Thursday, October 30, 2014

Early Education as Topic of $1 Million Hult Prize

Wonderful to hear that Bill Clinton has chosen 'Early Education' as a topic for the $1 Million Hult Prize. We've been reading a lot about the ASER reports and learning levels of kids in India and this prize will definitely be a motivation for those who want to improve learning in this space.

The international prize, named for Swedish billionaire Bertil Hult, goes to university students competing for a chance to launch their socially conscious business plan. Clinton is a "key partner" for the prize and is in charge of selecting the subject of the challenge each year. Last year, 11,000 teams submitted ideas for tackling health care in what they termed "urban slums." The year before that it was the global food crisis. Before that, energy poverty. You get the idea.

Prize administrators expect about 10,000 applicants to submit ideas for companies that would tackle the issue of early learning in impoverished urban areas around the world. After several rounds of competition, six teams will be named finalists, and one of them will win the 2015 Hult prize at the next Clinton Global Initiative conference.

"The challenge specifically asks teams to build sustainable and scalable social enterprises to address the early-childhood education gap in kids 0-6 years old," according to the Hult Prize website.

And in case some of our readers decide to take on this challenge and need content, we've got a lot of Creative Commons licensed content that you can use for free (with attribution of course). Get in touch with us if you want to use our content for this project (or any other awesome project) you are creating.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Learning Gap

Tina Rosenberg talks about the education system, the ASER report and children getting left behind in India.

School attendance is rising nearly everywhere. In India, for example, 96 percent of school-age children are enrolled — in part due to a 2009 law making education free and compulsory for children ages 6 to 14. India is winning the battle to get children into school.

But it is losing the war: Only some of these children are getting an education.

We know this mainly because of the tests done by the volunteers. Their report is called ASER, the Annual Status of Education Report (“aser” also means “impact” in Hindi), which is now in its 10th year. 

ASER is more than a survey. By making children’s learning visible to parents, teachers and policymakers, it has become a mobilizing force for better-quality education. It has helped to turn the government’s focus beyond enrollment, toward learning. 

Rukmini Banerji, who leads the ASER, says Pratham’s evidence shows that the most important reason is something else: By law in India, the teacher must cover the entire year’s formal curriculum. 

“When the fourth-grade teacher uses the fourth-grade textbook, you’re eliminating 80 percent of the class,” Banerji said. 

Someone sitting in a fourth-grade classroom who can’t read a simple sentence will be lost on the first day — and never catch up. “The learning curve is flat.”

Testing children at home not only catches a more representative sample, it creates ASER’s impact. When children don’t go to school, it’s visible. When they go to school but don’t learn, it’s invisible. “That children are in school but not learning is a very new realization for parents as well as policymakers,” Banerji said. “Parents don’t know about this — even those who can read themselves. They assume that in school means O.K.”

Read the entire article.

Image Source : Pratham Books (from the book 'Going Home', Illustrated by Santosh Pujari and Ketan Raut).

Vayu, the Wind - Now in French!

Earlier this month, we were pleasantly surprised to find a Dutch and Marathi animated version of our book 'The Moon and the Cap'. The team at Book Box has added another book of ours to the gang of 'Little Bookboxers' - and this time in French!

Au revoir! Nous partons pour apprendre une nouvelle langue*

More animated books are waiting for you at :
The Moon and the Cap (English)
Bunty and Bubbly (English)
Vayu, the Wind (English)
Too Much Noise (English)
The Moon and the Cap (Marathi)

 (*Google translate tells us that this is the way to say ' Good bye.! We are off to learn a new language)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stop the Analysing!

magnifying glass
Does excessive analysis of books put kids off reading? Author Frank Cottrell Boyce thinks it may just do that.

Cottrell Boyce recounts one experience when he read aloud in a school. “There’s a humbling, Homeric magic in the sight of a crowd of children sitting down waiting to listen to your story.”

After he read his story, he recalls, a young, newly qualified teacher addressed the children. “She said: ‘We’re going to use our listening skills to try and spot his wow words and his connectives so that we can appreciate how he builds the story.’

“Time and time again I come across teachers reading a story and then asking immediately for some kind of feedback. A piece of ‘creative writing’ ‘inspired by’ the story. Some opinions about character and wow words. Something to show the parents or the school inspectors.

“It pollutes the reading experience by bringing something transactional in to play. It destroys pleasure.”

Pleasure in reading, Cottrell Boyce will say, is deeply important. “Pleasure is a profound and potent form of attention, a kind of slow thinking.”

