(Photo via Carissa Rogers, Flickr CC)
¡FELIZ VIERNES, amig@s!
As part of the weekly Family Fridays series here on the blog, I’m thrilled to introduce you a unique children’s publishing company, Bab’l Books. Today I talk with co-founders Jair Hernandez and Urvesh Shelat about what sets their company apart, why they’re passionate about putting well-translated children’s books into parents’ hands, and how families themselves can participate n the translation process (yes, you read that right!).
And, if an exciting interview weren’t cool enough, Jair and Urvesh have graciously agreed to giveaway five (5) e-books to five lucky winners…in the languages of your choice! Just click on the link at the end of the interview to enter.
Be encouraged, friends.
For my readers unfamiliar with your company, could you give them a brief overview of Bab’l Books? Why the name Bab’l Books?
Bab’l Books harnesses the power and scalability of crowdsourced translation to make high quality bilingual storybooks accessible to any family or teacher, anywhere, in any language. Until now, bilingual families—and especially those from smaller language communities—have struggled to access quality bilingual books. Authors and publishers often focus on the largest English language market, leaving other language groups underserved. We realized that if we can harness that unmet demand and channel it into efforts to crowdsource and quality check translations of available books, then we can help more families enjoy the pleasure of bedtime stories in their own language.
The name Bab’l Books is a dual derivation—it has to do with the baby babble that precedes a child’s first words and also with Babel as one origin story of the many languages on the planet.
When and how did it all start?
We co-founders, Jair Hernandez and Urvesh Shelat, met as MBA students at Harvard Business School and came up with the idea as part of a class project in our first year of studies.
When challenged to think of a new and innovative business, we reflected on our experiences growing up bilingual; on the experiences of our mothers, both of whom were bilingual teachers serving recent Spanish- and Gujarati- speaking immigrants in the US; and on the experiences of our families and friends who are trying to raise their children bilingual. We realized that there was a big market that no one was supporting, and we decided to change that.
What makes your publishing company unique?
We aim to support both authors and multilingual families. We partner with authors and publishers to help get their works translated into new languages. This opens up new markets for their products to which we help them distribute their product. That can open up considerable new revenue streams for them. At the same time, creating these new bilingual products help parents expand the ways that they can engage with their children in a second language, adding richness and value to their lives, too.
What is your company’s vision, or mission?
We are striving to make quality children’s books available to anyone, anywhere, in any language. At a time when the languages and nationalities within families increasingly reflect our globalized world, we want to help parents pass on those languages to their children no matter where they might be.
The first book, Goodnight, Panda, is now translated into 10 languages. How did that come about?
Goodnight, Panda was our first foray into children’s publishing, and although we were novices, we knew we wanted to make the story accessible to as many people in as many languages as possible. We sought out translators and partners around the world to help us translate the story and broadcast it far and wide. We had sales around the world, and hope to achieve similar success with our future books.
What do you see as the role of (bilingual) books in helping parents raise their children in more than one language?
Reading with parents—and especially bedtime stories—is both emotionally and educationally important for children. Story time brings back fond memories for all of us—think about it. It is also one of a child’s first experiences of connecting the written and spoken word together. It lays an important foundation for a child being exposed to a second (or third or fourth!) language, and it facilitates daily use of a second language in the family. This type of early exposure and familiarity can be important to build engagement, especially if parents expect to introduce more formal language classes as a child grows older.
What new and exciting projects await you all in the next year?
After our first book, we began the process of developing our next eight, which are all currently in the translation phase on our website. Over the course of the next year, we hope to rapidly expand our library of available stories through new author partnerships.
We also hope to be able to provide bilingual books in customizable language combinations. For our first book, for example, we got a request for a Tagalog/French version from a customer in Switzerland. We want to build a platform where parents can get whatever they need.
Freebie! Anything else you’d like my readers to know about Bab’l Books?
We are able to provide such a wide variety of languages because communities themselves help us to develop the translations. Currently we are developing books in Vietnamese, Bengali, Gujarati, and Russian in addition to more common languages like French and Spanish.
We would love for your readers to head to our website and help us translate books! Moreover, if they are seeking books in languages that are not currently available, we’d love to hear about it! With their and their communities’ translation help, we can expand our language repertoire even further.
We are also looking for new author-partners interested in having their works translated into new languages. This combination of ever expanding content and language breadth will help us excite many more children about the language diversity in their world.
A huge thanks to Jair and Urvesh for taking the time to share their vision and passion for bilingual children’s books! Please click on this Rafflecopter link to participate in the GIVEAWAY. There will be five winners!