Friday, September 12, 2014

Diving Into a Digital Universe – Part 1

discover the possibilities
There was a time when I couldn't bear the thought of reading on a gadget. I couldn't imagine not hearing the faint but comforting sounds of pages being turned and definitely wasn't ready to give up being able to smell the pages of a book. I worried about the eventual decline of print books and wondered if it might become something of an antique item twenty years from now (as is predicted in Gary Shteyngart's dystopian novel 'Super Sad True Love Story').

But that was a while ago. These days, I read the news on my phone during my commute to work and occassionally steal my husband's Kindle. Needless to say, my apprehensions about the digital book universe have reduced considerably, and I now approach it with more curiosity and optimism. Although I do retain a tiny bit of skepticism – which is known to be healthy ­ I'm determined to get myself an e­book reader this year.

At Pratham Books, we have already digitized several books and plan on scaling it up significantly in the next few years. Combining this with actively obtaining the Creative Commons licenses for several of our books in multiple languages (imagine accessing all our wonderful books for free!), we hope to continue our efforts with promoting literacy and also contribute towards reducing the digital divide that is likely to emerge in the next few years.

In the last few years, the book­ publishing industry has had to reinvent itself constantly, based on emerging trends in reading habits, preferences and technological innovations sparked by the digital revolution. Pratham Books asked a few children's authors and illustrators how they feel about the changing form of the book – from print to digital – and if and how this has affected their creative processes. We're publishing their views as a 3­part series, so do watch out for more of these on our blog and join us in our explorations of this new and vibrant world.

Natasha Sharma, Author & Illustrator

I find the changes in the form of books tremendously exciting. It allows many opportunities for stories to reach new audiences in new forms. In my opinion, a book, be it presented in any form, still needs at its core, all the elements of a strong story. When I think through a story and develop characters and plot, I don’t find any change in my creative process. However, I do think that for a story to be effectively converted from one format to another, say from print to ebook, you do need to think through changing some aspects to fully exploit the opportunities of the new medium and make it effective.

I still think of books in their traditional format first, but I am sure that people with a better grasp on this space can explore many wonderful formats. When one builds in gaming, alternative story lines or involving the reader in decision making within the story, it really is a brave new world. 

Having said that, I still love to curl up with a physical book.

Check out Natasha Sharma's books 'Kaka and Munni' and 'Anaya's Thumb'.

Praba Ram, Author & Founder of Saffron Tree (a website that reviews children's books)

In the history of publishing, we know “print” has always embraced a diverse set of constantly changing medium and many different technologies. From a production angle, when that final PDF is sent, you know the creative process, as in, the interaction between your publisher and you (the author) is over. So taking that format to the reader is the next step. Popularity of PDFs has helped people warm up more to the idea of e­books. The writing process for the author, in my opinion, remains unchanged, only the delivery mode is constantly changing. Digital content is a heterogeneous entity with competition from image ­oriented apps and games. I feel optimistic that, irrespective of the pressure that books face from emerging new technologies, the written word will always prevail. So long as the reader savours and favours the written word, in print or digital format, over any other image­oriented app or games.

Check out Praba Ram's book 'Subbu, the Signal'.

 ~Written by Yamini Vijayan

Image Source : Georgie Pauwels

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cutting Tea Tales

Absolutely love the fun literary idea our friends at Akshara Foundation came up with to celebrate International Literacy Day.

Via The Times of India

Oblivious of worldly affairs, a gaggle of giggly kids was busy playing in a water-clogged road on Sunday morning, till something snatched their attention — books hanging from plastic pouches at the nearby chai-cum-provision stores.

Vision :"A Book in Every Child's Hand"The curious kids soon started milling around the shops in Sathya Nagar, a slum near Byappanahalli, East Bangalore. It was probably their first close encounter with books beyond classrooms. Said an elated Jeniffer A, a class VIII student of a government school, “Textbooks are the only books I had seen till now.” Flipping through their illustrative content, she added, “I am happy to find books on Subhas Chandra Bose, Adolf Hitler, and Jnanpith awardees.” Her excitement showed in the way she grabbed one title after another as if many new windows to the world had suddenly opened for her. The kids had the Akshara Foundation (AF) to thank for this. On the occasion of International Literacy Day, the NGO launched Cutting Tea Tales, an initiative to convert chai and provision stores into reading stations by providing free books. Within 30 minutes of AF volunteers placing the books in these stores, some 100 children gathered to explore the little treasure troves.

