Storybooks Canada is a website for teachers, parents, and community members that aims to promote bilingualism and multilingualism in Canada. It makes 40 stories from the African Storybook available in the major immigrant and refugee languages of Canada, in addition to the official languages of English and French. A story that is read in English or French at school can be read in the mother tongue by parents and children at home. In this way, Storybooks Canada helps children to maintain the mother tongue in both oral and print form, while learning one of Canada’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 Canada 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 over 700 stories in multiple African languages, as well as English, French, and Portuguese. The stories are openly licensed, which allows the Storybooks Canada team to repurpose them for a Canadian 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 Canada.
The selection of languages is representative of the the most widely spoken languages in Canada according to Statistics Canada. We have also included the main African languages spoken in Canada, in part because the stories are of African origin, and in part because Canadians who speak African languages have fewer resources available to them than speakers of many other languages. A full list of the languages included in the scope of the project can be found here.
While Storybooks Canada focuses on immigrant and refugee languages, we acknowledge and support the many Indigenous languages of Canada, and are developing the Indigenous Storybooks website to support those languages.
Click here to read more about Indigenous stories.
Click here to read about our team.
Click here for a list of resources related to this project.
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 Canada 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 the following people for their time and effort:
Dr. Ali A. Abdi, Shahid Abrar-ul-Hassan, Asma Afreen, Sam Andema, Arlene Avila, Maher Bahloul, Ajay Bhardwaj, Craig Carpenter, Benjamin Chau, Karla Maria Comanda, Alexandra Danahy, Ron Darvin, Anwar Mohamed Dirie, Ryley Dye-Hogan, Nahide Büşra Ertekin, Alfredo Ferreira, Kelsey Gilker, Anu Gill, Dawit Girma, Mezemir Girma, Marzieh Mohammadian Haghighi, Mehri Mohammadian Haghighi, Hélène, Joash Johannes, Michelle Joo Kim, Scarlet Kim, Zoe Lam, Vicky Liu, Maaouia Mabrouk, Aleksandra Migorska, La Trinidad Mina, Mashael Muhanna, Matteo E. Mwita, Saeed Nazari, Tomoyo Okuda, Priscilla Freitas de Oliveira, Yong Jong Park, Gurleen Parmar, Victor Pedrero, Nasim Peikazadi, Ernesto Peña, Laura Pighini, Mari Pighini, Sonia Pighini, Samrina Sana, Ingrid Schechter, Felipe Bañados Schwerter, Tanvi Sirari, Zhuo Sun, Victoria Surtees, Heba Tesheh, Hanadi Traifeh, Jenny Tran, Nana Trang, Áurea Vericat, Ania Voznaia, Karina Vásquez, Abrar Wafa, Anna Westpfahl, Tamami Yoshimoto