Tribal children

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get a piece of their own story…

India’s diverse linguistic landscape has a rich seam of stories for children. Unfortunately, many tribal languages do not have literature for children in book form or books for reading pleasure. As increasing numbers of tribal children go to school, it is now more necessary than ever to create a body of children’s literature in their languages. Literature that reflects their own world and opens up the world beyond – because books are magical, powerful things that inform, amuse, educate and entertain in the most interactive way. Books make every child an independent and life-long seeker of knowledge in his/her own unique way. For education to be truly meaningful to every child, he/she must get good books to read in his/her own language.

Pratham Books and IgnusERG, with the support of Bernard van Leer Foundation have created the first ten books for children’s reading pleasure in Munda, Kui, Saura and Juanga languages from Odisha. The stories were written and illustrated by authors and illustrators from these languages in a series of workshops.

IgnusERG is a guild of resource persons working to support teachers and enhancing the quality of education, particularly in government schools. They focus their efforts on bringing equity in education and addressing the needs of marginalized children. Bernard van Leer Foundation is an international grant-making foundation with a mission to improve opportunities for young children growing up in socially and economically difficult circumstances. They have a particular interest in supporting mother-tongue based education.

The process of creating these books is also an example of collective and cooperative action. While, recognizing that these languages have anything between one lakh to five lakh speakers, Pratham Books felt, as an organization, that tribal children are the most unreached in terms of access to books. Since IgnusERG was already working with people speaking these languages on an early childhood curriculum, twenty potential authors were identified and an intensive writing workshop was held in Bhubaneswar in July 2013.The stories that came out were a mix bag of folktales and new writing. The illustrations were done in another workshop with tribal artists using the Saura mural style as a base. A designer from Delhi was drawn into the process to give the traditional style an interesting twist to make them more attractive for children.

A new series called Adikahani has come out of this experience. Ten books and four song cards will be published in a bilingual format in English-Hindi and the Tribal language-Odia. They will be on a Creative Commons license and therefore available for free download. Hopefully, this will spark off other such initiatives which are so needed for the last child to have the pleasure of reading his/her own story book. His/her own story book is an important piece in his/her own story.

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