In the Northern India state of Himachal Pradesh, about 45 miles from the Dalai Lama’s residence, lies a village called Suja, where Tibetan Children’s Villages is located. While the school’s library has enough books for teens in their native language, contemporary, entertaining material for younger readers is completely missing. “Books for primary grades have hardly been written in Tibetan,” says Tenzin Dhargyal, a senior English teacher at TCV School.
Seeing his work, a few more Tibetan educators jumped onto the bandwagon. Today, StoryWeaver has 52 stories in Tibetan, of which Dhargyal will soon be printing three into books for his library. And this month, his secondary school students will be introduced to StoryWeaver so they can translate at least one book as part of their winter break homework.
Tibetan-language speakers are not the only ones benefiting from this first-of-its-kind open-source publishing platform.
Suchana, a community group that focuses on education and health, is translating stories on StoryWeaver in Santali and Kora, two tribal languages that lack written stories.
India has more than 800 spoken languages and dialects, many of which don’t have their own script. Typically, most children’s content is produced either in Hindi or English. Very few publishers cater to other languages, so access to stories in a child’s native tongue is limited, causing a decrease in learning opportunities.
StoryWeaver has 2,500 books in 53 languages on its platform. “The ease of our embedded story creator and translator tool is something our users love,” says Singh.
Reaching kids in cities has been easy, thanks to internet accessibility. “But it’s important that all children have equitable access to joyful reading material in their own languages to build a reading habit,” Singh says.
With its outreach partners, StoryWeaver has been able to influence children in underserved rural communities, where the digital infrastructure and connectivity can create a roadblock for reading and learning. Educators and storytellers are downloading stories and using them as wall projections, flash cards, reading comprehension modules, and activity books, as well as in local language apps and in Braille books.