Freedom to Read 2019: Hyperlocal libraries just a click away!

Posted by Pallavi Krishnan on February 19, 2019

Written by Priyanka Sivaramakrishnan

StoryWeaver’s  Freedom to Read 2019 is our flagship annual campaign to mark the International Mother Language Day on February 21st. We have been collaborating with some fantastic translators, educators and literacy organisations across the world to bring to you digital hyperlocal libraries across underserved languages.

 

When we opened up the event in November 2018, we had a rush of applications, partners who were more than eager to collaborate with us on this exciting project. We received an overwhelming 200+ applications from 36 organisations and 196 individuals, representing translation partners and individual language champions from not just across India, but also international literacy organisations and individual language champions. Our final selection boiled down to 11 organisations and 8 individuals to help build hyperlocal digital libraries across 30 languages.

With the help of these partners, we targeted 14 underserved languages such as Korku, Marwari, Basa Jawa (Javanese), Bundelkhandi, Pawari, Santaki, Kora, Pashto, Farsi, Chinyanja, Ewe and more.

Since the storybooks created on the platform will be used in classrooms to retain students' interests and preserve local culture and language, we worked closely with the partners to help them curate lists.These curated lists were entirely based on the need of the partner to fill in the gaps. For instance, Agnes N.S. Nyendwa, Editor of Macmillan Publishers, Zambia wanted to make STEM concepts easier to understand, by versioning them to her mother tongue, Chinyanja. The North East Educational Trust (NEET), Assam, India worked towards translating joyful Assamese stories for early readers because there was a lack of material in this category. Afghanistan based Darakht-e-Danesh (DD Library) wanted to translate stories that could be localised to Afghanistan and the social reality of the land. Right To Play is working with a story list that is a cultural fit for Africa and are keen to get the books printed via our publisher partner, BookDash.

To begin the process, we first had to get our partners familiar with the the StoryWeaver platform. Support materials such as the Pratham Books translation manual, tips on translating, FAQ's, and video resources on how to use StoryWeaver as a translating tool were given to the partners. During the training, we reinforced the need for peer to peer review workflows as it is essential to ensure good quality content at such high volumes and also shared our in-house playbook (a ready reckoner of sorts for hackathons) as a resource to partners who were working with teams across geographies with scaled resources to help them conduct hackathons. This was used by African Library & Information Associations & Institutions (AfLIA) to conduct multiple translation hackathons with their teams in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

We absolutely have to give it to our translation partners for knocking it out of the park, with the lengths they took to make sure that not only books got translated, but more importantly, got published.

They faced many challenges, the biggest of them all being able to complete the project despite not having all the resources. Since we’ve been working with underserved languages from remote locations, our translators were not necessarily the same people who were coming up on the StoryWeaver platform and publishing the same. This led to a lot of searching for support systems. In these cases, most of the translations were pen to paper which would then get passed on to their resource in a town or city with access to computers, where the newly translated stories were uploaded.

Keep watching this space for more news, final roundups and achievements of Freedom to Read, 2019.

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Azad India Foundation (AIF) was founded by Yuman Hussain in 1998 to seed initiatives in education & primary health care. The organisaton's activities reach out to marginalised women, adolescents and underserved children from rural and urban areas of Kishanganj district in Bihar. AIF has learning centres at 73 villages in three blocks of Pothia, Kishanganj and Thakurganj in Kishanganjimpacting 3,500 + children directly in the area. The children in AIF's centres are aged between 6-9 yeas and are either school dropouts or attending Madrassas. The centre's syllabus includes Hindi, English, Science and Maths. The main aim of the initiative is to ensure that children are ready to merge with mainstream education in state-run schools by grade 4. 

AIF is also our first partner translator to have completed its goal of translating 100 StoryWeaver books into Surjapuri. Surjapuri is spoken in pockets of Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh by 1.2 million people. In Bihar, the language is spoken in Koshanganj, Katihar, Purnia and Araria districts. In an email interview Yuman Hussain tells us why creating a hyperlocal library in Surjapuri is important and how AIF managed to reach its goal of 100 books in collaboration with its project and cluster coordinators. 

Tell us more about Azad India Foundation? 

Azad India Foundation (AIF) has been working in Kishanganj district of Bihar from 2001. It started its activities with a non-formal education and vocational training centre for women. Over the years, AIF’s focus has been on the development of poor and marginalized children, adolescents and women. Our activities are in the fields of women’s literacy, formal school education, non-formal education, rural employment, income generating skills, SHG formation, and community health programmes. Currently, we are directly working with 3,500 children in the primary classes through learning centres in 73 villages of four blocks — Kochadaman, Pothia, Kishanganj and Thakurganj. 

