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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ip

A book for every child to read

As a linguist, parent and children’s author, and in my work at the Yidan Prize Foundation, World Book Day is a day where my personal and professional worlds connect.

 



World Book Day celebrates reading for pleasure and UNESCO’s theme this year is Indigenous Languages. 40% of the world’s population can’t access education in a language they speak or understand. Reading for pleasure–and reading in indigenous languages–is a key part of many of our laureates’ work, including Dr Rukmini Banerji, CEO of Pratham Education Foundation and a Yidan Prize laureate.

 

Access to books in indigenous languages is a gateway to literacy and learning. We know from research that reading just one picture book a day to a child means they hear an estimated 78,000 words each year. Reading five books a day means children hear over 1.4 million words by the age of five. 

 

Pratham Books is celebrating 20 years as a not-for-profit children's publisher. In 2015, they launched an open story platform called StoryWeaver. It helps communities create hyperlocal digital libraries in indigenous and endangered languages for children. It currently holds over 60,000 stories in more than 350 languages. 65% of those languages are indigenous, and 12% are classified as vulnerable or endangered by UNESCO.

  

In some cases, it’s the first time children’s books—or any books—have been published in these indigenous languages. And through hyperlocal libraries, speakers of indigenous languages can share culturally relevant stories with children, created or translated by indigenous authors and illustrators. 

 

Windows and mirrors

Dr Rudine Sims Bishops talks about books as both windows and mirrors:

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange… When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience.”

 

StoryWeaver is creating a book for every child to read. Books which are doors, windows and mirrors for speakers of indigenous languages: “In her mother tongue. In her context. In her hand.”



 

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