StoryWeaver brings to life dying languages through technology and children’s stories

Swathi Moorthy New Delhi | Updated on July 24, 2018

The platform is used by schools to create a digital library

StoryWeaver, an initiative of not-for-profit organisation Pratham Books, is using technology and children’s stories to popularise reading in the mother tongue, and to preserve dying languages in India and globally.

The platform was launched in 2015 with 800 stories from Pratham Books. Now it has over 8,700 stories from different sources that can be read in 114 languages. Of these, 71 are international and 25 come under endangered and vulnerable tribal languages such as Juanga and Mundari.

Open licensing

When the digital initiative took shape back in 2008, the organisation used open licensing to release some books online. “We were heartened to see users create multiple derivative works ranging from new language versions and phone apps, to creating entirely new books from existing illustrations and Braille books,” said Suzanne Singh, Chairperson, Pratham Books.

However, the organisation did not have the underlying technology in place. It took another few years to get the funding. The organisation won the Google Impact Challenge in 2013 for funding the project. So far it has received over $3 million from “When we built the platform, we had two choices. We could simply create a digital library or also build collaborative tools that would allow users to translate or version the content into languages of their choice,” said Purvi Shah, Head — Digital Projects.

StoryWeaver was also built to be Unicode-compliant, a Universal standard adopted to make language search easier. The platform is now used by teachers, schools and organisations that work on preserving dying languages. StoryWeaver is also used by organisations such as The Azad Foundation to translate stories to Surjapuri, a lesser-known dialect of Bengali. “The storybooks are used in classrooms to retain students’ interest and preserve the local culture and language,” Singh added. The platform is used by schools to create a digital library.

Good content

While the company is able to scale, getting good content and connectivity is challenging. Singh said, “We are partnering with Bhasha Mandals and language experts to create high- quality resources in different mother tongues.” Training workshops are being conducted for teachers to ensure that they use them on a regular basis. Audio books are also in the pipeline to help children develop vocabulary and right diction.

To overcome connectivity issues, the StoryWeaver team recently launched an Offline Library feature, wherein the users can store up to 12 stories on their devices and read them offline.

Published on July 24, 2018

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