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?

Surjapuri is local language spoken among a large section of people in the Seemanchal area (Kishanganj, Araria, Purea and Katihar) of Bihar. Unfortunately, we have not seen any books or resources available in the local language for the children. There is a possibility that these languages will be lost over a period of time as more and more people now speak Hindi. In fact, when we started translating books in Surjapuri and shared them with the children and community members they were unable to recognize their own written language.

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

Creating a hyperlocal library at StoryWeaver will help our children have access to and preserve Surjapuri as their language. It would also enable them develop their reading skills and enjoy stories from all over the world in their own dialect. The digital library is free besides being easily accessible to every one. The mobile friendly feature has made it possible for the books to reach even remote corners of the country.

 

Tell us more about your team of conributors and how you managed to translate and publish the 100 Surjapuri stories? 

The stories were translated by the team of project Badhte Kadam comprising cluster coordinators Aslam, Chand, Juhi and teachers. They were really excited about creating Surjapuri stories as it gave them an opportunity to contribute to the preservation of their own language. Muzzamil, who is the project head, reviewed the stories. The stories were chosen according to the themes and levels of the children accessing them. The toughest part was the typing and uploading of the stories that was done diligently by Saqlain, our computer operator. AIF is really proud and thankful to its team members for completing this programme within the stipulated time period with sincerity and enthusiasm. We will continue adding more stories and hope to bring the joy of reading to all children.

 

AIF's Team Badhte Kadam

How does Azad India Foundation plan to use this digital library of a 100 books?

AIF plans to introduce these stories among the children at our learning centres. We are also spreading the message through social media about the StoryWeaver platform so that the community can access, use these stories and help in building this digital library further with many more books. This is a small step towards the preservation of local languages for which we are grateful to the StoryWeaver platform.

You can read the Surjapuri stories translated by  Azad India Foundation here

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A Serbian language teacher by profession, Ana Jovic loves to translate books. One of our language champions, Ana has played an important role in our #FreedomtoRead 2019 campaign and has just reached her goal of translating 50 stories into Serbian. In an email interview, she tells us how she hopes to build a repository of stories, by being a part of this campaign, for children from the Serbian diaspora and how much she enjoys the process of translation.

Tell us something about yourself and you connection with Serbian?

I am an English and Serbian teacher. Serbian is my native language. I studied the English language and literature, and teaching Serbian as a foreign language, so I hold two Master’s degrees. I’ve been teaching for 18 years now both online and in brick-and-mortar schools. Teaching is both my passion and profession. I love teaching and I hope to never stop doing it. I live in the countryside with one husband, two sons, four dogs and ten cats. In my free time, I enjoy a good book, a cup of black coffee, and furry company in the form of my cute cats in my lovely backyard.

What are the benefits of creating a hyperlocal library in your mother tongue?

As a Serbian teacher, I realised there are very few online books in Serbian for children. Besides, these resources don’t cater to different levels, ages or interests. Creating a hyperlocal library at Storyweaver will tremendously help children of Serbian diaspora to preserve Serbian as their heritage language. It would also help them develop their language skills and enjoy fiction in their mother tongue. This would enrich their personal experiences and allow for wider use in their heritage language schools. Such a library would also provide material for family reading time when parents and children share the language while reading and discussing stories.

You have now translated 50 stories to Serbian. How was the experience?

I loved it. I easily lose myself in translation, so the time stops for me then. I enjoyed each and every book both as a reader and translator.

Of the 50 stories that you translated, which story would be your favourite and why?

This is hard to answer. All of them are special. But if I had to choose one, let it be Counting Cats. It’s about a boy who rescues cats and brings them all home. He ends up with a bunch of cats. I can relate to this story since I’m like the boy – I have ten cats. I couldn’t resist their cuteness and helplessness so I rescued them all. Now, I have ten cats and still counting. Just like the boy from the story.

Did you face any challenges while translating a particular text and how did you overcome the same? 

I have to admit that translation is an enjoyable and easy process for me. However, I find it hard to translate rhymes. You have to find rhyming words in Serbian that can keep the meaning of the original rhyme. That’s the hardest part which takes most time and energy. The way to deal with it is to think hard, play with words and try as many combinations as possible to find the one that works. However, once I find a solution that sounds good and means the same as the original, I feel immense satisfaction. 

Do you plan to share the stories you have translated?

I would like to present the platform and the stories to a Serbian audience. I do hope that the stories will soon reach all children of the Serbian diaspora who would like to read but can’t get hold of books in Serbian easily. I hope that this Serbian library will become the families’ favorite resource of Serbian storybooks.

You can read the Serbian stories translated by Ana Jovic here

 

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