Photo Blog: Building a Children’s Digital Library in Indonesia
September 20, 2017
Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands, with around 700 languages spoken across the archipelago. For all of its rich and diverse cultural history, Indonesia does not have a long and deeply embedded tradition of children’s literature. Access to quality children’s books is difficult, especially in remote and underserved areas.
On Sept. 16, 2017, at the Indonesia International Book Fair in Jakarta, The Asia Foundation launched a program designed to address this need: a free children’s digital library called Let’s Read! This rapidly growing library, accessible via web and Android app, hosts hundreds of books from around the world—including over 100 from Indonesian authors.
Leading up to the official launch, The Asia Foundation, in conjunction with local partner Litara Foundation, hosted two events in Bandung to create new, original children’s content in Indonesia and to translate high-quality, relatable stories from abroad. The first event, “Getting into Children’s World and Words” at Polytechnic University Bandung, drew 35 volunteers from across Java and neighboring provinces of Sumatra and Bali interested in learning how to render accurate translations of children’s books while also capturing the original author’s intent, style, and vision.
A volunteer works on translating Rohini Nilekani’s The Moon and the Cap, originally published by Pratham Books in India, from English to Bahasa Indonesia. Over the course of the two-day workshop, 36 books were translated into Bahasa Indonesia and added to the Let’s Read! library—and 35 people from three provinces received training and hands-on translation experience.
The second event, “Celebrating Diversity Through Stories,” hosted by the Institut Teknologi Bandung’s Gedung Centre for Arts, Design, and Language, brought together 15 author/illustrators from three provinces to create original storybooks for Let’s Read! Participants were selected based on the quality and creativity of their manuscripts.
Before diving into their own manuscripts and storyboards, participants received specialized instruction in children’s book creation. Illustrators present innovative design and layout concepts using T. T. Khing’s book, Where Is the Cake?
Books created at this workshop shared a theme: celebrating diversity—an especially important concept in this rapidly developing country of more than 260 million people made up of diverse religions and ethnic groups. Here, an illustrator works on character design for her book, The Little Witch.
Workshop participants received training and instruction from experienced professionals and gained access to detailed feedback and editing from the facilitators. An author/illustrator presents her story concept during a feedback session.
On September 6, The Asia Foundation launched the Let’s Read! program on the main stage of the Jakarta Convention Center during the opening day of the Indonesia International Book Fair. Here, The Asia Foundation’s Fadila Ayu Hapsari demonstrates the library’s features alongside panelists.
The Let’s Read! digital library features a built-in translation tool that lets anyone with bilingual ability and a Google account participate in the translation process.
In addition to the launch event, The Asia Foundation demonstrated Let’s Read! at its booth in the main hall throughout the book fair. Over the course of the 5-day fair, hundreds of publishers, authors, journalists, teachers, parents, and children stopped by to learn about the app. The Asia Foundation’s Sintadewi Aryasatyani demonstrates the app to a class of 5th and 6th graders from Java—the first of what we hope will become millions of kids who discover the joy of reading through Let’s Read!
Brian Saliba is The Asia Foundation’s Let’s Read! project contractor. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.
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Let’s Read, our free digital library, is helping children learn at home. Learn about our Covid-19 efforts.