They jumped from one book to another, stopping at times to admire a picture or to marvel at the options to choose from.

“Kids who had come to purchase kites soon got lost in this world of words; some began reading them the books there and some took them home. I never thought these children would be keen on reading,” said Zabeer Ulla, a shopkeeper.

The best thing is they come in different languages, including Kannada, English, Urdu and Tamil. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me any of them.” Not just kids, the reading bug didn’t spare the youth either. Sipping on garam chai, many picked up a book or two for a quick read.

Under this initiative, shop owners will act as librarians and custodians of the donated books. Hailing the move, Shiva Kumar, a shop owner said since morning every customer who walked into his store couldn’t help but turn a few pages.

Coming Soon : Bangalore Literature Festival

The Bangalore Literature Festival is coming to town.

Via The Hindu

The third edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) will be held from September 26 to 28 at Crowne Plaza, Velankani Tech Park in Electronic City. The three-day festival will see a walk-in of almost 150 authors, including literary greats like Girish Karnad, Ramachandra Guha, Arun Shourie, Chandrashekhara Kambara and more.

The festival will focus on looking into issues related to the North-Eastern states of India, along with oppression of the minority. Other themes include gender and women rights, and violence against women, LGBT rights, travel writing, short stories, humour, love to name a few.

There will be a special panel to address the topic of aboriginal writing from Australia among others. Chandrashekhara Kamabara will have a discussion on how the South Indian languages have the ‘classical language’ tag but that might be nothing more than a title.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Celebrating International Literacy Day with 1300+ Storytellers and 1500+ Sessions

A month ago, we started preparing for our annual Literacy Day celebrations. Like always, the month whizzes by in a flurry of activity. And like always - our community showers us with a lot of love by volunteering to give their time, their energy and their hearts to help spread the joy of reading. In its third edition, the 'One Day - One Story' campaign has once again been able to double the number of reading champions who will be joining us this year.

This year, we have ...

1300+ Champions
1500+ Sessions
Thousands of children are going to be listening to stories!!

The book chosen for this year is Takloo - The Little Salt Seller (written by Radhika Bapat, illustrated by Poonam Athalye). A delightful story about a clever boy who has got entrepreneurship in his genes, it seems! A story that is sure to engage children of all ages.

The UNESCO theme for International Literacy Day is - Literacy and Sustainability. We realized that 'Takloo, the Little Salt Seller' is a perfect choice as the book touches on environment, societal patterns and economic activities. Serendipity!
Takloo and his family are ready to meet thousands of kids today
Apart from the champions in India, we also have champions joining us from Nepal, Pakistan, USA, Mozambique, Singapore, UAE, France, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Zambia. 

If you've just found out about our International Day celebrations, fret not! To conduct your own storytelling session, please register, download the book and share it with a child/children. A big shout out to :

  • CISCO for creating the reading app, 
  • Mirchi Cares (the CSR division of Radio Mirchi) for creating the audio books,
  • Anand Viswanathan for translating the book into Sanskrit (and Vikram Gakhar for coordinating it)
  • Renu Seth and team for the hand-written Gujarati translation
If you want to attend a session, we as well as some of our champions are conducting events that are open to the public. Check the full list at :

If you are sharing pictures/news about your event, please use the hashtag #PBChamps on Facebook and Twitter so that we and other champions can also follow your updates. You can tweet us at @prathambooks and find us on Facebook at :

Join Pratham Books and 1300+ storytellers in sharing the joy of stories.


About the campaign : 
At Pratham Books we have a dream, to see “A book in every child's hand”. We understand that to reach the 200 million + children in India is going to take a while. In the meantime, we decided to take 'One Day, One Story' campaign to as many children possible on a single day throughout the country.

