Celebrating The Mother Tongue: 3 Ways to Stimulate the Global Supply-Chain of Mother Tongue Content

Celebrating The Mother Tongue: 3 Ways to Stimulate the Global Supply-Chain of  Mother Tongue Content

 

Tanyella Evans is co-founder & CEO at Library For All

Tanyella Evans is co-founder & CEO at Library For All

Today is International Mother Tongue Language Day.

Take a moment to imagine that you are a child of five or six years old in Rwanda, enrolled in elementary school. As you leave for school in the morning, you say goodbye to your mom in Kinyarwandan - your mother tongue; you meet your friends on the road and chatter away in Kinyarwandan; meandering past the market, you overhear the shop vendors bartering in Kinyarwandan; but when you enter the classroom, unfamiliar words grate on your ears. You listen intently to the teacher, straining to understand and find your way through the maze of confusing characters and words. You leaf through a tattered reading book in the same foreign tongue, donated by some long-gone stranger, a plot line you can’t follow even by the illustrations, which confound you; fair-skinned children laughing in the park, visiting a koala in the zoo.

Photo courtesy of En Classe

Photo courtesy of En Classe

For elementary children in many parts of the world, this disorientating experience of learning to read is a typical everyday reality. In developing countries, multilingual instruction isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity. Increasingly, schools are teaching children only the language of business, and not the mother-tongue language. Schools are receiving books in international languages, but cannot find titles in their native language and with local images. Without instruction in their mother tongue in the early grades, many children will not learn the basics of how to read and write, and will therefore not later cross the bridge to literacy in international languages that are critical to their ongoing education. As UNESCO writes in their recent policy paper on mother tongue instruction, “being taught in a language other than their own can negatively impact children’s learning. (1)"

What can we do?

We know that books and instructional materials in mother tongue languages are essential in addressing the challenge that 250 million children are not learning the basics of how to read and write, even after four years at school (2). The question is, how can we stimulate the global supply chain of high-quality content in hundreds of local languages?

This is the question that we at Library For All are working on addressing. We believe that sustainable development in this area depends upon a significant acceleration of three practices: nurturing existing publishing industries, harnessing the creativity of local communities to catalyze production, and ensuring the result is high quality mother-tongue books in the hands of children. As participants in the Global Book Alliance, a multi-stakeholder group of public and private entities working on literacy efforts, we are mobilizing around these three practices.

Specifically, building from our experience in providing access to digital reading materials in mother tongue languages in five countries, Library For All is working on the following:

1. Nurturing existing publishing industries:

Subsidizing demand for mother tongue books through public-private partnership is arguably the most sustainable path forward. This can be achieved by working with local and regional publishers that are already grappling with production of mother tongue books at scale, and providing them with the market predictability and demand they need to ramp up production. New funding mechanisms, clear procurement processes, and bulk purchasing would spur demand for books. At Library For All, we have experimented with licensing content from over 70 publishers, and have negotiated licenses for the digital rights to mother tongue texts from local publishers and authors. In the future, it has been proposed that a ‘Global Book Fund’ could co-fund book licenses and procurement agreements at scale with government and the private sector. This fund would draw lessons from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), which subsidizes the demand for vaccines through public-private partnership, and has been successful in eradicating some of the most deadly diseases responsible for child mortality. Could the same model be adapted to eradicate illiteracy by subsidizing publishers to meet the demand for mother tongue books?

2. Harnessing the creativity of local communities to catalyze production:

A second solution to fill the gaps in mother-tongue books available, is to create titles through training the local community and equipping them with the tools they need. Bloom software enables individuals in local communities to write stories that are leveled and aligned to the curriculum (3). Writers’ workshops can be an extremely powerful way to not only create mother tongue books, but also capture local folklore and stories that will delight children and spark their imagination and love of reading. Library For All recently won a grant from USAID to complete the production of 200 books in Haitian Creole, through writers’ workshops led by our Haitian team. All content produced will be Creative Commons licensed, which means that anyone can print, modify, or distribute the content for free.

3. Ensuring the result is high quality, mother-tongue books in the hands of children:

Mother tongue books should be high quality, engaging texts that ignite in children a lifelong love of reading. We all remember our favorite children’s book from growing up - books that drew us in and delighted us with every twist and turn. Creating these page-turning titles is an even greater imperative for children who may have little access to books. One way that we address the need for quality at Library For All is through engaging a network of local content advisory boards, comprised of volunteer educators and content experts to review all of the books on our digital library distribution system. Lessons from Wikipedia and Khan Academy suggest that scaling up this community of editors globally, with a robust reviews and ratings system, could enable us to crowdsource the quality assurance process of mother tongue language content.

Why now?

Last International Mother Tongue Language Day, we learned that as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to education in a language they speak or understand (4). The research shows us that without mother tongue books and instruction, millions of children will continue to be lost in the classroom, and will grow up without the tools they need to live prosperous lives. At Library For All, we believe that the achievement of the sustainable development goals, and a world of “inclusive and quality education for all”, starts with a classroom where all children can take their first wide-eyed, curious steps into the world of learning and reading in their mother tongue (5).

You can find more information by and join the action on our site www.libraryforall.org. 

 

SOURCES: (1) UNESCO Policy Paper 24, 2016 (2) UNESCO, EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2014 (3) SIL’s Bloom Library (4) UNESCO Policy Paper 24, 2016 (5) Sustainable Development Goal 4, http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education/

#BluestoneForBooks: A campaign to support global literacy

#BluestoneForBooks: A campaign to support global literacy

Our November campaign in NYC with Bluestone Lane!

