May 4, 2016
Indiana University School of Education Uses Open-Source Software to Develop Books for Everyone
by Scott Witzke
My daughter has a wall calendar that features a daily rundown of the zany commemorative days, weeks, and months. Some are just plain weird and make little sense—did you know that May 9th is Lost Sock Memorial Day? Then there are commemorative celebrations that are quite significant and deserving of our attention.
This week (May 2-8) is Children’s Book Week—an annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading. Last month was another important and related day that you may have overlooked—International Children’s Book Day which takes place each year on April 2. On that day the Indiana University (IU) School of Education, in partnership with the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development partners—USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government— hosted A Library for All event!
Faculty, staff, students, and members throughout the community—including the mayor—gathered for a workshop and discussion to address the issue of global illiteracy. The day featured a hands-on demonstration of open-source digital tools for creating Creative Commons multilingual books with the ultimate goal to make the community aware of ongoing efforts to combat illiteracy, explore the challenges of the creative process, and to learn how to create their own books.
Here’s the issue. Having access to good children’s books is a luxury that, perhaps, many of us take for granted. Around the world, children lack access to books. Worse yet, the books that they may have are of low quality and they are rarely written in a language that the children understand or are on a topic that is relevant to them. The lack of high-quality, affordable books is so severe, particularly in the early primary grades, that it cannot be solved without new and innovative solutions.
The morning sessions focused around understanding the context, learning about the creative writing process, the role of images, and using Bloom software to draft and publish books in any language. The afternoon was filled with participants creating their own books followed by four breakout sessions exploring global development challenges through the lens of literacy.
Diversity is a focus on many campuses and this event certainly featured a globally broad audience. “We’re committed to improving education locally and globally,” writes IU School of Education Dean Terry Mason. “This event was an important step in improving literacy in developing countries and one that will provide much-needed reading materials to children who would otherwise not have access to them.” More than 50 people attended, representing 15 countries: South Korea, China, India, Oman, Rwanda, Indonesia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Paraguay, Nigeria, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Singapore, and Taiwan. I list all of them to highlight how broad the audience was.
Our hope is that the success of this event will serve as a model for other universities and communities to raise awareness about global illiteracy. Now get out there and change the world.
Scott Witzke is Director of Marketing & Communications for Indiana University School of Education.