Rough sketches and finished artwork for Rokuroo animation, by Gnana Selvam
The Learn Through Stories Foundation enables students to learn through content they have themselves helped
LETS. In 2014, Prof. Alka Hingorani of IIT Bombay answered a call from a couple of schools in
remote villages in Himachal Pradesh to help their students learn English. She started the “Learn English Through
Stories” (LETS) project to address two problems: a) that the language was unfamiliar and seldom heard in those
areas, and b) that available pedagogies were rooted in urban/Western contexts, too alien to the land. Her team
found that when encouraged and trained to draw and tell their own favourite stories, the students were immensely
animated and engaged. When these very stories were turned into illustrated books and translated into English,
much in it was familiar, and the newness of the language became the only bridge to cross.
From LETS to LeTS. Language wasn’t the only thing they were learning. In collaborating with
each other, with professional designers and artists, sharing equal authorship credit, and writing themselves
into the material from which they learned, they flipped the script: learners became teachers,and content consumers
were transformed into creators. Similar workshops for teachers wrought their own magic, equipping them
with newer tools and helping them participate in creating new content, new confidence. Everywhere, process was
paramount, and the realization that it was subject-agnostic meant that the ‘E’ in our name could be knocked down
to ‘e’ – we are now Learn Through Stories (LeTS).
LeTS Foundation. In 2021, Gayathri Thakoor and Prof. Arti Kalro, who had long been friends of
the project, became instrumental in starting the Learn Through Stories Foundation (a not-for-profit endeavour)
to take the project out of its research confines and into the wider world.
What we do. Today, the LeTS Foundation conducts content-creation workshops, collects contextual
stories from schools in India, both rural and urban, teaches book design and production, and publishes books
that then return to all students and teachers. Our work involves a team of designers and includes a curated
process, physical story books, and their digital parallels in animation films and interactive applications.
Meanwhile, research continues apace at IIT Bombay.
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support from the Tata Centre for
Technology and Design at IIT Bombay.
Gayathri Thakoor is co-founder and CEO of Learn Through Stories (LeTS) Foundation. A
manager, and entrepreneur over a career graph of 25 years, her role as a news journalist sharing stories
formed the base of it all. She then co-founded a business enterprise to develop literature for children, and
create animated characters that were copyrighted to feature in illustrated picture books and in digital
media. Gayathri’s experience as General Manager (Programs) with the Tata
Centre for Technology and Design, IIT Bombay, brought her close to the LETS project – the genesis of this
enterprise. Taking the best out of her experiences, she believes
collaboration is key. Her blog - Affectionately G – helps her keep in touch with readers
through diary entries and letters. Gayathri holds two postgraduate degrees in Education and in Business
Administration, and a graduate degree in Economics.
Arti Kalro is faculty in the Shailesh J Mehta School of Management at IIT Bombay. Her areas
include Marketing and Social Innovations. While designing and teaching the course, Technology and Design for
End-to-End Innovations for resource-constrained communities, she worked with Alka as co-PI on impact
of the project and, with Gayathri, is now working on making the dream of the LeTS' vision a reality for every
child in India. When
Arti isn’t teaching or racking her brain on scaling-up LeTS, she is busy (and immensely happy) spending time
children, getting their hands dirty with paint and clay.
Alka Hingorani is faculty at IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay. She studied at Sir J J College
of Architecture, Mumbai, and holds Masters degrees in Design (Photography), City and Regional Planning, and an
MA/PhD in History of Art, all from the University of California, Berkeley. Her interests include issues of art
and identity, storytelling as academic practice, and pedagogy that reworks and reimagines the world, carrying
whimsy and creativity into all that is real. Her students make it easy for her to believe that
"...the world, though made, is yet being made." (John Muir)
Design Team Photos and Bios coming soon. Watch this space!