UNESCO’s International Literacy Day is a moment to celebrate the magic of reading, and to find solutions that can help the more than 250 million children around the world who lack basic literacy skills. Many of these children are at risk of falling even further behind due to a lack of sufficient reading materials or access to environments that promote learning. For example, in the U.S., each year 43.2 books are published for every 100,000 people, while in India, a country with 22 official languages, that number is only 6.3.
Earlier this year, Google.org announced a $50 million commitment to support organizations that are using technology to increase literacy and close the global education gap. As part of this effort, Pratham Books received a grant to accelerate development of their StoryWeaver platform, which allows anyone to read, write and translate digital stories for free. These translations, as well as the original stories, are openly licensed, meaning they’re available for free for anyone to download, remix and distribute for use in the classroom and beyond.
Today marks StoryWeaver’s second birthday. When the platform launched in 2015 it featured 800 stories in 24 languages. Since receiving a grant from Google.org, StoryWeaver has grown dramatically to now have 4,600 stories in more than 90 languages and a global readership of 2 million. StoryWeaver also recently won the 2017 Library of Congress Literacy Award.
To celebrate International Literacy Day, during the month of September we’re mobilizing Googlers from Dublin to Singapore to Mountain View to volunteer to translate stories for young readers. Googlers speak more than 70 languages, so we’re hosting hour-long volunteer events (“translate-a-thons”) in our global offices, where Googlers can come together to translate books.
Earlier this week, Googlers in our Dublin office—itself home to 65+ languages—kicked off our very first translate-a-thon. Xime Daud decided to translate “Gul in Space,” a story about a young girl traveling to the International Space Station, from English into Spanish. Halfway across the world, a Singapore-based Googler, Marv Echipare, also translated “Gul in Space,” this time into Tagalog. Afterward, he said: “In the Philippines, there is a dichotomy between those who are well off and have access to books, and those on the other side, where you see small rural villages that hardly have access to anything. If technology can bring learning material like these books to them, that’d be great, and the first step is putting it in a language they understand.”
Have 20 minutes to spare? Consider authoring, translating, illustrating or reading a story on StoryWeaver!