In lives replete with stories, it’s hard to believe there aren’t enough for children to read. But Purvi Shah of Pratham Books says there is a book drought in children’s publishing—with not enough stories to go around and, most definitely, in not enough regional languages. She recalls how, when the Bengaluru-based publishing house had adopted an open license format in 2008, their books were almost immediately translated into Sanskrit, Ladakhi and even Swahili. “Over 15,000 books were printed in Malaysia and distributed to children by the One for One Books initiative. Our stories also travelled to Cambodia, Pakistan and South Africa,” says the head of digital projects. This sowed the seeds for StoryWeaver, an open source platform with multilingual children’s content where you can read, create and share books. Launched 10 days ago, it went live with 26 languages, 800 stories and 2,000 illustrations. “On the day of the launch we got a request from an NGO in Belgium to add Dutch to our repertoire, and we did. Now there is a Dutch book on the site,” she laughs.
A year in the making, the project—funded by a grant from the 2013 Google Impact Challenge—has a special reader on the browser, a responsive website that you can access on mobiles and tablets, and new titles added every week. But what we love is how it passes the power to the people. Imagine this: anytime a child needs a new book, someone sitting in Kashmir, Kotagiri or Kathmandu can log in, write a story in a language of their choice, download and print it. Voila! “To mark the launch, we are also running a ‘Weave-a-Story’ campaign where four children’s authors, including Anushka Ravishankar and Soumya Rajendran, are writing an original story each. In fact, Ravishankar’s It’s All The Cat’s Fault, which kicked off the campaign, was translated into 14 languages in just eight days,” Shah shares, adding that content managers review stories to ensure inappropriate content isn’t published.
With 22,000 reads so far and new users signing up every day, she believes that in the days to come children, too, will begin weaving stories, creating an India “where every child will have enough books to read in his/her own language.” Going forward, StoryWeaver also plans to collaborate with other children’s publishers and encourage them to put their content online, thus creating a larger, more diverse pool of content. And since young children engage better with the spoken word, audio books are in the pipeline, too.
Surya Praphulla Kumar