopia, there is a shortage of storybooks, as well as textbooks. The lack of easy access to resources in mother tongue languages for Ethiopian students perpetuates the vicious circle of illiteracy and poverty.

How did you come across StoryWeaver and the Freedom to Read campaign? What prompted you to participate in the campaign?

Our library took part in an African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) meeting in Accra in October 2019. At that event, we spoke to the participants about the African Storybook Initiative. A representative from Uganda asked if that was like StoryWeaver. That was the first time we heard about StoryWeaver. Later, we visited the StoryWeaver website and followed them on social media. Then, on Twitter we learned about the Freedom to Read campaign. We applied to translate storybooks to Amharic. After the selection process, our library was among the six organizations chosen globally to take part in the translation project.

What are the benefits of creating a local digital library of joyful storybooks in Amharic?

As we are working on reading and literacy, we understand how storybooks are helpful to children in our communities. When one gets the opportunity to translate quality picture storybooks into one’s mother tongue, one should not miss the opportunity. As we wish to help this generation get better opportunities than ours, we seized this opportunity and took StoryWeaver‘s online training via Skype.

Local digital storybooks in Amharic are helpful as there is a shortage of storybooks in the country. As a lecturer in English Literature at one of the public universities in Ethiopia, I was not aware of storybooks until 2014 when an American Peace Corps Volunteer, Benjamin Rearick, introduced me to the African Storybook Initiative (ASb) and their wonderful translation system. By the way, I felt really happy when I found the storybooks I translated for ASb on the StoryWeaver website. Therefore, in a country where children have little access to storybooks, the role that the translation project may have is beyond words.

Tell us a bit about your process of translation. Were there any challenges you faced while translating to Amharic?

The translation process was a bit challenging. At first, our plan was to engage library readers and volunteers in the activity. However, they found it hard to get time to involve themselves in the translation project. Therefore, being the manager of the library, it was up to me to work on the translation. The translation was a bit difficult because I was not familiar with the website. It took me a while to get used to it. The online training helped me. The number of holidays that Ethiopia celebrated in the last few weeks kept me away from the university where I could get internet connection. As much as possible I used the time I had to translate.  After I went half way, I learned that I could use Google Translate. Earlier I didn’t rely on google’s Amharic translation system as I heard people say it is inaccurate. Now I am using it even if their Amharic translation requires more editing work.

How do you hope to reach more children through your books in Amharic?

Once the translation is over, distribution is another challenge. As I know from experience, the community lacks access to the internet. At our library, we will display the storybooks to children using our projector and laptop. We will also download and disseminate in nearby schools. Other areas of the country could be reached with social media and regional education bureaus.

The logo of our library was designed by our IT volunteer Mr Tesfamicael Hailu and we would love to thank him as he filled that gap and helped our library appear on the storybooks we translate!

Thank you everyone at StoryWeaver for the opportunity you gave us!  

Mezemir Girma from Ras Abebe Aregay Library, Ethiopia

Mezemir Girma conducts reads a storybook in Amharic with children in Ethiopia

Storybooks translated by Ras Abebe Aregay Library into Amharic on StoryWeaver

Thank you, Ras Abebe Aregay Library, for giving children the #FreedomToRead in Amharic!


You can read all the storybooks translated by Ras Abebe Aregay Library here.

Learn more about the organisation and their work here.

Do join the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below. You can also reach out to us through our social media channels: FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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Celebrating International Mother Language Day in over 60 languages!

Posted by Remya Padmadas on February 24, 2020

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 (KuviPawari, 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


Do join the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below. You can also reach out to us through our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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At Pratham Books’ StoryWeaver, we believe that every child deserves to have joyful reading material in her mother tongue. Join us as we celebrate International Mother Language Day - February 21, 2020!

How to participate:

Help us spread the joy of reading in your mother tongue, by hosting story reading sessions for children in your community! The reading session can be held in any language of your choice. We have books available in 200+ languages that you can read from, or download for free from www.storyweaver.org.in.

Sounds exciting? Register now and help us bring more books, in more languages, to more children! All you have to do is fill up a form, and we'll send you a free reading kit*, help you choose the books for the reading session and give you a shout-out on our social media channels! You can conduct the reading sessions anywhere - at home, in your library, at school - and on any day from February 14 - 23, 2020 (this includes 2 weekends!).

*UPDATED: Registrations to receive a hard copy of the kit end on February 10, but if you miss the deadline, we’ll be happy to mail you an e-copy!

Note:

  • For logistical reasons, we will not be able to send the reading kit to locations outside India, but we will share an e-copy instead.
  • There are a limited number of printed kits available, so if we run out of kits by the time you register, we will send you an e-copy.

  • If you have any queries, please mail [email protected] BEFORE you fill in the form.

Sign up here (for individuals) or here (for organisations).

Join our Facebook group! Keep up with the latest news, and get in touch with others conducting story reading sessions in your community!: https://bit.ly/2UrZnDo

Join our Facebook event! If you are planning to conduct a story reading session, let us know by joining our Facebook event here: https://bit.ly/31tzhBr


Frequently asked questions:

1. Do I have to find the venue?

Yes. Identify places where you can conduct this event in your city – a government school, an NGO, a library, a bookstore, a park, a train, your building… any place where children visit. Approach the organisation and explain the concept to them. Most of them will be happy to host you.

2. How do I choose a storybook for the reading session?

You can read aloud a storybook in a language of your choice. We have books available in 200+ languages that you can read from, or download for free from www.storyweaver.org.in!

3. Will you help me choose a storybook for the reading session?

We would love to! Just fill up the form, and we shall send you our storybook recommendations.

4. This is the first time I am conducting an event. How should I prepare for it?

Read the book a few times. If you are reading to a younger age group, see how you can tell the story without actually reading from the book (to retain their attention). Think of activities to engage the children after the storytelling. Alternatively, read a few more storybooks around the same theme.

5. Can I conduct multiple reading sessions?

Oh, yes, you can! The aim is to reach as many kids as possible. You could also conduct reading sessions for multiple languages - for example: Hindi for Session 1, Marathi for Session 2 and so on.

6. I really want to conduct a session but I am not free on International Mother Language Day, February 21? What should I do?

No problem! You can still conduct it on a day close to the chosen date, anytime between February 15 to 23, 2020 - this includes 2 weekends!

7. Will the reading kit be sent for free or will I have to pay for it?

The reading kit will be sent to you for free (printed kits will be shared until stocks last, after which we will send you an e-copy).

8. Should I document the event?

We would love for all our participants to send us some documentation about the event conducted by them. You can send us videos, pictures, a write-up – just share with us the “real impact” you’ve helped make. Feel free to tag us on social media as well! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

This International International Mother Language Day, let us celebrate the joy of reading in your mother tongue. Sign up now! If you are an individual, sign up here. If you are an organisation, please sign up here. Happy reading! 

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