This initiative is part of the Pratham Books' Champions program where we encourage our community of volunteers to conduct reading sessions. These sessions are conducted free of cost and mostly with children from under-served communities. The Pratham Books' Champions program is a one-of its kind volunteer program that has scaled to a national level with more and more volunteers wanting to join us in this movement.

Friday, September 5, 2014

One Day, One Story, Many Languages and Many Voices

Maegan Dobson Sippy writes about our 'One Day, One Story' campaign in the New Indian Express
One day, one story, many languages and many voices. This Saturday, thousands of children across India will listen to a reading of a charming tale — Takloo the Little Salt Seller. Chosen for this year’s edition of the Champions campaign, run by Bangalore-based children’s publisher Pratham Books, the initiative sees a single story being read by volunteers to children nation-wide on the same day. “We’ve almost doubled the number of volunteers each year — from 250 in 2011, to 600 last year, and already over 1, 000 storytellers for this campaign,” says Maya Hemant Krishna, community manager, Pratham Books. 
From Bihar to Goa, Bangalore to Bhopal, the champions come from far and wide, and include individuals, NGOs, corporates and libraries. The book is published in multiple regional languages, and is freely available for further translations. “It’s very exciting to think of one book being read on a specific day throughout India, in many different languages,” shares Arundhati Chatto–padhyaya, who works with underprivileged children in Goa. Yuman Hussain of The Azad Foundation, an NGO that will take the story to children in over 20 madrassas, to foster integration as well as literacy, says, “It cuts across state, language, religion and caste boundaries.” Every year the tale is written and illustrated by local contributors . “Pratham books are very Indian. Including everyday characters makes it easy to engage children in a dialogue,” explains Neela Gupta, a retired librarian, and one of the earliest champions.
Our Adi Kahani series also gets a mention in Maegan's comprehensive article.
Pratham Books, earlier this year, launched Adi Kahani, a series of stories written in tribal languages, now translated into English and Hindi. “Tribal languages reflect a rich culture and transfer knowledge and wisdom from one generation to another,” explains Manisha Chaudhry, head of content development at Pratham Books. “These stories should travel as they are a significant part of our national heritage and hold value for all children,” she says in conclusion.
Read the entire article to hear more viewpoints on the changing face of children's literature in India. The article features our fellow publishers (Tulika Books, Karadi Tales,  Tara Books, Duckbill Books), champions and other lovely book-ish initiatives.

Launching the Pratham Books' Mobile Reading Application

International Literacy Day is just around the corner. It is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year for the Pratham Books team. Serving so many Reading Champions who are getting ready to bring a ‘story delight’ to thousands of children is a big responsibility. Our office is buzzing with activity with event co-ordination, getting banners and posters ready, sending out activity suggestions and last minute additions to the ever growing list of books to be shipped out adds to the chaos.

Every year, much to our dismay, disappointments happen. The couriers don’t reach on time, the speed post slows down or some books just get lost in transit. Also, a lot of times many people come in late with a request to become a Reading Champion and it is too late for us to send them a copy of the book. Usually, an e-copy of the book is always kept handy and duly mailed out for such occasions although sometimes, even for that it’s a little too late.

So, what do you do if you read about our One Day One Story event just 24 hours before the event? Thankfully, we now have a solution for that.

For some time now, Pratham Books has been toying with the idea of launching a mobile application for our books. The application would be an extension of our efforts to take our books as far out, and in as many ways as we can. 

So one day, we sat down with the good folks from CISCO Systems and together conceptualized a Mobile Reading Application for young readers. Just in time for our annual celebration of the International Literacy Day, the first version of the mobile application is up and running! *drum rolls*

24 hours before the event, or just 24 minutes before, all you have to do is to go to Google Play Store (for android devices) and download the application and voila, here is 'Takloo, the Little Salt Seller'  (in six languages) on your mobile or tablet screens. In its first avatar, the application hosts a limited number of books but that repository will only increase. A couple of more books are also present for quick reading.

