Creating joyful and accessible content…

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Lively conversation and discussion, the camaraderie and the coming together of so many minds and hearts to create a reading nation – what more could you ask for? That was how one felt at Pratham Books’ Sabha 2011, a gathering of minds engaged in multilingual books for children, which was attended by more than 100 writers, translators and illustrators. Pratham Books Pratham Books, a not-for-profit publisher that creates quality books for children, definitely needs no introduction. Their mission is to put ‘a book in every child’s hand.’ With 201 titles, 1,300 books, 8 million story books, 8 million story cards…and a readership of 25 million…Pratham Books is indeed working towards its mission.

More recently, they organized Sabha 2011, a gathering of more than 100 writers, translators and illustrators engaged in crafting multilingual books for children. The excitement at the event was infectious – everybody applauding the wonderful work that the authors and illustrators together create.

The keynote address was given by Rohini Nilekani, chairperson, Pratham Books. She raised a point that books need to reach the hands of the children for which platforms need to be built, better libraries need to be set-up – there’s lot to do in this wonderful world of reading books. “Power comes from knowledge, which needs to be transmitted through books,” she added. She also stressed that it is the books that have the ability to create empowered citizens of tomorrow. “And this is possible when children have some joyful stuff to read,” she iterated. Interestingly, Pratham Books has reached 5 million books but this is nowhere where they want to reach. “There are 347 million children in India and we want to reach all of them,” she concluded.

This informative address was followed by a presentation on Pratham Books by Suzanne Singh, managing trustee, Pratham Books. She started off by citing the facts that for 347 million children in India, there are just 15 million books produced by the organized publishers annually. “This is negligible as compared to 30 million books for 12 million children in UK,” she told. Another important point to ponder is that India has 22 languages and 1,600 dialects and the books are predominantly produced in English and Hindi. “There are great gaps in languages, especially Urdu. And this really led the Pratham books seeing a book in every child’s hand. We are working towards democratizing the joy of reading, where every child gets to read,” she added.

It is indeed a feat that Pratham Books started offering books at a rate of Rs 25 seven years back and they still continue to do so. “Ofcourse, we have books that are priced more but those are different kinds of books which need a higher pricing, catering to the needs of both rural and urban children. But, the quality of all books is excellent, the paper used is good quality paper and all the books are produced is minimum five languages. So far, we have covered 11 languages and are adding the 12th language – Malayalam this year. Another feather in the cap would be books on plays, for which hardly any books are available,” added Suzanne. She further told that Pratham Books is always on the lookout for innovations in product, distribution and technology. They even produce a Rs 2 book, which is a four page book with a small story with illustrations and which is a major hit in rural areas. They have also put a bunch of books online, where anybody can download the book and use it. “Hence, without any extra effort, our books have been translated into audio books and Braille as well. Majority of our books posted online have been downloaded in Nepal and used for ‘One laptop per child’ scheme,” told Suzanne proudly.

“As of now, we have a print run of 10,000-15,000 copies for every title we produce and the moment it goes up to 50,000, Pratham Books will become a self-sustainable enterprise. We are able to give books in the range of Rs 2-25 and we would really appreciate if we could bring down the cost to 50 p in future,” she concluded.

Then, there was an interesting panel discussion on ‘Creating joyful and accessible content for new readers,’ moderated by Manisha Chaudhry, head of content at Pratham Books. Rukmini Banerji, trained economist and author of several children books shared her experiences about the learning they got through various activities conducted by Pratham Books. She cited a particular incident where they were given a budget of Rs 10,000 to procure 300-400 books for children and they were not able to spend even half of the amount because the books available in that price segment were very few. “Hence, at Pratham Books, we first focused on the books for early readers. Many books have evolved through our interaction with children,” she told excitedly.

Another panelist Shudhasatva Basu, a well-known illustrator, painter and animator, stressed that though word is the best medium to communicate, visual language is very important to converse with children as it can be imaginative and filled with various emotions like fantasy, irony, humour, etc. He gave a glimpse of many of his illustrations used in books.

Anushka Ravishankar, well-known writer of nonsense verses, shared how as a writer, she creates content for joyful reading. She read out her famous verses ‘Today is my day’ and ‘To market!’ and displayed images of the book for everyone to see and feel the effect of illustrations. She added that it as a joy to create these verses but they became more alive with the excellent work of the illustrators. “Children are more alike than different and anything written with joy will be taken up by all children, whether he is a new reader or not,” she concluded.

Yet another panelist Paro Anand, a writer or children and young adult, who is known for her writings on how terrorism impacts children, told that she started writing animal plays and later when she became a part of ‘Literature in action’ programmes, which goes to villages and interacts with children and donates books, she started writing about the impact of terrorism on children. She cited various incidents which became an inspiration for her books.

This interesting session was followed by an open house where the audience interacted with the panelists on the author-illustrator relationship. While a few authors stressed on the importance of briefing the illustrator about the book, others stressed that when illustrators have a free hand, the creativity is better. A consensus was achieved that there is no thumb rule for it.

Later, Gautam John gave a brief presentation on ‘Creative Commons’ where people can post their content and give restrictive permission to use it. The vote of thanks was given by Sandhya Takshale and marked the end of the energetic and exciting Sabha 2011.


Learn to Play Cricket

Cricket is not just bat and ball; it is a team sport. It started as a children’s game but it became a well established adult sport in the 17th century. In the 18th century, it became the national sport of England. People enjoy the game because of the craze, glamour and the fun involved in it.

India is a cricket loving country – when the popular cricket series are held, people breathe cricket, literally! But, many do not know the nitty-gritty of the game. How the game is played? What are the various positions? What are the various terms used? What is forward defensive? What is helicopter shot? And more….

Learn to Play Cricket addresses these needs of those who wish to play or those who wish to know more about this amazing sport. The book starts with the basics of the cricket then moves on how to play the game. There are batting basics, bowling basics, fielding basic etc. There is also a glossary of cricket terms for novices. Then, there’s a compendium of record holders.

All these information are supported with beautiful lively illustrations so that the readers can actually see what they are reading. You can see how to hold the ball, how to throw it and more….Then, there are tips to choose a cricket bat and a diet chart for a player. In all, it gives complete information to start playing cricket.

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