The African Storybook Project draws on advances in digital technology to promote the multilingual literacy of African children, in both the mother tongue and English. To address the drastic shortage of reading materials in the mother tongue, the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide) has developed an innovative interactive website which allows users to freely download, upload, and translate African stories for use in classrooms and communities. The website was officially launched in South Africa, with sponsorship from the European Union, in June, 2014, and has 120 original stories in up to 19 different African languages, as well as English.
Dr. Bonny Norton, Professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED) at UBC, serves as the project’s research advisor, and has helped supervise a number of UBC graduate students who are active in this transnational project, including Dr. Juliet Tembe, Dr. Samuel Andema, Espen Stranger-Johannessen, Doris Abiria, and Elizabeth Namazzi.
Having co-organized a Peter Wall Colloquium Abroad on the project in South Africa in October, 2013, together with the Project Director Tessa Welch, Norton then extended this network to the Canadian context, organizing the African Storybook Summit at UBC on June 26, 2014. Tessa Welch, skyped in from South Africa, gave an outstanding keynote address that generated vibrant discussion among summit participants. These included UBC faculty and students; the project’s literacy advisor, Judith Baker; as well as members of the international development community such as Worldreader, Room to Read, Translators Without Borders, CODE, and Grace Rwanda.
Opened by President Stephen Toope and Dean Blye Frank, the summit succeeded in harnessing both local and international support for the African Storybook Project, strengthening existing networks and forging new ones. The views of one participant echoed that of many, “Such a well run and informative event – it was such a pleasure to meet everyone and to be in the company of so much collective wisdom and excitement.”
Warm thanks for sponsorship from the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, Saide, the Faculty of Education, and LLED. In the spirit of Vancouver’s Georgia Straight, please spread the word: African Storybook Project brings digital books to kids.