September 30, 2022
September 30 is International Translation Day, and All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) is honoring the work of our innovators and collaborators who translate reading and learning materials into languages that children use and understand.
Languages are of strategic importance, and there is growing awareness that languages play a vital role in development, including attaining quality education for all. If the world is to realize the ideals of Sustainable Development Goal 4—to provide quality and inclusive education for all children by 2030–those who translate languages play a crucial role in providing quality, engaging and age-appropriate reading materials in languages that children read and understand. They are key to breaking down barriers and enabling children to engage with books in languages they use and understand, which not only increases their chances of reading success but also their love of reading.
But access to inclusive reading materials is still a barrier for many children around the world, especially for the 93 million children with disabilities. Books, if available at all, often lack accessible formats like braille, audio and sign language. Throughout Deaf Awareness Month, we highlighted the work of our innovators who are helping to meet this need by creating digital books in local and national sign languages for children who are deaf or hard of hearing in Nepal, Indonesia, Mali, Somalia and other regions of the world. Essential to their work is translation, first translating written stories into local or national spoken languages and then translating them into local and national sign languages.
Below is just a sampling of some of the solutions, resources and tools made possible by ACR GCD innovators and collaborators that help advance access to and creation of reading and learning materials in the languages children use and understand:
- High-quality digital books and online libraries in languages children use and understand–including books for children who are deaf or with visual disabilities. ACR GCD has funded and supported the development and improvement of digital books and learning materials and online libraries to help address the global shortage of high quality books in underserved and local languages, like the Global Digital Library (a free, web-based platform that makes high-quality early learning resources available in more than 90 languages, including sign languages), Bookshare (an online library of accessible content for people with print disabilities, such as dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy and other reading barriers), World Around You (a collection of sign language storybooks created through open source software that enables communities to create and share digital books and literacy content in local and national sign languages), and more.
- Free tools to create accessible books. ACR GCD innovators have developed a variety of open source and free tools to facilitate the writing, translating and publishing of accessible books in languages children use and understand, like Bloom software (create simple books and translate them into multiple languages), eKitabu’s Accessible EPUB Toolkit (create books with image accessible navigation, dyslexic fonts and optional sign language videos) and World Around You (create books in local and national sign languages), and more.
- Learning apps and games. ACR GCD has supported the development of a number of learning apps and games to help children learn to read and write in languages children use and understand, including Sema, Antura and the Letters, and Feed the Monster. Feed the Monster is now available in more than 50 languages thanks to Curious Learning, who adapted the open source code, which is available on GitHub. The app now has 600,000+ users globally. Most recently, Curious Learning created a Ukrainian version of the app, which reached over 100,000 downloads within two months.
From digital libraries to learning apps to book creation software, EdTech improves literacy outcomes for children around the world. With the help of translators, children can imagine their own futures in the pages of a book.
Be part of the solution!
Over the past 10 years, ACR GCD has distributed 1.6 million learning materials to young readers, including ebooks in underserved languages, sign languages and braille. We know that a strong literacy foundation is crucial for a child’s future reading and academic success.
Whether you are a parent, an educator or an innovator, we invite you to be part of the solution for the 584 million children globally waiting for the opportunity to learn to read. Education technology can be a powerful tool to address challenges in education, but it must be inclusive in order to be effective. Learn how to make digital, accessible books for hard-to-reach learners in low-resource contexts. Bridge the digital divide and embrace EdTech solutions to empower children on their path to literacy. We also invite you to partner with us and join our community of more than 30 partner organizations committed to advancing child literacy.
Together, we can ensure that all children have access to the learning materials they need to build a better future.
Thank you to Jamie Brian, who contributed to this article. All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development is a partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government.