Storybooks Minnesota is a website for teachers, parents, and community members that aims to promote bilingualism and multilingualism in Minnesota. It makes 40 stories from the African Storybook available in in the most widely spoken languages of Minnesota, in addition to English and Spanish. A story that is read in English at school can be read in the mother tongue by parents and children at home. In this way, Storybooks Minnesota helps children to maintain the mother tongue in both oral and print form, while learning Minnesota’s official language. 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 Minnesota 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 Minnesota team to repurpose them for a 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 Minnesota.
We gratefully acknowledge seed funding from the UBC Language Sciences Initiative (LSI), a UBC research cluster grant, and a UBC Faculty of Education RISS grant.
Storybooks Minnesota 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 are particularly grateful to the Storybooks Canada project, which has created the modular website on which Storybooks Minnesota is based.