State of the Commons Feature: African Storybook Initiative

On a continent where conventional publishing produces relatively few titles in African languages, the African Storybook initiative provides open access to thousands of picture storybooks for children’s literacy, enjoyment, and imagination.

Jennie Rose Halperin

This week, we’ll be featuring stories from this year’s State of the Commons report, which highlights the impact of our global community by exploring the wide array of creativity and knowledge that is freely available to the world under under CC licenses. Read more about why this report marks our biggest year yet.


african storybook

The African Storybook initiative works with organizations and individuals to facilitate access to storybooks and create website tools for users to create, translate, and adapt them. So far, the initiative has created storybooks in 94 African languages with the support of 30 partner organizations across Africa.

Multiple projects in multiple countries use the website and/or storybooks with the intervention of the African Storybook project team: schools or community libraries serve as pilot sites; governments use the content on their platforms to print and distribute; and partners add to and use content in their literacy development programmes. In addition, the project serves educators who integrate the website tools and storybooks into their pre-service training programs, as well as lecturers in higher education institutions stimulating their postgraduate students to experiment with and research use of the African Storybook. The remixable content also inspired the Global African Storybook Project, which translates the stories into other languages with few resources for childhood learning.

As of September 2016 the initiative contained 730 storybooks and 2,754 translations/adaptations. In only two years, 636,803 storybooks were downloaded with an average of 4800 visitors per month, of which 2,800 are new visitors. Further, the Global African Storybook Project has produced 460 translations in 26 languages. Between 30 and 400 African Storybook titles have been republished on a variety of academic and commercial sites.