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.
Varsha Seshan is a children's writer, author of The Prophecy of Rasphora and The Story-Catcher, among others. She has twice been shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award, and a collection of her short stories, Dragonflies, Jigsaws and Seashells, was a finalist for the Best Middle-Grade/Young Adult Book at the Singapore Book Awards 2019. She conducts reading and writing workshops for children and adults at schools and libraries. She is also a classical dancer, with over 25 years of training in Bharatanatyam. Varsha has written two storybooks for Pratham Books - Today I Am and What Will Happen?
In this blog post, Varsha writes about a training workshop that she conducted with librarians of municipal schools around Mumbai, and using StoryWeaver to chalk out a library reading programme for these schools.
As a British Council trainer, I’ve conducted numerous reading workshops and facilitated many interactive sessions for theme-based reading challenges. I’ve worked in schools as well as at the British Library itself, interacting with a range of children, from those who devour books to those who yawn at the sight of a library.
So, when Anubhooti Learning Solutions (then ‘Experiential Learning Solutions’) asked me whether I would chalk out a reading programme to be administered by librarians at municipal schools in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, I was interested. The project was a CSR initiative by D-Mart and the crux of the idea was to support a few schools through a library programme.
Excited, I drafted a detailed outline of what we could do. I devised a theme-based approach with detailed assessment criteria, for that was something that the reading programme team felt was crucial. I also worked out the learning outcomes, outline and structure of three training sessions for the librarians. All of them had worked in different capacities earlier and were to be associated with the library space for the first time. The purpose of my training sessions was to introduce them to their role beyond classroom management and discipline, emphasising that inculcating the habit of reading and a love for language is as much a part of a librarian’s role as the issue and return of books.
Varsha Seshan conducts a workshop for librarians from municipal schools around Mumbai
Yet, it was only as we launched the programme and began the first workshop that I began to understand how many problems the librarians face. A theme-based programme with assessment criteria was all very well. How would we deal with the other big issues, including the fact that many children did not even attend school regularly? As we went on, there were three problems that I was determined to address through the reading programme:
One, children come from multiple linguistic backgrounds. For instance, in a predominantly Hindi-speaking area, children attend a school where the medium of instruction is Marathi. “In my class of forty, only five children speak Marathi,” one librarian said to me.
Two, every class has students with varied reading levels. “The children who have been with us for some time are okay, on the whole, but new children come in all the time. If a child is ten years old, the school administration puts him in class five, even if he has not even learnt the alphabet yet!”
Three, some schools have different languages of instruction running concurrently. “My first period is with Hindi-medium children, then semi-English, then Marathi, then Hindi again. Each week, I have Urdu-medium, English-medium, Hindi-medium and Marathi-medium children coming to the library!”
What could we do? How could we hope to tackle such a wide range of problems?
Additionally, what started as a small group of eleven librarians soon began to grow. This is the third year of my association with Anubhooti and the D-Mart initiative, and we work with 47 librarians: D-Mart now supports 68 schools through its reading programme.
It is at this stage that my use of StoryWeaver in libraries comes in. D-Mart’s vision for the reading programme includes providing a minimum of 200 hard copies of Pratham Books in three focus languages (English, Hindi and Marathi) for each library that it supports. Five schools also use StoryWeaver books offline. This was a huge boon to me, for at least I had a starting point. I could access the same story in many languages, and thanks to the Creative Commons licence, I could encourage teachers to work with each story in multiple ways. Teaching requires so many resources that access to free material is invaluable!
I was first attracted to StoryWeaver by the clear levelling of stories, and so, this was the first thing I introduced to the librarians too. In a single class, librarians deal with students struggling to read the alphabet as well as students who read stories confidently. With such a wide range of readers thrown together in one room, I find it particularly relevant that the reading level of books on StoryWeaver is not clearly linked to an age-group. This is important to me because slow learners are often targets for bullies. Reading a “kiddish” book, marketed as one for younger readers, leads to the shaming of slow learners, and a simple indication of reading level rather than age is an important step towards addressing (though not solving) this problem.
StoryWeaver has over 16,000 storybooks that are classified into four levels based on a child's reading level.
