Storybooks Jamaica is a website for teachers, parents, and community members that aims to promote bilingualism and multilingualism in Jamaica. It makes 40 stories from the African Storybook available in the most widely spoken languages of Jamaica, in addition to English and Jamaican Creole. A story that is read in Jamaican Creole or English at school can be read in the mother tongue by parents and children at home. In this way, Storybooks Jamaica helps children to maintain the mother tongue in both oral and print form, while learning one of Jamaica’s official languages. Similarly, the audio versions of the stories can help beginning readers and language learners make the important connection between speech and text.
All 40 stories on the Storybooks Jamaica website come from the African Storybook – a groundbreaking digital initiative of the South African organization Saide, which promotes literacy for African children. The African Storybook has hundreds of stories in multiple African languages, as well as English, French, and Portuguese. The stories are openly licensed, which allows the Storybooks Jamaica team to repurpose them for a Jamaican audience. We are very grateful to the African Storybook and Saide for making the stories freely available under an open license.
We selected the 40 stories out of several hundred from the African Storybook, and sought to create a collection of stories of different lengths that balance the African origin of the stories with internationally relevant themes. There are traditional animal fables as well as contemporary stories about city life. Some stories cover serious topics like responsibility and gender equality. Others are just written to make you laugh. We hope that the universal values reflected in the stories will resonate with children across Jamaica.
Georgette McGlashen holds a B.A. in Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management. She has been with the Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) in the Department of Language, Linguistic and Philosophy for over 4 years. While with the JLU she has worked on several Jamaican Language projects including the Bilingual Education Programme, Language Attitude and Language Competence surveys in Jamaican language, Akshan Taak radio programme and Big Tings A Gwaan radio programme. Georgette has done translation for the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, the Bible Society of the West Indies “Patwa Baibl (The New Testament)” and “Miss Gillibanks Seh” book of proverbs. She is currently pursuing an M.Phil. in Cultural Studies. Website: Chatwa Jamaica
The following are some resources that may be useful for educators and others interested in Jamaican literacy:
Storybooks Jamaica has only been possible with the help of a large number of people, including translators, readers, proofreaders, and others who have been part of the process of making these stories available. We sincerely thank all contributors for their time and effort!
We would like to give special thanks to Gayon Williams and Joseph T. Farquharson of the University of the West Indies, Mona, for their thoughtful suggestions on the text and assistance with proofreading the Jamaican translations.
We are particularly grateful to the Storybooks Canada project, which has created the modular website on which Storybooks Jamaica is based.