All Children Reading Grand Challenge awards Begin With Books prize to four innovators creating books in underserved spoken and signed languages

Children in some of the lowest resource regions of the world will have access to quality books in languages they use and understand, including sign languages, thanks to the creative efforts of four winning innovators of All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development and the Global Book Alliance’s Begin With Books prize

eKitabu, Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID), SIL LEAD, and The Asia Foundation each were awarded $200,000 or more to create cost-effective packages of high-quality accessible children’s books in languages children use and understand. Over two years, the prize winners collectively will create thousands of leveled books in seven underserved spoken languages and nine sign languages, serving regions of the world where children have little or no books for kindergarten or preschool. 

“Millions of children around the world have little to no access to any books in a language they use and understand, thereby limiting their basic human right to literacy and education,” said Kerin Ord, global sector education lead for World Vision International. “The creation of these engaging, accessible books for children in some of the lowest-resourced regions of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific will empower and support them on their journey to literacy and future success in school, health, employment, and society.” 

Prize winners will create accessible e-books in stages over the next two years. Completed titles will be uploaded to the Global Digital Library (GDL), a web-based platform that offers free, high-quality early learning resources in more than 40 languages. Many of the books will be adapted from other open source content already available on the GDL and other platforms, while new books created will be open source to allow for adaptation into other languages or contexts. 

In addition to book creation, the prize winners will join ACR GCD’s new Sign Language Storybook Cohort (SLSC) consisting of other ACR GCD awardees and their partners from local Disabled Persons Organizations to determine standards for sign language storybook production in underserved languages. 

“Serving the literacy and education needs of children with disabilities in low-resource contexts is core to the mission and heart of the All Children Reading Grand Challenge,” said Shelly Malecki, program manager for the All Children Reading Grand Challenge and Begin With Books prize lead. “Through the SLSC, we’ll develop standards for the creation of sign language books for the Global Digital Library and a toolkit for creating sign language storybooks that we hope will change business models among book producers to incorporate accessibility features at the onset of book development.”