Monday, December 22, 2014

Our Books Reach Churachandpur (Manipur) through STEP Trust

A few months ago, our friend Chintan Girish Modi brought our attention to a project called 'Peace Shelf' being run by STEP Trust. STEP Trust was looking for book donations that would go to the Library of Lalpuithluaii Foundation School, Churachandpur Manipur.

When asked about the project, Shreya Jani said :

STEP Trust has been working with this school for 2 years starting with doing workshops for teachers and students and now conducting peace education classes for 6 months everyday from classes 5 -10 and teacher training as well. Being cut off from the mainland access to good sensitive reading material which fosters curiosity, openness and sparks the imagination is limited. Thus, we decided to initiate a shelf in their library called the peace shelf which can give them access to such books. 

And, thus 300 of our books made our way to the peace shelves being created in the Lalpuithluaii Foundation School library. Thank you STEP Trust!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Wildlife in a City Pond - Sangeeta Kadur's Work on JLRexplore

When JLRexplore completed a year in existence, they celebrated by featuring 5 artists and their wildlife/nature related works. Sangeeta Kadur - illustrator of our book 'Wildlife in a City Pond' - gave readers into the making of the book. 

Thanks to all the wetland bird watching trips, nature walks, wetland projects and lake surveys I have been a part of over the past few years, a fondness to wetlands has grown on me. It was in October 2013 when a phone conversation with Mala Kumar, the editor of Pratham Books, sprang an unexpected discussion about a children’s storybook that involved three of my favourite elements – rain, lakes and wildlife! However, I had never worked on a children’s storybook illustration ever before. Bundled with a lot of apprehension, anxiety, excitement and eagerness, I decided to wake up to the new challenge that was thrown my way. I was more than happy to be illustrating a story authored by Ashish Kothari, who is well known amongst the environment and conservation circles, and is the reason behind ‘Kalpavriksh’, an environmental group in Pune.

Soon, the story was followed up with a pagination, which helped me compose each page with the required story elements. The author, Ashish Kothari, beautifully narrates in the story, his move into a new home in Pune; a little pond that his balcony overlooked and the exciting transformation the monsoons bought in along with the incredible variety of birdlife, insects, amphibians, mammals and reptiles that began to inhabit the little ecosystem. He continues to talk about how the lake was suddenly threatened by urban development, and how people from the neighbourhood came together to save that mini-sanctuary.

I started work with key sketches for each of the pages and a couple of coloured plates to decide the style; soon there was a go ahead. Juggling with another project at hand, I probably took about two whole months to finish all the 15 page illustrations for the book. The artworks were couriered off to Delhi to scan. The text was inlayed within the art and in a few weeks, the .pdf version of the book was shared for final edits. At the same time, translations in five other languages - Kannada, Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Urdu were underway.

Finally, in August 2014, the book ‘Wildlife in a City Pond’ was added to the Pratham online library. I am happy to mention that this storybook falls under the Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA 4.0), and will soon be available for free download!

Hop over to the JLRexplore page to view more of Sangeeta's work. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Write a Letter to Santa and Help Someone Contest

RivoKids is running a contest asking people to write a letter to Santa. Along with a chance of winning some cool gifts, your letter goes towards a cause. For every unique letter RivoKids receive, they will donate money to an NGO. They also hope to donate a Library-in-a-classroom kit through Pratham Books.

Good luck participants and good luck RivoKids for raising money for a good cause!

Hurry!! The last date to send in your entries is 21st December, 2014.

Meet us at the Bengaluru Book Festival

Block your calendar, the Bengaluru Book Festival is here!

What better way to end the year than in the company of books? The much awaited Bengaluru Book Festival is back, and is bigger and better than ever!

With over 250 titles in 5 languages, Pratham Books is sure to spoil you with choices. Pick up books in English, Kannada, Hindi, Tamil or Telugu and jump into the magical world of stories.

Venue: Stall No.39, Elaan Convention Center, 7th Phase, J P Nagar, Bengaluru.
Date: 19th - 28th December
Time: 11 a.m to 8 p.m. 

Don’t miss it. See you there!

