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International Childrens' Year - Child Drawings
International Childrens' Year - Child Drawings

Proof our efforts are being recognised as legitimate, the Beck Foundation approached Wikimedia a while ago, asking whether we could develop educational materials for a younger audience. After a proposal was submitted, they agreed to grant us US$10 000 to create an online and print project for 8-11 year olds.

The project was initially greeted with a bit of distaste on the Foundation mailing list, and was called dubbed as being another Wikispecies, a project created by the Board with little outside input. But once development started on Meta, the project has become more structured in its focus, and gained unanimous support and encouragement from every Wikimedia contributor that has discovered it.

Once completed, our books will be available worldwide, either for free, or at a cost affordable to local children, rather than just their parents. Glossy and full colour, these magazine-style booklets will be colourful and richly illustrated, to help encourage literacy and curiousity.

The project is currently being developed as part of Wikibooks. Once we've created our first booklet, the information will be transferred to a non-editable site for our readers. All of the content will be reviewed and verified by qualified educators.

One of our greatest challenges so far is adapting our writing styles and content for kids. Contributors walk a fine line between too fluffy and too nerdy. Eventually, as we venture into other topics, we'll also have to decide between censorship and tastefulness. The first topics are safe from any such issues; Big Cats, the Solar System, and South America are the first books the community decided to put into development. There's also been some interesting experiments in how to layout multiple levels of content at once.

The South American issue seems to be developing the quickest, thanks to the help of Wikimedians from the continent.

We've already had translation offers for Danish, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. Our eventual goal is for these projects to develop content independently of the English project. Additional grants will be needed to create print editions of all other languages.

I encourage everyone to come and see what Wikijunior's shaping up to be. Contribute some info, list yourself as an eligible translator, debate over the project's name. Wikijunior will hopefully lend more creditablity to the Wikimedia name, as one of our first projects to have truly noticable results in the real world.