Library For All has partnered up with fast-growing coffee brand Bluestone Lane to support our mission to make knowledge accessible to all, equally. “Bluestone for Books” is our campaign to drive awareness and support for global literacy through inspiring participation with individuals across the NYC community.

Throughout November, Bluestone Lane stores will be serving coffee in branded “Bluestone for Books” cups. In Bluestone Lane restaurant cafes, each table will have a "Blue Book" with information regarding the initiative.

How can you participate?

If you live in NYC, visit Bluestone Lane between now and November 30th! Customers who post a photo of their cup or blue book with #bluestoneforbooks on Instagram can help to spread awareness about our global literacy initiative. Every post will enter you into a raffle to win free coffee for an entire year from Bluestone Lane!*

Photo courtesy of Patrick Janelle

Photo courtesy of Patrick Janelle

"Bluestone for Books" launched on November 3rd at Bluestone Lane Astor place, with a gathering of brands, influencers, and speakers to support the initiative. Speakers included Bluestone Lane Director of Marketing Andy Stone, CEO of Library For All, Tanyella Evans, and HarperCollins' best-selling author Regina Calcaterra, who has written "Etched in Sand" and newly released "Girl Unbroken." 

* Instagram competition opens November 1st at 12:00am and closes November 30th at 11:59pm. Limited to 1 entry per person. Winner is drawn randomly and announced online by December 12th. For further questions, email bluestoneforbooks@bluestonelaneny.com\

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Opening the TDBank branch at 37th & Broadway came with many surprises and delights, but few as inspiring as receiving the opportunity to serve on the Board of a local nonprofit, Library For All. Midtown Manhattan has become the home of a buzzing tech sector, with eBay's offices in the 20s, reaching all the way up to Bloomberg near Bryant Park.  Amidst the fashionistas and garment visionaries, sit developers, sprinkled throughout the cafes, sipping Wi-Fi along Broadway's pedestrian path, or in one of the many co-op work spaces that have sprouted up throughout Midtown. Among them sits a unique tech non-profit who envisions "a world with opportunities for all individuals to learn, dream, and aspire to lift themselves out of poverty."  Library For All's mission is nothing less than to make knowledge accessible to all, equally.  And from the moment I met the founders, Tanyella Evans and Rebecca McDonald, in the Echoing Green Fellowship office on the corner of 37th & 7th, I knew that this was a nonprofit, this was a tech company—errr, this was a game-changer, like no other. 

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The International Literacy Association (ILA), a global advocacy and membership organization dedicated to advancing literacy for all, announced Tanyella Evans, Co-Founder and CEO of Library For All, today as an honoree on its second annual 30 Under 30 list. The list recognizes the next generation of young innovators, advocates and educators who are leading efforts to advance literacy for all, whether in their community or around the world.

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"Chicago Ideas supports innovators in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors who are using their work for positive social change. This year, Chicago Ideas received 250 applications from around the world for its Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship, which recognizes exceptional entrepreneurs under the age of 35, who are working to solve pressing social challenges," Chicago Ideas posted on their website. 

Five fellows were selected from over 250 applicants from all over the world, including our very own CEO at Library For All, Tanyella Evans.

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"Library For All is a special program that is being piloted at one of our partner schools. The kids who are part of this program are in the restavèk system; they don’t have access to books at home, nor do they really have time to focus on school as they have chores to do all day long. Their situation has a negative impact on their learning. Based on our research in psychology and pedagogy, it is important for kids to be in a good social environment that promotes learning and familiarity with books. This is why we plan special sessions where we create this environment for them. Through these sessions, we have seen Djerry*’s marked progress in reading. "

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It's been nine months since the United Nations committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals"to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all." It's a 15 year window of opportunity to achieve these goals, but how do governments, corporations, nonprofits, and individuals like you and me accelerate impact in each of these areas? 

For my team, our core focus is SDG 4: ensuring access to quality education for all. 

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To celebrate Children's Book Week this year - May 2nd-8th - Library For All is proud to highlight one of our Haitian team members, Francoise Thybulle, about the impact of books in her lifetime. 

Francoise Thybulle is former Director of the Haitian National Library. Though she retired her position in 2012, Francoise joined Library For All in 2014 to lead the curation of Library For All's digital library for Haiti - a collection filled with books in Haitian Creole, French, English, and Spanish.

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This year at the Leaders for Literacy Day Conference, hosted by International Literacy Association (ILA), our CEO Rebecca McDonald will share her story about why Library For All exists to deliver quality, local books to children in developing countries via a cloud-based, digital library. Today, we are pressed to think about how to best support literacy champions across the world in order to improve learning outcomes. 

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1. From where you pivot today, if you look back at your path, what would be one moment (however long it lasted physically) that altered your perception most profoundly? You are often working in a vacuum when you are working on a startup, whether it is for-profit or non-profit. For me the biggest turning point was during our Kickstarter campaign. I had never raised more than $3,000 in my life, and the idea of raising $100,000 seemed unachievable. I remember the sleepless nights and the frantic meetings before we launched our campaign.

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THE SEVENTH WAVE: Who were some of the early influencers and supporters who helped LFA become something more than an idea?

ISABEL SHEINMAN: When I first met Rebecca McDonald and Tanyella Evans — the co-founders of Library For All —Library For All was still an idea. It was an idea that had huge potential — one that both Rebecca and Tanyella, their friends and families, and a number of advisors and volunteers had already put an entire year of time, energy, and thought into developing — but it was in need of a push to get it off the ground.

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