On September 8, International Literacy Day, a publisher of children’s books took an unprecedented step to get more children in India to read, and to think creatively. That day Pratham Books launched StoryWeaver, an open source digital platform that aims to be a go-to repository of children’s literature online. Pratham Books have been publishing for eleven years now, with over 300 titles and 2,000 books in over 18 languages to their credit, and have now made these books available to everyone, under open source content licences.
The people at Pratham reckon that mainstream publishing just doesn’t reach too many of the approximately 200 million children in the country, especially when it comes to books that adequately represent Indian children in their own contexts and cultural milieus. Suzanne Singh, the Chairperson at Pratham, says, “There aren’t enough engaging, joyful books being published for children in Indian languages outside of Hindi and English. Most books will be age-old fables, folk tales, etc. of differing quality.”
Read, tell, build
What the StoryWeaver website does is to replicate the oral tradition of storytelling: it puts out a story and then invites people to either read the story as it is, translate it into a different language, or take the bare bones of the story to tell a completely new one. Contributors can even add illustrations, or use the many prompts on StoryWeaver, from textual to illustrative, to write stories themselves. "I am happy to have my books on StoryWeaver and under open license. The possibility of reaching out to many more children and in many languages is just wonderful", says author and illustrator Madhuri Purandhare.