He continues: “When I offer you a story I don’t want you to come back to me with a description of how I did it. I don’t think of my reader as a trainee writer. I’m hoping that it stays in your mind and comes out in different ways I could never have predicted – as an engineering idea, as a cake, as a hug that you give your dad.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Children's Dreams - Our Spanish Connection

Last year, Roger Omar from Spain read about Pratham Books in our blog and wrote to us. This magazine editor had a fascinating collection - of dreams! "Since 2002 I have been personally collecting dreams written by children in different countries. Now I am printing some accordions fold-mini books, each one containing six illustrated dreams dedicated to the city where the dreams were collected," he wrote. Roger's work has gathered into a book of dreams, El monstruo decolores notiene boca (The Colored Monster Has No Mouth). He asked illustrators from around the world to illustrate the 150 dreams. After visiting our Flickr pages and website, he wanted to join us in our mission to promote reading and books among children in India. He translated a set of dreams written down by children in a village called Villavva in Navada, Spain, our colleague Rajesh Khar translated them from English into Hindi. Roger got the dreams illustrated by Fred Blunt, Madrid-based Ernesto Ramírez designed the book, the Pratham Books team worked on the Hindi layout, and soon 'Orange Pajamas' was ready for the world.

Roger supports the idea of free education. So after he shipped a box of mini books, we distributed them to kids in India. The pictures here show children reading the dreams of children across the globe, sitting in the Akshara libraries in Bangalore.

You can see more of Roger's wonderful project here. Thanks a ton, Roger, may all your dreams come true!

Getting Kids to Read

Sayoi Basu shares a list of things to do (and not to do) to encourage the little reader in your house.

Via The Petticoat Journal

First of all, I think the most damaging thing about getting kids to read is that parents encourage it. We read since our families discouraged it—I remember an aunt complaining vociferously to my mum that I was reading romantic novels at age ten—and kids like to do what families disapprove of. So if parents and teachers stop talking about how essential it is to read, more kids might want to pick up a book.

Of course the thing about picking up a book is that kids need to pick it up themselves. Maybe I am just an inept parent, but I find that my son will read the books he wants to read (found in bookshops, recommended by friends) and not usually what I recommend. (There are a few exceptions to this!) So if you want your kids to read, let them pick what they are reading—comics, fiction, motorcycle magazines. 

What is important is that they realize that pleasure can be found between the pages of a book, or that the iBooks app is as cool as the other apps on the iPad.

If you want to persuade your child to read, you suggest books to him or her which might fit in with what he or she is interested in. Do not attempt to foist books that you might have read as a child, or—even worse—books that attempt to teach things (unless of course your child likes non-fiction!). In the best books, the message or lesson, if any, is so deeply woven into the fabric of the book that it is hard to articulate. But messages do not need to be articulated—they are absorbed any way! And children have far more subtlety of comprehension than we tend to give them credit for.

Read the entire article.

Image Source : Pratham Books (from the book 'Going to Buy a Book', Illustrated by Santosh Pujari)

"70% Children Couldn’t Read a Story"

Children Reading Pratham Books and Akshara
Uma Vishnu accompanies an ASER team to a village in Rampur, a district in UP with some of the worst learning levels in the country, to see what it is to read. 

Maurya is with a team of volunteers that is conducting a household survey for NGO Pratham’s Annual Survey of Education Report or ASER, one of the most definitive barometers of learning levels among children between 3 and 16. This is the survey that has been telling us, year after year since 2005, that much of India can’t read and do basic math, that schooling is not the same as learning, and that the country needs to get its basics right. 

“Only two of the children we have surveyed so far have managed to read the paragraph,” says Dubey, leaving Radha Devi’s house. 

The Right to Education Act, 2009, managed to get children to school, pushing up enrolment levels and making sure schools were held accountable for their infrastructure — playgrounds, toilets, kitchens — but it had no way of ensuring learning levels improved. As ASER first found out in 2011, levels of reading and math had, in fact, dropped in many states since the RTE came into effect. In 2008, the proportion of children in Class III who could read a Class I text was 50.4 per cent, but that dipped to nearly 40.2 per cent in 2013. “Kusum must have been in Class V when the RTE came into effect. Since the Act did away with exams and assessments and said children can’t be held back, she must have gone all the way up to Class IX, without ever being tested,” says Sunil.

“Our reports are not a way to say the government doesn’t do its job. It’s more important that the government sees there is a problem. Once you do that, solutions are not hard to come by,” says ASER Director Rukmini Banerji. Over the years, ASER has proposed simple solutions such as grouping children across grades based on their learning levels. “For instance, if there are children who can’t identify alphabets in Classes I, II and III, bring them all together and teach them. That’s how Bihar’s Mission Gunvatta, for instance, works,” says Ranajit Bhattacharyya of the ASER Centre. 

On the way out of the village, Maurya does a quick, back-of the-envelope calculation. “Of the 39 children we surveyed yesterday, only 12 could read a story, 2 could read paragraphs, 3 could read words, 10 only identified letters and 11 were at the beginners’ stage. That means, 70 per cent children couldn’t read a story,” he says. 

That’s where this story begins.

Image Source : Pratham Books

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Story Time or Screen Time?

the tech kid's version of a book and a flashlight. #iPad #iBooks #booknerd #techie #babyluv
Douglas Quenqua asks if ' e-reading to your toddler story time, or simply screen time?'

