Pratham Books awarded the Library of Congress literacy award for its work during a pandemic

The award has recognised the work in making learning resources accessible to all during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit : Pratham Books

“Our aim is to reach every single child,” said Sandhya Taksale, Senior Editor at Pratham Books, the non-profit organisation that is one of the five recipients of this year’s Library of Congress Literacy Awards. The Literacy Awards were started by American Businessman and Philanthropist by David M. Rubenstein in 2013 to honour organisations doing exemplary and replicable work towards expanding literacy. The award has especially recognised the work of Pratham Books in making reading and learning resources available and accessible to all during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Since 2004, Pratham Books has been addressing the issues of the affordability and availability of qualitative books to all children in their own languages. We started our free online platform Storyweaver in 2015 to address the challenges better with the help of technology. We started the platform with 800 stories, and today, on Storyweaver, we have stories and books from around 256 languages including Indian official languages, tribal languages, different foreign languages (European, African), etc.,” said Taksale.

As the pandemic struck and the need to make digital reading and learning material accessible was felt more than ever, Storyweaver made the reading material available in the form of thematic lists, representing various subjects like science, mathematics, gender equality, environment, and so on. “We devised a six-month programme wherein we made reading material available along with activities for the readers (children) after each story. Instructions were also provided to teachers and schools on how to make use of the platform for teaching purposes. The idea was that those who did not have access to absolutely anything could use our platform,” Taksale said.


Art by Priya Kuriyan for Pratham Books


Purvi Shah, Director, StoryWeaver said, “In  April, UNESCO estimated that over 89 percent of children and youth were impacted due to the pandemic. To help educators and learners during this crisis, StoryWeaver pivoted quickly to curate, as well as accelerate the creation of content. We launched the Learn At Home programme which curates grade-wise books and themes. We scaled our online reading programme, with books, themes and activities for Grades 1 to 8, to make it available in English, Hindi and French. We understand that data restrictions can be an impediment to access, and therefore have made these resources available for offline reading as well."

In four months, when the pandemic and lockdown began, StoryWeaver translated 3,000 books in 28 new languages. These also included books about the Coronavirus, health and hygiene and social and emotional issues, etc. The platform also began the initiative ‘Missed Call Do, Kahani Suno’ (Dial-A-Story), where anyone, possessing any kind of cell phone, could just give a missed call on the given number to listen to two stories at a time. “This initiative of ours was met with an amazing response from people. The challenge before us was traditional - how to reach maximum children. But we are glad we found an innovative solution using technology that made a difference,” Taksale added.

UNESCO and the World Bank have listed StoryWeaver as a resource for the homebound child during the pandemic. This is the second time that Pratham Books has received this award. The other four organisations that have received the literacy awards are The Immigrant Learning Center (Massachusetts, USA), The International Rescue Committee, Inc. – Pakistan Reading Project (New York), National Center for Families Learning (Kentucky, USA) and Room to Read, (California, USA).