How Pratham’s StoryWeaver for Kids Celebrates Individuality of Expression and Breaks Gender Stereotypes on Every Page

Purvi Shah leads the StoryWeaver initiative at Pratham Books, a digital platform designed at scale, to tackle the shortage of children’s books through a new approach to book creation and distribution.

Tastes of Champak, Tinkle, Chacha Chaudhuri, Amar Chitra Katha, and others To Gokulam and others, children’s books in India have taken on a new dimension with new publishers entering the space.

Children’s books have also joined the digital revolution and the globalization movement, focusing on more than just entertainment and moving towards knowledge sharing and education through interaction.

Founded in 2004, Pratham Books has changed the face of children’s publishing in India by bringing story books to children across India in their native languages. Running on a low cost, high volume book, it has so far distributed over 30 million story books and story cards to children across India.

Pratham, in his new avatar of StoryWeaver, reaches millions of children around the world, with local, indigenous and diverse content in many languages.

Founded in 2004, Pratham Books has changed the face of children’s publishing in India by bringing story books to children across India in their native languages.

In a conversation with His history, Purvi Shah, who leads the StoryWeaver initiative, talks about the platform, its collaboration with CBSE’s reading mission, and how children’s reading habits have changed over the years.

HerStory (HS): What was the inspiration behind Pratham Books?

Purvi Shah (PS): One in two children in India cannot read at their school level (ASER 2019), for various reasons, one of them being the lack of reading material beyond textbooks. Without easy access to books in their mother tongue, children struggle to learn to read and practice their reading skills. Pratham Books was set up to bridge this huge reading divide that exists in India. Our mission is to put “a book in the hand of every child”.

Since 2004, we’ve been creating compelling storybooks in multiple languages ​​and formats to help kids discover the joy of reading – in languages ​​they can understand, in places they can recognize, featuring characters they can relate to and telling stories that capture their attention and fuel their imaginations. To date, we have published over 7,000 storybooks in 25 Indian languages.

HS: Tell us about the StoryWeaver platform from Pratham Books?

PS: With 200 million children in the primary school age group, one of the questions we kept coming back to was: how can we continue to bring books to children in a sustainable and scalable way to accelerate progress. towards United Nations SDG4 – Quality education for all?

We did something very unconventional for any publisher – we decided to take advantage of open licensing and technology to tackle the terrible problem of knowledge inequity. We created StoryWeaver, a digital platform designed at scale, to address the shortage of children’s books with a new approach to book creation and distribution.

StoryWeaver is a high-quality, open-licensed, multilingual storybook repository. Each book is available for free in several formats. They can be read online and with the digital divide in mind – can also be read offline, downloaded, printed and even reused. StoryWeaver also hosts content from other global publishers. Translation tools on the platform allow books to be customized for localized needs and an image bank of over 54,000 images allows users to create new books. These resources also become available to other users, creating a multiplier effect and amplifying the impact.

StoryWeaver was launched with 800 books in 24 languages ​​in 2015. By creating a participatory framework, we distributed the ability to solve the challenge of the scarcity of children’s books. This has extended StoryWeaver’s repository to over 38,000 books in 300 languages, with an online readership of over 13 million, in just six years.

HS: How are your storybooks changing comics reading habits to knowledge sharing for the present day?

PS: Children need early and sustained exposure to engaging and cheerful books to develop a reading habit and become independent learners. Most infants do not have a choice of books in their mother tongue at the crucial pre-primary and primary levels. At Pratham, our books have engaging narratives, colorful illustrations, and reflect cultural diversity to form a meaningful bridge for children as they grow up and expand their boundaries.

Our storybooks are categorized into four levels: emerging, early, independent, fluid. These levels are based on reading skills rather than age, encouraging children to read without judgment.

Over the years, we have addressed several important and stimulating themes through our storybooks, from breaking down gender stereotypes to unboxing issues such as climate change, storybooks about living with a disability to dealing with life changing events like separation, bullying and body positivity. Our editorial focus has always been to tell stories in a non-pedantic way, shaping the literary landscape with storybooks and characters who stray from traditional roles and gender bias. We commission manuscripts that seek equal voices for all genres and give space to democratic themes free from stereotypes that promote social and emotional learning.

HS: Tell us about your collaboration with the CBSE?

PS: The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 stresses the importance of well-stocked school libraries and digital libraries to achieve the goal of basic literacy for all children by 2025. It recommends making available literature for children. quality children in all local languages ​​to build a reading culture. Across the country.

Our partnership with CBSE and the Central Square Foundation will promote reading literacy and create a happy reading culture in children through the CBSE Reading Mission – a two-year initiative. CBSE schools and teachers will have access to an extensive repository of high-quality, open-licensed children’s story books and additional resources for grades 1-8 through the Pratham Book Reading Program, available for free in English and in Hindi on StoryWeaver.

HS: What social issues do Pratham Books’ storybooks deal with?

PS: In Ammachi’s amazing machines, an inventive and energetic grandmother uses various simple machines to make coconut barfi. The true story of Kali wants to dance, about a boy who aspires to be a trained classical dancer, is powerful because he pursues his dreams through thick and thin. Even though she is repeatedly told that dancing is not for boys, Kali perseveres. Satrangi Ladke aur Ladkiyan is a celebration of individuality and expression, shattering gender stereotypes at the turn of every page.

When How do planes fly? was introduced to a group of children in Rajasthan by an employee of Pratham Books, they were struck by an illustration of a female pilot. “We didn’t know women could fly planes,” one of the girls remarked.

We also have a range of picture books focused on social and emotional learning – be it Piku’s little world Where Jar of Chuchu Manthus Caramels who watch children struggling with grief and loss, or Who stole Bhaiya’s smile that deals with the complex problem of depression and mental illness, or the Angry Akku which helps a girl to express emotion and anger.

When How do planes fly? was introduced to a group of children in Rajasthan by an employee of Pratham Books, they were struck by an illustration of a female pilot. “We didn’t know women could fly planes,” one of the girls remarked.

HS: How do you think the digital revolution is changing children’s book reading?

PS: As education systems have adapted to distance learning as a solution during the pandemic, StoryWeaver has witnessed a huge global increase in usage. Educators, literacy organizations. community libraries, book clubs have integrated free and open digital material from StoryWeaver into online courses. StoryWeaver has also been featured as an open distance learning resource recommended for children by UNESCO and the World Bank.

To meet user needs, we created the Learn At Home microsite with books by level to make it easy for teachers to choose from our repository. We have partnered with UNESCO in the Translate-A-Story campaign to create more multilingual content, have expanded our reading program and thematic book lists in multiple languages, and strengthened our audiovisual resources and have made it available in more languages.

We recently launched the Basic Hindi and Marathi Literacy Program on StoryWeaver, available for use in the classroom and at home, to develop early reading fluency and comprehension. This will be used by the Chhattisgarh Ministry of Education as part of the state’s digital reading campaign, with the potential to impact 30,000 schools.

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan

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