Notes from Nielsen Children's Book Summit

"Kids Are Thriving, Reading and Hungry for More: Crunching Numbers at the Nielsen Children's Book Summit:, says the Publisher Weekly headline. "Forget Your Preconceptions About Teenagers and Reading", says the Publishing Perspectives headline. Sounds like good news!

The studies, conducted over a four-year period, sought to collect data that would provide insights into the ways in which children and teens consume media, specifically books, in an era of rapid technological advancements. 
Among the key take-away points from the day were: children’s book sales have risen steadily across all categories, though performing strongest is middle-grade and YA fiction; children and teens have an overwhelming preference for print over digital books; tablet use has risen exponentially, even among young children; and, as raised by a panel of teen readers and other presenters, the categorization of books as YA can be problematic for book industry professionals who find the classification inadequate and for teens who are resistant to labeling. 
According to Nielsen, “67% of kids read for fun fairly often,” and that there is a significant preference for print over digital books, with 71% of kids purchasing in print. These misconceptions about the way youth consume media, Junco said, come about through the lack of “good information,” and what he called the “adult normative perspective.” He believes that views of technology tend to often align with “panic narratives,” or the belief that new forms of technology will morally corrupt and “progress narratives,” which suggest that “technology will save us from everything.” Neither is an accurate view. One thing is for sure, he said in conclusion: “Our kids are not only okay, but they are thriving.”
Read the entire article for notes from each of the panels presented at the summit.


The paragraph from on 'hearing directly from the readers' caught our attention in the Publishing Perspectives article.
On the “In Their Own Words: Live Teen Focus Panel,” the teens, who weren’t in the room when the data was being discussed, illustrated many of the points already discussed in the research—they preferred print, they had to read a lot for school, they influenced their peers. What the teen panel also shared were the number of ways to reach these teen readers for book discovery—Instagram (book covers), YouTube (book trailers), Facebook (ads), and Tumblr (photos of book covers and highlighted passages). And, much like adults, teens are inclined to read books they get for free.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peshawar killing of the innocents, so ....

Words fail me. Let me try....the killing of children in Peshawar is horrible, useless, heartless, unwarranted, cowardly, misguided... Sorry! No word comes close to expressing what it really is. As children's book publishers, we've often been asked why we don't have books with dark themes. Blame it on our collective peace-loving brains, but we've never felt the need to do it. When there is so much for children to be seen, heard, loved, enjoyed and shared in this world, why should we want to publish books that touch upon topics like violence, guns, hate, ideological intolerance? And then this happens, chilling us with the sheer cold bloodiness of it.

A few years back, Pratham Books participated in the Lahore Children's Literature Festival. Our colleague Rajesh Khar took pictures, and talked about how wonderful it was to be with the children there....exactly like children anywhere in the world.

As we work on more idyllic books, our hearts go out to the families of the children who died so unnecessarily in Peshawar. We'll hope that this intolerance stops. That children can go to school in peace. That they don't have to pay for the sins of another generation. That they can look forward to a peaceful and happy world. Anywhere in the world.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Play Santa Claus to Children This Christmas!

Play Santa Claus to children this Christmas! 

For this perfect season and reason of gifting, we have come out with the 'Young Reader Gift Pack' in 6 languages (English, Hindi,Marathi, Kannada, Telugu and Urdu)

Apt for children who have just begun their reading journey, the pack has a good mix of books from Level 1 & 2. The packs contain new arrivals like 'Anaya's Thumb' and 'Goodnight Tinku' as well as all time favourites like 'Timmy and Pepe' and our 'Going to..' series.

What's more, all the packs are on a marked down price.

Order now and fill up those stockings with words and pictures and lifelong friends.

Harshitha's Little Achievement

Little Harshitha has been visiting our office for a while now. She is our caretaker's daughter who comes to our office in the evenings. A shy girl, Harshitha would hardly talk to us even though my colleagues tried to converse with her. We would ask her to choose any book she wanted and read it if she wanted. But, she would hesitate. 

We finally convinced her to get any book she liked. Her choice was the book - The Tree. Slowly, one letter at a time - she started reading. In the picture below, you can see Arathi and Devi encouraging her to read. She read a page and a shy smile erupted. My highly motivating colleagues told her to come back the next day to read more pages from her chosen book.

