The best readers are children!

To speak to children is to play a game. You have to keep them entertained, indulge their imagination, and only then do they grant you the honour of their attention. While we get muddled with maintaining the purity of language, simplifying and clarifying things for ease, children, in disregard of all things simple, go on making and finding their own meaning. This exercise is important for them but so is our responsibility to introduce the world to them. And both those functions are best served by the measure of books.

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Publishers like Om Books International have come to realise that in this day and age, these books too have to constantly innovate new ways of communicating to their young readers. Too direct or too didactic is also too dreary. Children, perhaps make for the best readers out there for this reason alone. For they might still go on reading a book they don’t understand, in an attempt to understand it, but get them a boring book and it’s a deadend. This is one reason that has forced the publishing industry to make new forms and kinds of books, to keep children engaged and interested, and keep running the symbiotic relationship shared by publishers and young readers.

Fostering a love for reading…

The children’s publishing industry in India has also therefore continued to evolve on these grounds, of finding new ways of edifying and entertaining. There’s been a growth in recent years in the number of publishers solely focused on producing books for children, and in that attempt diversifying the variety of books available, and ensuring their reach to a wider audience. The Children and Young Adult division of Om Books International has emerged as the front runner of these trends, with a catalogue spanning over 1500 books–a potpourri of all sorts of books ranging from classics and fairy stories, a variety of picture and educational books, to contemporary stories for middle-grade and fiction and non-fiction for young adults, written by Indian and international authors.

Om Book’s assortment of titles confirms that the driving factor to its presence as a leading children’s publisher has been its commitment to creativity and quality. “The change over the past decade, that we as publishers have both been a witness and catalyst to, is the diversification of the market of children’s books,” says Ajay Mago, Publisher, Om Books International. “There’s more to these books now than there was, say, thirty years ago. I say that both in terms of the kinds of books available and the value attached to them. Apart from the content, the attention to illustrations, colours, even fonts, is of immense importance. How else will you keep little readers interested, especially when there’s an influx of digital media that poses a constant competition to books? Parents these days are worried for their kids whose permanent companion has become the smartphone. So, the earlier you introduce your kids to books, the better chances of them developing a habit of reading. Toddler books, rhymes, picture and story books don’t seem so juvenile anymore, do they? They have come to hold the kind of importance now that surpasses the purpose they may have served before. Our books tend to run in the same league, aiming to foster a love for reading in kids, and giving them the essential creative experiences that could lead to it.”

Making authors out of young readers…

The company that recently won the PVLF People’s Choice Publisher Award 2023 for being the top third children’s publisher has ensured a revival of old storytelling traditions, from the folktales and epics of South Asia to the fairytales of the West, for the young reader to read and enjoy. Apart from publishing children’s writings by some of the big names like Honey Irani, Anirban Bhattacharya, and Shubha Vilas, it has also been unique in platforming young voices. Om Books has helped young writers get published, some of whom have also gone ahead to win awards. Take 12-year-old Sia Gupta’s The Mahabharata in Rhyme which also won the PVLF Author Excellence Award this year. Reading inspires writing and OBI’s young authors are a testimony, with authors like 17-year-old Shubhi Agarwal and 14-year-old Inaya Gala getting their works of fiction published last year.

Are children’s books worth publishing?

Good books cost money. Yet affordability remains a pertinent issue. And as publishers navigate the market trying to find the hard-earned balance between price and quality, another question arises: Are books for children worth being published? Especially when you take into account the efforts that go into making them, with the attention to artworks and illustrations, good paper quality and printing processes all adding to the cost of the book. “Yes, it is,” says Sanjay Mago, the company’s CEO. “While we watch the digital space booming and replacing the value of books in the Gen Z lifestyle, it’s our responsibility as publishers to keep pushing. I believe young minds are curious and perceptive, you hand them a good book and they’ll be interested. And that’s our job, to get them that book.”

Of course, Om Books International can legitimately make that claim of pushing, with their strong presence in India and even internationally, making a mark in terms of what gets picked up and read. Om Book Shop is one of the largest bookstore chains in India, and their export distribution spans over 25 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Another reflection of the shifting trends, where a global readership is being exposed to and catered by works from the subcontinent.

The scope of children’s books has expanded to include a wide range of books from early learning to short and long fiction and encyclopaedias. Publishers like Om Books International have managed to keep up with these changing demands and definitions, which provides hope that reading among children and young adults will continue to thrive.

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