The Asia Foundation and UNESCO jointly launch 100 early childhood books for children in Bangladesh as part of UNESCO project “Creation of Accessible Reading Materials”

In a joint effort, the Asia Foundation and the UNESCO Dhaka Office conducted a virtual launching ceremony of the UNESCO project “Creation of Accessible Reading Materials” on Sunday, 5 September 2021.

The UNESCO project “Creation of Accessible Reading Materials“ is a global and regional activity of UNESCO to ensure the continuity of learning for children through the development, dissemination, and delivery of new and existing global and regional learning materials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the ceremony 100 early childhood books, which have been translated into the Bangla Language and are now publicly available free of charge on the Asia Foundation’s Let’s Read’s Digital library and the UNESCO affiliated Global Digital Library (link: https://digitallibrary.io/), were officially launched.

Ms. Beatrice Kaldun, Head of Office and UNESCO Representative to Bangladesh, stated that this is an important and timely initiative, which ensures the continuity of learning for children through the development, dissemination, and delivery of new and existing global and regional learning materials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During her remarks. Ms. Beatrice Kaldun also stated that UNESCO believes in the journey of universal access to education and that no one should be left behind.

The country representative of The Asia Foundation to Bangladesh, Mr. Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj, explained the aims and goals of the Let’s Read Digital Library and its purpose of increasing inclusivity by making creative and animated books that were specifically developed for children available and accessible online.

During the launching ceremony, Professor Abdullah Abu Syed, Mr. Korvi Rakshand, Ms. Anjuman Parvin, and Mr. Kazi Sameeo Sheesh discussed disability inclusion in the education system of Bangladesh, including how the 100 translated books can help promote disability inclusion and digital literacy.

Mr. Korvi suggested training and awareness-raising programmes to be initiated for youths to increase inclusivity for children with disabilities, at the grassroots level. Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed explained the benefits of mobile libraries, in terms of increasing the number of youth readers and emphasized the importance of increasing the number of physical and digital libraries.

Ms. Anjuman Parvin, an early childhood development specialist, stated that the Government of Bangladesh started the initiative of inclusivity of children with disabilities in 2002. The Government established a specific framework that focuses on increasing the accessibility of education to learners with disabilities. However, it is recommended to gain updated information on the inclusivity of children with disabilities through research and monitoring & evaluation reports. On a related note, Mr. Kazi Sameeo Sheesh, senior research fellow at the University of Dhaka, explained the necessity of including teachers in research on the education system as their work allows them to have a better understanding of children through more contact.

Conversations at the launch event stressed that COVID-19 related closures of educational institutions have reinforced the need for openly available early-grade learning materials and reading resources in languages that the children speak and that are interesting for their different tastes. Participants echoed that the UNESCO project “Creation of Accessible Reading Materials” is an important and timely effort in this direction and that the 100 translated e-books will make a great contribution in assisting Bangla-speaking children to continue their learning journey during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The UNESCO project “Creation of Accessible Reading Materials” is made possible with financial support from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and is based on an existing collaboration with the Global Digital Library (GDL) under the heading of the “Translate a story” initiative which is accompanying countries’ efforts in improving the availability of early age reading materials during the pandemic through a digital library.

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