The next day, she appeared with a smile on her face - while we gently nudged her to get her book. She came back and read a little more. 

The following day, she marched into our conference room with confidence - claiming her book on her own and walked over to find her reading mentor. Chai breaks at the Pratham Books office are now punctuated with the sounds of Harshitha reading loudly - word by word, page by page! 

She is slowly starting to learn our names and we made a little song and action routine for her to remember them. To our amusement, her mother informed us that she was practicing the name-song at home. Adorable huh?

Today, she finally finished the book she has been reading every day and we got the chance to see her biggest smile erupt. With a bounce in her step, she marched off to tell Arathi that she had finished her book. When Devi finished a work call she was attending, she showed her the new book she was going to read on Monday.

What a coincidence that the book she chose illustrated how a little seed grows into a tree - just like how Harshitha is turning into a confident reader right in front of our eyes.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Listening to Gulzar Recite 'Kitaben'

Adding to the books vs e-books debate : listen to Gulzar recite 'Kitaben'. The video quality isn't great, but the words make up for it. You can also read Kitaben in English, Hindi or Urdu on Rektha.

The Pratham Books 2015 Calendar is Here

Our annual calendar is back and we continue to travel across India. 

With this year’s calendar, we invite you to step into an India of stories – where every child has a book in her hand! Allow us to take you across the country, as we explore different states of India and celebrate the wealth and diversity of Indian languages.

This year's calendar has been created by  Sangeeta Velegar (concept) and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan.

Catch a sneak preview of the calendar here.

What’s more, all proceeds from the calendar sale will be used for the Pratham Books Champions  initiative (read more about them here). Pratham Books Championsgo on to spread the joy of reading in their own communities. Your gesture will thus bring us closer towards our mission of putting “a book in every child’s hand”!

*Shipping of the calendars will start from 20th December, 2014.

Anil Kumble launches 'Books, my Friends' campaign

Anil Kumble launches 'Books, my Friends' campaign

It was a great day for some students of Kiriya Pushpa, Mysuru, and Amala’s Kutumba Abivrudhi Yojane, Tumakuru. They got to perform in front of an appreciative audience at the Bengaluru office of ChildFund India. They got to pose with cricketer Anil Kumble and they got a bag full of books! Kumble launched CFI's three-year campaign 'Books, my friends/Kitabein meri dost', which aims to donate books to 1,15,000 underserved children in 14 states of India. Pratham Books is proud to have many of our books in those bags.

“Will you read these books? Will you share it with others once you have finished reading them?” asked Anil Kumble, speaking to the children in Kannada. As the kids nodded happily and shouted out their responses, we spotted one girl surreptitiously opening the bag she had just received to take a peek at the books!

For my colleagues and me sitting at the event, it was a moment when our work had come full circle. Ever since Pratham Books signed up to be the content partner to ChildFund India for this project, our team has been on overdrive. Not just our team, but also our translators, reviewers and so many others who jumped into the task and work to tight deadlines to get the books ready.

To see those books in the hands of children was to see a project reaching the desired goal. It is ironic that on the same day, thousands of miles away at the Nobel Awards Presentation, Nobel laureate Malala Yousufzai, remarked,
"Why is it that giving guns is so easy, and giving books so hard?"

We're happy that Pratham Books could work with ChildFund India to make the difficult possible. And on we shall go to see more books in the hands of every child.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Does it Take to Print Half a Million Books at Pratham Books?

