182 Languages 1120 Storybooks 5642 Translations and counting ...
July 12, 2019 11:40 PM   Subscribe

The African Storybook provides "Open access to picture storybooks in the languages of Africa. For children’s literacy, enjoyment and imagination. "

“Sub-Saharan Africa has approximately 1 billion people and approximately 2,000 languages, but there aren’t enough resources for children to learn to read in their mother tongue, which is the best way for children to become literate. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than one-third of children are out of school by Grade 4, and only 40 per cent of these children meet minimum reading standards, compared to 96 per cent in North America.” -- Bonny Norton, lead researcher at the African Storybook Project at University of British Columbia.

* Here is Norton giving a short overview of the project: YouTube.
* And, a longer academic presentation with project group members, Juliet Tembe (Uganda In-Country Coordinator), Tessa Welch (Project Director), Judith Baker (Literacy Advisor).

About the stories:
"We use published stories that are available freely, donated stories, stories from web research, stories collected in pilot countries, from folktale versioning, illustrations, and from courses that we run and and from that develop other stories. It is important to note that on the website we have local languages and English. So, all the stories are available in at least of course one local language as well as English, so that other people can translate from English to other languages."

But, enough palaver. Read!
* Namu's Bicycle is stolen by a mischievous monkey. By Munanga ASb Teachers and Salim Kasamba.
* Where is my Cat? by Clare Verbeek and Bronwen Heath.
* Or, my favorite so far, 'M'e Maneo's Pumpkin, in which one encounters a ticklish pumpkin and a very special moloi. By Khothatso Ranoosi and Marion Drew. English, or eight other languages including the original Sesotho. Follow the book menu to Translations.

Or listen
Nitumie nini kusafiri or Adhabu, read aloud in Kiswahili on YouTube by Dorcas Wephukulu.

All books can be downloaded for printing or as epub. Creative Commons makes it possible. The project is part of SAIDE: South African Institute for Distance Learning.

Of course, there are apps, too: iOS and Android. And, the birbsite.
posted by Gotanda (5 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Missed a link! I learned about this project last year when Bonny Norton spoke at a conference I was working on. She was really fired up about it. And, for the people interested in language and identity in education, Bonny is somebody to get fired up by.

So, this quote: Stories from the project are currently being used in Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa and Uganda across 14 pilot sites that include schools, community centres and libraries. Norton, who grew up in South Africa, says besides promoting literacy, the project also helps preserve traditional African folktales.

“If you want oral stories to live over time, they often need to be transmitted through the written word,” explains Norton, who often begins her mornings with a 5 a.m. phone call to her colleagues in Africa. As a distinguished scholar at UBC’s Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, Norton adds that the project presents an opportunity to make a lasting impact as a researcher.

“I want my research to be meaningful. I don’t want to spend years of my life only writing books or papers,” she says. “We need to work with teachers, as collaborators, to make a difference in classrooms and communities.”

The project has grown since 2014!
posted by Gotanda at 11:51 PM on July 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd love to see some local-culture-specific adaptations of Where's My Cow?, though I sadly lack the knowledge to make any myself.

(I mean the book within the book, not the framing story.)
posted by sourcequench at 7:24 AM on July 13, 2019

I love the stories and the illustrations are wonderful! I fell into a deep Wikipedia hole yesterday reading about the major cities of South Africa, and I was surprised by how many different first/primary languages had major representation.
posted by Mouse Army at 7:45 AM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

These are great, thank you for posting!!

I can totes identify with "Where is my Cat?"
posted by Fig at 12:11 PM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Something something no idea how these people got their cats something something.
posted by Gotanda at 6:08 PM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

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