International Mother Language Day: Ysolde and Her Magical Shoes

International Mother Language Day: Ysolde and Her Magical Shoes

Today is International Mother Tongue Language Day. Imagine you’re a young girl living in Rwanda. You speak Kinyarwanda, your mother tongue, at home with your family, with your friends as you run and play. You even think and dream in Kinyarwanda. But at school, they don’t speak your language -- literally. These foreign words are unfamiliar and often confusing, as are the books that feature children entirely unlike you. Until…

You have the opportunity to read a book in Kinyarwanda, whose characters reflect your reality, your culture, everything you know. Perhaps if school were always this way, learning would be easier...

Around the world, 250 million children are not learning the basics of how to read and write, even after four years in school. One potential explanation? The lack of books and educational content in mother tongue languages.

We know that books and instructional materials in mother tongue languages are critical to teach children the basics of reading and writing, but as much as 40% of the global population isn’t learning a language they speak or understand. This is partially because only a few languages have been truly prioritized and placed in the educational system. Sadly, it is also because many mother tongue languages are endangered.

More than half of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world are likely to die out within a few generations, and 96% of these languages are spoken by a mere 4% of the world's population. Unfortunately, this means that many children are without the opportunity to learn in their mother tongue language, and the rich multicultural fabric of our world misses out as a result.

In the process of curating books for our digital library across our five program countries, the Library For All team was shocked to discover this gap in the availability of mother tongue books.

Our solution? To facilitate the creation of mother tongue content through writer workshops and strategic partnerships with publishers and other organizations who share our vision of increasing the global pipeline of mother tongue language content.

This year, we committed to hosting three Writer Workshops in Haiti to teach aspiring authors how to write ebooks in their local language, Haitian Creole. Through those workshops, we created 260 original children’s books in Haitian Creole, and the response has been overwhelming.

In addition to our Writer Workshops in Haiti, Library For All has also partnered with ImagineWe, a Rwandan publishing house, to create a book in Kinyarwanda called “Ysolde and Her Magical Shoes.” This Rwandan fairy tale is about a courageous little girl whose bravery and big heart save her village. ImagineWe shares many of Library For All’s core values, among them their vision to restore African dignity, improve young readers’ self-esteem, and to support the rise of education outcomes and literacy rates.

Library For All’s strategy to increase the amount of mother tongue content presents the unique opportunity to leverage the development of linguistically and culturally relevant content in such a way that improves literacy and fosters a new generation of mother tongue materials that will help preserve these endangered languages for generations to come.

We are proud to honor the beauty that linguistic diversity bring both to our work, and to the world at large.

 Cover for "Ysolde and Her Magical Shoes." Illustrated by ImagineWe in Kigali, Rwanda

Cover for "Ysolde and Her Magical Shoes." Illustrated by ImagineWe in Kigali, Rwanda

 The ImagineWe Publishing Team and our Director of Business Development, Isabel Sheinman, holding ImagineWe's highly popular published books in Rwanda. 

The ImagineWe Publishing Team and our Director of Business Development, Isabel Sheinman, holding ImagineWe's highly popular published books in Rwanda.