For a few months now, we've been silently working hard on a BIG project we were invited to participate in. Pratham Books is thrilled to finally announce that we were content partners for the launch of ChildFund India's 'Books, my Friends' campaign. 
“Books, my friends” is a new campaign to help marginalised children aged 6-14 improve their learning abilities by discovering the joy of reading at an early age. It is about helping them read and learn better in a fun and enjoyable way through the many pleasures books can offer them.
So, what was the Pratham Books team doing?
  • Our fundraising team charted out how we could be part of this lovely campaign.
  • To offer the best possible choices from our available titles, our content team was busy burning midnight oil - choosing books, preparing them, translating them. The team added 120 titles in 3 additional languages to have enough variety in each language. ​We had books in 4 reading levels and 8 languages going to 14 states across India. 
  • The slogan, look of the reading campaign and nearly 6 lakh book marks, was designed by the Pratham Books in-house team. The illustrations used for the campaign are by Jasjyot Singh Hans (from our book 'Tall, Taller, Tallest'). 
  • Our design and production team was busy spending their time at the printers to make sure there was a smooth amd uninterrupted supply of books reaching the warehouse. 
  • Our warehouse was converted into a 'book adda' of sorts for a few weeks. We even had to hire extra people to help us sort out the volume of books reaching our godown. With the books in hand, the execution team got into action - making book sets, sorting books, working long hours (sometimes even at nights) to make sure our books reached the kids on time.
  • After the distribution of books, Pratham Books will also hold a pan India training programme for all CFI partners - to make best use of our books.
Take a 'behind-the-scenes' look at what we were upto:

Manisha (head of content team) inspecting the books
Mukesh keeping a hawk's eye on our books at the printers
The books get prepared
Books waiting to be sorted and packed 
The highly efficient execution team in action
More packing and sorting of books
Almost there! Waiting to be sent off 
Phew...and the books are off!

The 'Books, my Friends' campaign was launched on 10th December, 2014 at the ChildFund India office in Bangalore and inaugurated by Anil Kumble. 

 More on the event in tomorrow's post :)

Why We Love Malala

Illustration by Bilawal Khoso
Malala Yousufzai moved me to tears with her powerful acceptance speech at the award ceremony in Oslo which conferred upon her the honour of being the world's youngest Nobel Peace laureate.

"Why is it that giving guns is so easy, and giving books so hard?" she asked. Coming from Malala, it wasn't just a smart rhetorical question thrown in for effect. She has seen violence at close quarters. The Taliban tried to kill her, and muffle her young voice demanding that girls too have the opportunity to access education, schools, books.

Today, she lives in the UK, far away from her home in the picturesque Swat valley in Pakistan. However, her soil and her people have a warm place in her heart. As she said in an interview with journalist Barkha Dutt earlier in the day, she hopes to return to Pakistan.

Malala has become an inspiration for millions of people all over the world. I am reminded of my eighth graders and their sparkling eyes from a class few years ago. They were filled with hope when they first heard Malala's story. She reminded them of their own brilliance, lying latent, waiting to flourish.

A celebrated campaigner for girls' education isn't all that Malala is. She also offered a beautiful example of the role that faith can play in one's activist work. At a time when groups and individuals in many parts of the world are committing brutal acts of violence by misusing the name of Islam, Malala spoke about what her faith and her holy scripture motivate her to do: read, seek knowledge, speak up for others who don't have a voice.

Yes, I am aware of all the criticism surrounding her receiving this Nobel. Whatever you may say about her being a Western stooge, or her father being an opportunist milking his daughter's injury for fame, or the Nobel Committee's decision of giving the prize to some recipients whose commitment to peace is questionable, there is one amazing thing this young woman of 17 managed to do.

Since she shared the prize with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, she invited to the Prime Ministers of both India and Pakistan to grace the ceremony with their presence. She appealed to them to sit down and talk. "India and Pakistan have similar challenges. We must work together," she told Dutt in an interview from Oslo.

The Prime Ministers didn't show up but I hope they were listening to the wisdom in her humble appeal. Satyarthi too spoke about the disproportionate allocation of resources to education and defence.

Let us ride on the energy of these Nobel Peace laureates, and show the world that Indians and Pakistanis can work together and transform their countries into places where children read books, write stories, perform plays, compose music and make films - not toil away in carpet factories, or be shot at for daring to dream.

(This is a guest post by Chintan Girish Modi. Chintan is an old friend of Pratham Books. He is the founder of Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein, an initiative promoting friendship between Indians and Pakistanis through storytelling, social media and interactions with students. To know more, look up and Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein on Facebook. He tweets @chintan_connect and @aaodostikarein)

The illustration used in this post is by Bilawal Khoso - a Karachi based artist. You can follow his work on Facebook or Twitter.