Your job title:
Director - StoryWeaver
Your organization name:
When was your organization founded?
1st January, 2004.
In what city, town, or region are you located?Bangalore, Karnataka, India
In what city, town, or region is your organization headquartered?Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?
Pratham Books’ mission is to put "a book in every child’s hand". Our digital platform, StoryWeaver, leverages open-licensing, technology and collaboration to democratise access to books and create book security at scale. We are passionate about helping the world progress towards SDG4: Education For All. As Director of StoryWeaver, I am responsible for driving innovative solutions and partnerships that create scalable, sustainable pathways to bridge the gap between children and the books they need.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the global learning crisis. World Bank Reports project that extended school closures may lead to learning poverty increasing from 53% of primary-school-age children to 63%. In total, 454 million primary-school children will be learning poor - unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. The need for equitable access to educational inputs is more urgent than ever.
The Elevate Prize and its global network, mentorship, and strategic marketing expertise will help us accelerate our work around 3 core pillars - creation, access and use - of openly licensed children’s books. Specifically, funding will be utilized to create foundational learning programmes and associated teaching resources to build for education in the post-pandemic world, to ensure that no child is left behind.
Tell us about YOU:
While I was growing up, my mother always stood up for me and for what is right. This gave me the security to be - and do - what I wanted. It also made me wonder what part I could play in making sure that all children could live life with the same sense of confidence.
I left my advertising career in 2006 to join Pratham Books with the goal of giving children a fair chance at success with the first step of literacy acquisition: books. Reading contributes to children’s growth. Books can be windows, doors and mirrors - introducing children to new ideas, nurturing their imagination and emotional well-being.
The recurring theme in my 15 years at Pratham Books has been ‘the spirit of innovation’: bridging the digital divide by leveraging IVR technology to share free audio stories, creating an affordable in-classroom library solution, building StoryWeaver, espousing the open-source philosophy, creating a global network of volunteers for storytelling and translation, and forging partnerships.
The pandemic has only strengthened my resolve to elevate StoryWeaver’s impact by exploring the possibilities of AI, collaborating with Ministries of Education and child-focused organisations to shape and strengthen a culture of reading and learning.
Pitch your organization.
UNESCO states that 6 out of 10 children are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. The paucity of mother tongue reading materials is linked to children’s inability to read at grade level. UNESCO estimates that 40% of people lack access to education in their own language. To become readers, children must have access to books in languages they speak and understand. This is sorely lacking in several parts of the world - with not enough books, in not enough languages, for children to learn and practise reading.
StoryWeaver from Pratham Books is a digital platform that addresses this book gap and promotes reading acquisition among children. At its core, StoryWeaver is a repository of high-quality, openly-licensed multilingual storybooks sourced from global publishers, including Pratham Books. Each book is freely available in multiple formats that can be read online, offline, downloaded, printed and repurposed. Translation and versioning tools help customize books for localized requirements and these resources become available to other users too, creating a multiplier effect.
Since its launch in 2015, StoryWeaver has grown from 800 books in 24 languages, to 34,000 books in 293 languages, with a readership of 57 million, and users from 150 countries.
Describe what makes your work innovative.
StoryWeaver disrupts traditional publishing models by sharing open access to books and distributing the ability to solve book scarcity, acting as a shared space for publishers, creators, translators, educators, governments, technologists to participate.
Our platform is simple, responsive, non-bandwidth intensive, with offline & online features. For every original book on the platform, 12 derivative versions are created, leading to exponential growth. This inspired 10 publishers to open license their books on StoryWeaver!
Our initiatives include audio-visual books for early readers who are first-generation learners; making books available in portable, interoperable formats like PDFs and ePUBS - the latter allows for versioning into accessible formats like Braillefor the visually impaired.
As one of the few publishers that is also a platform, we have codified and shared our learnings to empower actors who create, translate, review and use the content. StoryWeaver's architecture is built for scale and we have open-sourced our code. Room to Read customized this to launch their version of StoryWeaver, https://literacycloud.org, taking books to the millions of children they serve worldwide.
StoryWeaver has been recognized by the Digital Public Goods Alliance4 as the first Digital Public Good from India for Foundational Literacy and Early Grade reading.
How and why is your organization having an impact on humanity?
StoryWeaver’s approach to book creation & distribution takes books to some of the most disadvantaged children globally, particularly where chronic under-investment in the availability of mother tongue reading resources poses a significant barrier to literacy. Our collaborative frameworks empower a wide network of actors to create book security.
Publishing in underrepresented languages enables self-expression, inclusiveness. 61% of the languages on StoryWeaver are indigenous, 12% are vulnerable - providing a digital footprint for marginalised languages and aiding their preservation. For example, we enabled publishing of books in Chocholteco (indigenous to Mexico) - the first written texts in that language to be published in over a decade. We invest in building translation tools & dictionaries in underserved languages, and host capacity-building workshops.
As part of our COVID-19 efforts, we quickly pivoted to share reading materials for use in resource-scarce environments. Our reading programme in partnership with UNICEF and the education department of Maharashtra, India, gave 2.5 million children access to books via online-offline modes during school closures.
Thus we are tackling learning inequity in a dual way - nurturing communities of practice to create localized reading resources, and forging partnerships & creating pathways to share them with children at scale.
Select the key characteristics of the community your organization is impacting.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your organization address?
Which of the following categories best describes your work?
- Purvi Shah Director of StoryWeaver, Pratham Books