National Book Trust, India: Promoting multilingualism in children’s language publishing

Over the last few years, National Book Trust, India (under Ministry of Education, Govt. of India) has undertaken several groundbreaking initiatives in language publishing for readers of all ages. An update.

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Recognizing the importance of language in shaping cultural identities and cognitive development, NBT-India has been a pioneer in providing a diverse array of literature to readers across the country in their native tongues, having published books in over 60 Indian languages (including tribal languages and dialects). NBT-India’s initiative underscores a commitment to nurturing linguistic diversity among readers, especially for children.

NEP 2020…

At the heart of this initiative lies the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which advocates for the promotion of multilingualism as a fundamental aspect of educational reform. NEP 2020 emphasizes the importance of mother tongues or local languages as the medium of instruction in early education. Additionally, NEP 2020 supports the learning of three languages, including proficiency in at least two Indian languages, to facilitate effective communication and enhance students’ global competitiveness. The policy envisions a multilingual approach that celebrates linguistic richness while fostering a well-rounded educational experience.

In keeping with the value of multilingualism enshrined within NEP 2020, NBT-India introduced a series of 17 bilingual books (Hindi-English) tailored for children, which were released during the virtual edition of the New Delhi World Book Fair on March 5, 2021. The aim was to furnish supplementary reading materials for children, aiding them in navigating the diverse linguistic landscape of the nation.

Subsequently, these bilingual publications have been made available in English-Asamiya, English-Marathi, English-Odia, English-Punjabi, English-Tamil, English-Telugu, and English-Urdu versions. NBT-India’s bilingual offerings, including titles like A Friend Forever, Anandi’s Rainbow,Uncle Moon Forgets Counting, Friend, Fu-Ku: An Alien, I am better than You, I Like the World, and Mitha and her Magic Shoes, to name a few, cater to diverse linguistic backgrounds, fostering a love for reading in both Hindi and English among children while celebrating the richness of Indian languages and cultures.

Bilingual books…

One notable aspect of NBT-India’s language publishing program is the publication of bilingual children’s books that bridge linguistic divides and promote cross-cultural understanding. One such example is Mottainai Grandma, originally written in Japanese and translated into Hindi and English. This heartwarming tale, penned by Mariko Shinju, and published in a bilingual edition by NBT-India, follows the story of a young child who learns valuable lessons about conservation and mindfulness from her grandmother. Through vibrant illustrations and accessible language, Mottainai Grandma encourages readers to embrace sustainability and cherish familial bonds.

Empowering children…

NBT-India’s initiative in multilingual language publishing for children represents a significant step towards promoting linguistic diversity in India. By offering a rich variety of literature in different languages, NBT-India empowers children to connect with their cultural heritage, expand their linguistic horizons and overcome barriers to access by creating a more inclusive literary landscape.

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