As much as this reading application gives you the flexibility and comfort of reading books that fit in your pocket, it also gives us the means to take our books and stories to the farthest corners of the country through technology. Books are finally travelling in bits and bytes through fiber optic cables to reach destinations far off, in record time.

Download our mobile reading application at:

Happy reading and sharing!

A big shout out to the team of young and dynamic engineers of CISCO Systems , mainly Khalid Imam, Nancy Jain, Ashish Bhatiya, Ritesh Singh, Saurabh Rajpal, Bharat Goel, Vidisha Sahijwani ,Sudha Narayanan, Kaushal Kishore, Srinivas Boddukuri, Marudhu Sahana E and Dili Rathi and their guides Anil Neeleshwar, V C Gopalratnam,Dharmendra Rangain and Rohini Kamath. They put together their technological skills for a larger social impact. They have been great thought- partners to us.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reading Takloo, the Little Salt Seller : Public Events You Can Attend

The third edition of 'One Day - One Story' is back. This collective reading movement will see 1300+ storytellers share stories across India and multiple international locations.

The story chosen for this year is 'Takloo - The Little Salt Seller', written by Radhika Bapat and illustrated by Poonam Athalye.

Join us for a day of storytelling and fun on 6th September, 2014.

The following events are flagship events being conducted by Pratham Books. All the listed sessions are free but do call on the listed numbers to reserve a spot.

Venue : Hippocampus Children's Experience Centre 525, 16th Main Rd, 3 Block, Koramangala
Time :11:00am - 12:00 noon
Champion : Arts Tales with Arthi Anand
RSVP : Ankit Anubhav (+91- 8971936444)

Venue : Saptaparni, Plot no.21, Road No.8 Banjara Hills, Next to kalpa school
Time : 11:00am - 12:00 noon
Champion : Deepa Kiran
RSVP : Ms Sunita Sharma (+91-9848824387)

Venue : KitabKhana, Ground Floor, Somaiya Bhavan, 45/47, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort
Time :11:00am - 12:00 noon
Champion : Priyanca Vaishnav
RSVP – Mr Raviraj Nar (+91-9324288833)


Our champions are also conducting several storytelling sessions (which are open to the public) happening over the next few days. Please check the list of all the public events you can attend. Click on the links below to get more details about the event.

(This list is being updated so please check back to see if there are any events happening in your city)


5th September
10:30 am - JP Nagar - by SHLOK Foundation

6th September
9:00 am - 10:00 am - K R Puram - by SHLOK Foundation
9:30 am - 10:30 am - Malleswaram - by Smitha Holehoddu Srinivasamurthy and Spell Genie
10:00 am - JP Nagar - by SHLOK Foundation
10:45 am - 12:15 pm - SVK Layout, Anagalpura Village - by SHLOK Foundation
11 am - 12 pm - St.Marks Road - by Seed A Read and Gambolla
11:30 am - 12:30 pm - Haralur Road - by CuddlesAndReads
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm - B.T.M 2nd Stage - by TALEescope

7th September
11:00 am - 12:00 pm - Jayanagar - by Seed A Read
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm - BSK 2nd Stage - by Seed A Read

8th September
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm - Bellandur - by Akshharam


6th September
11:00 am - 1:00 pm - Adyar - by The Reading Room
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm - Adyar - by The Reading Room

6th September
8:30 am - Bhandari Public School, Gali No. 9, Brahmpuri, near Seelampur Metro Station (RSVP 9811433382)
10 am - 11 am - Nizamuddin West - by Reading Caterpillar

6th September
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm - New Shahupuri - by Deepika Marda

8th September
5:45 pm - Sector 52 - by Golpo - Discovering Expressions, Emotions & Life Through Stories

10th September
5:00 pm - Sector 52 - Golpo - Discovering Expressions, Emotions & Life Through Stories

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Play to Learn

Maanasi Baa writes about the Pratham Books-Jumpstart workshop conducted at JUMPSTART, New Delhi.

