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Promoting multilingual literacy and reader identity:Global Storybooks and open technology

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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 multilingual literacy development. A possible solution is the provision of freely available online user-friendly reading materials in multiple languages, digital capacity for scaling up, and supportive teacher education programs. In this presentation, Dr. Bonny Norton will discuss her involvement in three related open access storybooks projects for children and youth worldwide: the African Storybook (, Storybooks Canada (, and Global Storybooks ( She will highlight the digital features of these platforms, including audio, download, and toggle features, and discuss the pivotal role of Creative Commons. Of central interest is the way in which the illustrated stories and the digital features promote literacy engagement, reader identity, and multilingualism. Dr. Norton suggests that the storybooks projects help democratize global flows of knowledge, while raising intriguing questions about our understanding of “culture,” “identity,” “literacy,” and “language”.

Bonny Norton, FRSC , is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Language and Literacy Education, UBC , Canada. She is a world-leading scholar in the fields of identity and language learning, critical literacy, and international development. She is the research advisor of the African Storybook and the research lead of Storybooks Canada. Her website can be found at:

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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