The first time we used StoryWeaver, we worked with three stories I love – I Am Not Afraid, Ammachi’s Amazing Machines and Farida Plans a Feast. We read each story many times, in three languages. Bilingual books are particularly wonderful in the context of this reading programme, for when a child is required to read in one language, even though s/he is more comfortable in another language, having both on the same page is a great aid to reading comprehension. All of us loved the simplicity and artwork of I Am Not Afraid. It allowed us to explore and enjoy the story without being daunted by complexity of narrative and vocabulary.
The main activity we engaged in after reading the books was to create simple stories of our own. Inspired by the sweet simplicity of I Am Not Afraid, librarians created wonderful picture books about conquering fear. This was just the first step because they took the idea back to their libraries and asked children to make books of their own. This was a huge boost to the reading programme, as it encouraged children to read more and write more. The most wonderful outcome was that even if they read nothing else, children wanted to read what their friends had created. An added bonus was that there were suddenly many more books in the school library!
Librarians work on activities as part of the workshop
Librarians at the workshop prepare a chart on morals learnt from stories.
Wordless picture books are all kinds of lovely. We “read” the charming I Can Dress Myself! and then looked at how to work on language skills using a book that is written in none of the focus languages. Beginning with simple questions and answers – giving the girl a name and naming all the pieces of furniture in the room – we went on to a storytelling session, where the pictures in the book became visual aids.
Next, to continue our exploration of the use of StoryWeaver without language, I showed the participants Deepa Balsavar’s vibrant picture of a busy market. With so much happening in a single image, the librarians could explore a range of vocabulary. Consequently, they came up with various ideas of how they could use pictures in class to increase attention and concentration. We discovered that wordless picture books and the visual treat of any detailed image would include both children with very low language proficiency and confident readers who want something new.
The lists on StoryWeaver allowed me to modify the reading programme in the third year, making the entire programme much more accessible. In the first year, the feedback I received from the librarians indicated that a huge majority of older students did not want to read fiction. Working with non-fiction and stories that clearly reflect the world we see around us thus became important to the reading programme as we moved forward.
In groups, the librarians chose a story to work with and present in a novel way. Some took the story further, imagining what would happen next. Others analysed the story in different ways, changing the setting to their own schools. Soon, through skits and quizzes, we had Chhakuli (the lead character in the Marathi translation of A Cloud of Trash) sorting out the garbage problem in a neighbouring village. We had Anand talking to his friends about taking pride in his work, and about there being no shame in working as a rag-picker. We had questions and answers about character motivation and themes. We discussed segregation of garbage and the role each of us must play in the process.
Varsha Seshan watches the prep for a play based on the book 'A Cloud of Trash'
For Mathematics, we read It’s a Laddoo Party! enjoying the repetition and humour in the tale. Working with maths stories was an intriguing idea for many, one that they could not wait to take to their classrooms.
As a quick recall activity for vocabulary, we also played a ballgame. When a ball is thrown to a participant, s/he must quickly say a word that is clearly related to one of the four stories we read. So we remembered what Neema ate, recalled characters like Peter Uncle and Mihir, and discussed seasons of the year.
While I work with only the librarians, the proof of the pudding is, of course, in the eating. As the librarians do not have easy access to audio-visual equipment, working with StoryWeaver remains, for the moment, limited to schools that have computer labs with books downloaded on the systems. Children read independently – either using StoryWeaver offline or hard copies of books in the library. Eventually, I hope that infrastructural changes will allow librarians to use StoryWeaver to the fullest, including the Readalong feature and YouTube channel.
Yet, exposure to all this material has ensured multiple gains. For one, the librarians themselves have begun to read. Their purpose is clear: using stories actively in the library so as to move beyond the rather monotonous role of distributing and collecting books. Secondly, a theme-based approach allows them to look at books in their collections in a new light and create new books that then encourage reluctant readers. Thirdly, access to the same book in all three languages makes the act of reading less daunting, especially when it comes to reading in a language that is not one’s mother tongue or first language.
Librarians create charts based on stories discussed at the workshop.
And finally, feedback from the reading programme team at D-Mart is promising. Librarians and programme managers assure me that children now enjoy the books tremendously, and isn’t that the greatest victory of all?
Jala is a translation platform that combines human skill with translation technology to make high quality translations accessible to those who need it the most. It collaborates with organisations, communities and individuals to help bridge the language barriers and increase access.