If numbers indicated success, the Play to Learn workshop was clearly a success. With more than a hundred participants coming from over fifteen schools, the workshop had definitely hit the nail. However, a quantitative criterion doesn’t necessarily gauge success, which is exactly the point that these alternative models of teaching are trying to endorse. No need to worry though, this workshop did pretty well under the quality control check, too.

A number of different teachers had come to learn how to play, which was an interesting concept in itself. The teachers introduced themselves, role-playing their own students and the room reverberated with laughter. The teachers got comfortable, pretty quick and well the rest as they say was just fun and games.

“All Children are the same and all of them are different.”

Dr. Asha Singh invited her participants to dwell rather deeply on this observation. Every child is unique, and even though we herd them as one huge collective, we forget to engage with their differences. There is no universal method to teach children and not every child learns in the same way. This tussle between the traditional model of teaching that doesn’t cater to every child’s needs and that of a more flexible model that allows every child his or her own limitations, is an old tussle. But we often forget and remain ignorant of these debates.

Amukta Mahapatra touched upon the tendencies of children. She says that children have a tendency to explore all that is unexplored. There resides a sense of curiosity that motivates them to engage with real life concepts. However, all of this happens through play and thus play, must be encouraged. The three E’s are of immense importance: Energise, Excite, Engage.

Read the entire article.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coming Out Early

M.Venkatesh on the bold steps being taken by English-language publishers in India by bringing LGBT-themed books for young adults into the market.

Dhar’s next book, Slightly Burnt, to be published by Bloomsbury in December, is about a teenage girl and her best friend. “It’s a story about understanding what it means to be different,” says Dhar. Other publishers and authors are also looking at the genre with interest. 

Duckbill Books has planned a November launch for its first LGBT-themed YA book, Talking Of Muskaan. Written by Himanjali Sankar, it has an LGBT theme. “But it also has other interesting ideas woven into it,” points out Sayoni Basu, publisher, Duckbill Books. 

YA is where most new LGBT fiction is appearing, probably because young adulthood is a time when people find out about themselves—who they are, and who they are attracted to. It could be an eye-opener for readers as well—reading about similar situations may help them feel less alone and less likely to condemn and bully other young people who may be different. “LGBT children are invisible and unacknowledged in our society and it’s about time they got even a teeny hint that they are not alone,” says Dhar.

“With increasing awareness of LGBT issues, it is but natural that such themes will be reflected in books for children, pre-teens and teens. What matters is how sensitively and imaginatively such issues are dealt with,” points out Radhika Menon, publisher, Tulika Books. Another Tulika title, Mayil Will Not Be Quiet, is a diary of a 12-year-old girl who talks about all the things that she is concerned or curious about, including gay relationships. “As publishers,” says Menon, “we don’t believe in taboos in children’s books.” Others might, though.

Also watch : Raghava KK's thoughts on 'shaking up our perspectives'. 

Hindi Literature for Kids

Promoting reading at the orphanages (Mapusa)
Ruchika Kher on unraveling the delights of children's literature in Hindi...

Via mid-day

But with changing preferences, lack of good writing and substandard promotional strategies, the demand for Hindi literature for kids has been witnessing stagnation and in some cases, a steady decline even.

“Almost every eminent writer in Hindi, starting from Premchand to Mohan Rakesh, has written children’s books. The problem is of availability, and inadequate efforts to market these books,” rues Manisha Chaudhry, head of content, Pratham Books. She explains that most prominent Hindi publishers don’t promote their children’s list (if they have one) and also don’t invest in good illustrations or take care of production values. “So most children’s brush with Hindi literature is through prose and poetry that has been put in Hindi language textbooks,” she adds. 

Shobha Viswanath, publishing director, Karadi Tales Company, adds another view that the potential for those who’ve had Hindi as their mother tongue or those who would like to relate to Hindi, is huge. However, the encouragement of general reading among children is prevalent more, among affluent classes who prefer that their children read in English. “The absence of a strong market for children’s literature in Hindi has also meant that writing for children in Hindi has not been nurtured. When there is good writing, the illustration and production qualities are quite poor because the books have to sell for a low price,” she says.