There’s an untold story in everything around us!
–says Girija Rani Asthana, renowned children author and vice president AWIC
Being a children writer for the last twenty-five years, Girija Rani Asthana truly loves the children world. She has been writing in English and Hindi, both fiction and non-fiction for children of all age groups. She has written about twenty books and 100 short stories for children. Girija has won the Hindi Academy Award for her Hindi book Dushmani Se Dosti Tak, in 1993. Involved with the AWIC Library Project for the last two decades, she conducts workshops for librarians, teachers and parents to promote reading habit among children. Smita Dwivedi in conversation with her.
Having master’s degrees in Psychology and History, Girija was leading a content life of being a housewife of an administrative officer. In her initial days, she was busy taking care of household and her kids. But one thing, which was always there in her, was her love for story-telling. She had been writing stories all thorough her life. So, she felt, it was a natural progression for her to start writing. “I loved telling stories to my kids, when they were growing up. But I never used to tell them the same old stories, which we had been listening for ages from our mothers and grandmothers. I never liked fairy tales and folk tales; I always invented my own stories. Even an old tree in our backyard had given me a story, which was published much later and loved by kids…It’s called Ek Dost Saap.”
Book My Friend
She has been on the organising committee of several international conferences and also travels overseas to organise and attend book exhibitions from time to time. She feels a life without book is incomplete, especially for growing up kids and added, “Reading is a very important issue which is not only about enjoyment but a necessity; the basic tool of education. Reading makes way for a better understanding of one’s own experiences and it can be an exciting voyage to self discovery. It is the art of interpreting printed and written words, the most effective process of conscious learning which influences the extent and accuracy of information as well as the attitudes, morals, beliefs, judgement and action of readers.”
In the Indian sub-continent, the reading habit of children is waning. The cause of this has been traced to the eroding reading cultures of and other notable factors like non-availability of reading materials and digital media and entertainment. As they say charity begins at home, she also shared same thought that we all need to contribute in our own capabilities to the society and should not wait for others to take actions. She also shared about the benefit of home libraries and added, “The reading habit is best formed at a young impressionable age in school, but once formed, it can last one’s life. All these are testament to the fact that reading is essential for the inclusive and all round growth of a child and would help shape enlightened citizens for a better nation. In my home I have developed a library for kids, which is open to all to come and read. When I stared this initiative, I have to go out and call kids to come and enjoy books. Later, I started having story-telling sessions, which kids really enjoyed and today, we have good numbers of visitors to my home library.”
On asking about, what’s new coming out of her Joy Box, she shared about her Graded Reading Book Series – Read and Grow for Vishv Books, “This series is a collection of refreshing picture books; the stories are not only packed with action and fun but also weave together values, civic sense, and sensitivity towards the environment, underprivileged and physically challenged. The stories tackle universal themes, employing subliminal visual messages to nurture the young minds. We should use books as a medium to inculcate values in young children and equip them with the important life skills. So, I am working to improvise it further.”
“Moreover, being one of the regular authors of Children Book Trust, I always keep myself busy with finding stories for kids,” she added.
Being a Kid!
According to her, writing for children is both easy and difficult; it is easy for those, who are still stuck in their childhood wonderland and it becomes really difficult for those, who try to become children author. “As adults, we all are flooded with information, so it’s very important that we should know where to stop. If I am writing a story for 4-5 year old kid, I have to finish it in 50-100 words. Similarly, we have to always be a kid, which is the best thing about being a children author too.”
Message to readers!
“I feel it is parents’ responsibility to introduce their kids to books. We never think twice, when we buy expensive toys for them or spending a lot of money on junk food. But, when it comes to books, we always give consideration to pricing. Which is not right, that is reason most of CBT, NBT books are priced reasonably, so that each and every kid should enjoy reading. READ INDIA…GROW INDIA,” she concluded.