Event Date: 28th September 2022


UNESCO has found that 750 million youth and adults cannot read and write, while 250 million children worldwide are failing to acquire basic literacy skills. Low literacy rates are partly due to the lack of mother tongue reading materials, which is the best way for children to learn to read, and to create a foundation for learning other languages, such as English. A possible solution is the provision of free online user-friendly reading materials in multiple languages.

In this presentation, Dr. Bonny Norton discusses the development of the free digital site, Storybooks Canada (https://www.storybookscanada.ca/), which has over 400,000 users worldwide. The project draws on the African Storybook to provide 40 beautifully illustrated stories for children, youth, and teachers. Users can read, teach, download, and listen to the stories at 5 different levels, toggling between multiple languages, including English and other widely spoken languages such as Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Hindi, Punjabi, Spanish, and Tagalog.

The presentation addresses the relationship of Storybooks Canada to the Global Storybooks project (http://globalstorybooks.net/), which has over 50 sites worldwide. It also addresses the research on identity, curriculum, and translation that has arisen from the projects, and share the free Storybooks Canada Teaching Guide for English Language Learners. Of central interest is the way these projects promote both mother tongue and multilingual literacy, while raising important questions about the relationship between language and identity.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Bonny Norton, FRSC, is a University Killam Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia, Canada.

Her research addresses identity, multilingual literacy, and open technology for international development. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the American Educational Research Association.

In 2020, she was named BC Academic of the Year for her leadership of the Global Storybooks project. Her website is: http://faculty.educ.ubc.ca/norton/