Storytelling and empowerment of children in underserved areas through mobile applications

The sharing of children’s imaginative and personal stories from underserved areas promotes literacy development and economic support for their communities, by globally marketing and selling their stories through mobile applications.
• This project aims to empower children and youth in underserved areas, by tapping into their creativity and storytelling
• Storytelling is a means to support literacy development and to sustain an economy model
• Profits made from stories, available for purchase through mobile applications, are recycled back to the storyteller and their local education system
• Global consumers have opportunities to read and engage in cross cultural understanding and awareness


Our “1001 Stories” project received its inspiration from one of our previous research studies using mobile learning devices for indigenous children and youth in underserved areas. The concept grew out of the notion that mobile connectivity has an equalizing effect in the third world.We were inspired by uplifting accounts from youth who had survived the 2008 China earthquake and who shared stories with one another to keep awake and hopeful while waiting for rescue workers. The title “1001 Stories” recounts an ancient Persian legend about a Persian king who kills each of his 3000 wives after spending one night together except for Scheherazade. To spare her life, she tells the king an unfinished story for 1001 days. Through those 1001 stories, the king finally learns the lessons of happiness, love, forgiveness, and peace (Sallis 1999).

We adopted the title “1001 Stories” for our action research project in underserved and marginalized communities with the view that creativity is a sustainable resource and that children have powerful stories to share with the global community. In this light, creativity as a commodity can empower children to become storytellers and achieve literacy in the process, Through our model, students with the best stories are able to gain economic benefit from their stories as they are made available to global consumers in a mobile application short story form.

go to top


Storytelling Contests

Stanford-based NGO Seeds of Empowerment, in collaboration with SMSONE (India),have already held successful storytelling competitions in Africa and India. These initiatives were launched with the enthusiastic help of local NGOs who actively sought out participants through SMS and personal meetings, collecting an abundance of stories, and selecting winners. In preparation for the competition, a storytelling workshop was held where students interacted and played with mobile literacy development games, explored series of mobile stories, and gained familiarity with mobile applications which allowed them to record and play back their own stories.

Economy Model

Making it possible for children and youth to benefit from their stories, a micro creative economy ecosystem is utilized where youth are viewed as creative content producers (see Figure 1) and their stories create revenue for themselves and their community. Stories are told to local NGOs or are recorded by students themselves on a mobile phone set up at the NGO office. The best stories are chosen, published on Apple’s App Store and Amazon’s Kindle ebook store, and marketed as a mobile application featuring their stories text in addition to colorful illustrations, and narration.(see Figure 2). Proceeds from sales support the storytelling competition, local NGOs, the local education system, and most importantly, the child with the best story.

Figure 1: Mobile Creative Content Economy Ecology

Figure 2: Screen shot of Amazon website with youth's stories for purchase

Figure 3. Screenshot of Mobile Story Books


In view of storytelling as a fun and natural communication medium, this action research project shows promise in becoming a sustainable project in underserved areas. Participating children and their communities are able to reap long term educational benefits and cultivate the development of social entrepreneurship skills. Deriving monetary profit for their creative efforts has the potential to empower children and youth to learn literacy, express their culture and identity through stories, and to become active participants of the global creative content economy through mobile learning devices. In turn, readers gain an exceptional cross cultural opportunity to discover similarities of experiences with and to learn about the struggles, joys, pain, and reflections of children and youth in underserved and marginalized communities all over the world.

Go to top

Publications and Reports


Go to top


Faculty Staff

Dr. Paul, Kim
Dr. Esther Suh

Go to top

"Storytelling and empowerment of children in underserved areas through mobile applications" is the subproject of POMI in Education.