At a time when reading increasingly means swiping pages on a device, and app stores are bursting with reading programs and learning games aimed at infants and preschoolers, which bit of guidance should parents heed? The answer, researchers say, is not yet entirely clear. “We know how children learn to read,” said Kyle Snow, the applied research director at the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “But we don’t know how that process will be affected by digital technology.” Part of the problem is the newness of the devices. Tablets and e-readers have not been in widespread use long enough for the sorts of extended studies that will reveal their effects on learning.

“There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child,” High said. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”

In a 2013 study, researchers found that children aged three to five years whose parents read to them from an electronic book had lower reading comprehension than children whose parents used traditional books. Part of the reason, they said, was that parents and children using an electronic device spent more time focusing on the device itself than on the story (a conclusion shared by at least two other studies).

“What we’re really after in reading to our children is behaviour that sparks a conversation,” said Dr Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple and co-author of the 2013 study. “But if that book has things that disrupt the conversation, like a game plopped right in the middle of the story, then it’s not offering you the same advantages as an old-fashioned book.” 

Of course, e-book publishers and app developers point to interactivity as an educational advantage, not a distraction.

A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin in 2013 found that two-year-olds learned words faster when using an interactive app as opposed to one that required no action. But when it comes to learning language, researchers say, no piece of technology can substitute for a live instructor - even if the child appears to be paying close attention.

Even if screen time is here to stay as a part of American childhood, good old-fashioned books seem unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Parents note that there is an emotional component to paper-and-ink storybooks that, so far, does not seem to extend to their electronic counterparts, however engaging.

Image Source : rashida s. mar b.

Book Review: The Elephant Bird

Seema Khinnavar reviews our book 'The Elephant Bird' on the Between the Lines website. This book has been written by Arefa Tehsin and illustrated by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja.

‘The Elephant Bird’ is an appealing story about Munia, a village girl who walks with a slight limp, and her adventures with The Elephant Bird. 

The book’s vibrant illustrations are an instant draw. The artists have paid close attention to detail. Upon looking closely, you will be pleasantly surprised to spot little mice, spiders, bees and birds following little Munia’s adventure through the colourful landscape.

The book has been recommended for children who can read independently. Although the story line is simple, the tale has been told in a complicated manner, due to which, the illustrations rob the child’s attention from the main story. However, once the story has been explained the child reads the book again with renewed enthusiasm.

The beauty of the book lies in the underlining reference to the fact that the human race would not hesitate to get rid of natural heritage for the sake of personal gain.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Make Diwali Special with Pratham Books

Diwali is almost here. The festival of lights, togetherness, prosperity and celebrations! Diwali is also about making others feel loved by gifting them something they will cherish.

Gift the little ones around you one of our special festive packs. Our books will take them to new places, introduce them to new characters and cultures and fuel their imagination. Offered at an attractive discounted price, these packs are available in 8 languages (including bilinguals). 

Gift children a box of experience this Diwali. 

Click here to buy our festive packs.

Illustration by Priya Kuriyan.

We've Been Nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

This week, we've been sharing a lot of exciting news with our readers. From being content for Worldreader's “E-Books For All” Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to having our work selected for inclusion in the 2014 Library of Congress Literacy Awards ‘Best Practices’ publication - we've had many reasons to celebrate.  Earlier this week, we heard that we've also been nominated for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA).

197 candidates from 61 countries are nominated to the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2015. ALMA is considered the largest prize for children's and young adult literature and is given to outstanding authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters in the memory of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, most known for her children's book Pippi Longstocking.

We are also happy to announce that the other Indian organizations nominated this time are Tara Katha, Tara Books, Tulika Books and A & A Book Trust. It feels great to be recognized as promoters of reading among children. You can see the entire list of candidates here

The 2015 laureate will be announced on 31 March 2015. Thank you friends, for being with us while we get our kids reading in every part of India!

Sahitya Akademi Books To Be Available at Two Metro stations

Great to hear that books Sahitya Akademi Books will soon be available at two metro stations in Delhi.

Via Business Standard

Book lovers will soon be able to buy books published by the Sahitya Akademi at two Metro stations, following inking of an MoU Wednesday.

The stations will be Kashmere Gate and Vishwa Vidyalaya.

As part of the agreement, Delhi Metro will allot space of suitable size at the two stations to the Sahitya Akademi, an organisation committed to promoting Indian literature, for opening bookshops for a period of three years.

"Sahitya Akademi will offer a discount of 15 percent on sale price of books to all genuine Metro commuters on display of Delhi Metro smart cards at the proposed book shops," the statement said.

Additionally, the bookshops will allow the display and sale of Delhi Metro publications.

"Similarly, Delhi Metro will be provided space for setting up stalls for the promotion of smart cards during book fairs/exhibitions organised by Sahitya Akademi."

Hoping that more pop-up bookstores offering a wide range of books by multiple publishers also start popping up across other metro stations.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mala Kumar on the Rupaiya Paisa Series

Found a video of our author and editor Mala Kumar talking about the Rupaiya-Paisa series.