Earlier this year, Jala teamed up with StoryWeaver to help build a high quality repository of openly licensed storybooks in Chinese and Bahasa Indonesia. To get some insight into the translation process, they interviewed Sophia, a Jala user and hobbyist/ freelance translator, who translated five stories on StoryWeaver from English into Bahasa Indonesia. You can read an excerpt from the interview below.
Sophia, who translated storybooks from English to Bahasa Indonesia.
Hi Sophia! Thanks for being such an active user on Jala! Can you tell us a little about why you decided to translate the StoryWeaver books?
Hello! It was my pleasure. Well, firstly a little background about me. Bahasa Indonesia is my native language, but I moved to Singapore at the age of 15, and then later moved to the UK. So English has been the language I have spoken more actively. But ever since I started working in the publishing industry and have focussed on developing Singaporean content for Singapore, I began to miss home, and I began thinking about reconnecting with Indonesia. I feel a little like an outsider to Indonesia now, and I was not sure how I could help local readers in Indonesia. So when the opportunity to translate children’s books on Jala into Bahasa Indonesia came along, I was quite excited by the idea! It felt quite perfect. While my Indonesian language abilities have withered a little, mainly due to lack of practice, I felt that working on translation really helped to revive my language skills! Translating children’s stories had its own challenges for me. For example, word choice, which had to be suitable. I had to be sensitive about how an Indonesian child would understand the words I had chosen. It made for an interesting puzzle for me!
That’s great. What did you like most about the stories that you translated?
Like any children’s book, there was a nice rhythm to the stories. There were moments when I felt that the words in English had a rhythm, which I tried to capture in my translation. Knowing the natural rhythm of the book, I tried to ensure my translation stayed true to the original in terms of sentence length and word choice.
I liked that the stories were upbeat and (mostly) positive. For example, in Fati and the Honey Tree, even though the girl (Fati) fell down and hurt herself, there was still a positive message at the end. I also enjoyed the unique settings for the stories, everything from the environment to the characters and how they interacted with their surroundings.
Fati and The Honey Tree
The Indian and Ghanian cultures were very refreshing to me, and something I feel that is lacking in publishing, as most settings are very Western-centric. Finally, I liked how each story teaches something. For Let’s Play, it was science, through the introduction of simple concepts in a child’s everyday world.
This is really great to hear! What was the translation process like for you?
I was very methodical in my translation process, after the first one, I actually figured out what worked best for me and then came up with my own methodology which I actually have written down on my phone!
To start off I usually skim the original text first. I then proceed to do the translation line by line on Jala. I go through it once and have a first draft ready. I then go through both the original and the translation, by carefully comparing the two, and making any corrections along the way. I then read through just the translation to see how it flows and if I’m comfortable with it on its own. When I’m happy with what I have, I leave it for a day and then come back and read the translation again and do a final comparison with the original before submitting the piece. I like how Jala will always save my work, and I know that my progress will be safe until the next time I revisit the project!
Stories on the Jala platform
Of all the translations that you worked on, which was your favourite story to translate, and why?
I liked Fati and the Soup Pot the best.
Fati and The Soup Pot
Fati’s attitude was really funny in the story. I also liked how despite the fact that Fati’s mother knew that Fati had done wrong, she did not punish or scold Fati in the way you would expect parents to. In addition, I felt that the description of the cooking process and the listing of ingredients was a nice touch! If you are curious enough, you could attempt to recreate the dish! It also really liked that the child was involved in the cooking process!
What do you enjoy about freelance translation?
I think what I find most appealing is the extra income. But I also do believe there is a more interesting aspect to freelance translation. For instance, gaps in languages can be filled by multilingual individuals or translators. Being able to help and contribute to a specific skill is really interesting! I also think it’s a really great cycle, the more you do, the more interested you are, and the more that you learn! For example, when there are natural disasters, you see NGOs making open (and urgent) calls for translators for a specific language. Often, contributions can be through knowledge instead of money or goods, which is so meaningful when you are filling a gap. Even in non-dire circumstances, I believe that translators can make a difference.
To read the original interview, click here.
You can read the stories translated by the Jala Community on StoryWeaver here.Be the first to comment.