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African Storybook Project Using Translations to Help Improve Literacy


It is often said that children’s literacy is greatly helped when parents or teachers read them stories. However, African teachers and parents often don’t have access to picture books in their own languages, which means the literacy of African children is not that great. However, with the launch of a new project on African picture books, this will hopefully change in the near future.

What does a child like better than being read to? Unfortunately, according to an Espen Stranger-Johannessen in an article on Straight the number of picture books in African languages is very limited.

Bonny Norton, a University of British Columbia is about to do something about this shortage. Norton is a research advisor for the African Storybook Project (, that aims to teach more children how to read in countries such as Kenya and South Africa.

When interviewed by Stranger-Johannessen, Norton stated that literacy is “one of the greatest challenges in Africa.” She said there aren’t many resources with which children can learn how to read in their mother tongue. This is why the launch of the African Storybook Project in June met with a lot of enthusiasm. The website of the initiative offers 120 different stories in 20 different African languages, which are all freely available as they have Creative Commons licences.

Norton says African teachers can download the books to project them on the walls of their classrooms. People can’t access existing books on the website, but according to Stranger-Johannessen, they can write or translate them too! She also states that Norton also organised the African Storybook Summit at the end of June. Her project is ran by the South African Institute for Distance Education, and receives funding from UK’s comic relief.

Next to Africans, Norton believes other cultures can also benefit from the website. As all stories are available in English and for example French translations can be found there as well, it is a great way for non-Africans to learn about African Culture.

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