Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sharing Stories

Arthi Anand's Storytelling Express
A picture from Arthi's storytelling sessions as a Pratham Books Champion
In the run-up to our annual collective reading campaign (One Day One Story), we stumbled across Arthi Anand Navaneeth's article on why stories are powerful. We especially liked the tips she shared in the article.

Via Indian Moms Connect
But most of all, reading is FUN. It can be done almost anywhere and alone or in a group. It need not ever get boring. You just need to find the next book that appeals to you. There is never, ever a short supply of reading material.
  • Alternate between reading and narrating to your child, after they begin to learn the alphabet since they will register words better and it will help them progress to reading on their own.
  • Do not ever force your child to read.
  • Expose them to a lot of variety of books. Do not fret if your child has different reading sensibilities than yours.
  • If you notice a liking for a particular style of book or genre, get more of the same.
  • Set an example by reading yourself.
  • And somewhere, somehow your child will take to reading. If he does not, it is only because he is yet to find the right book for himself.
  • Keep reading and narrating to him.
Read the entire article.

What tips would you share with other parents/teachers?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How the #PBChamps Campaign Sparked a Monthly Reading Programme

Last year was the first time that the team from Swechha got in touch with us and expressed an interest in our annual Literacy Day campaign. Earlier this year, Josh Roberts who used to work with Swechha told us about what happened in the next few months after they conducted that event.

In Josh's words ...

Pagdandi is our non-formal alternative learning program for kids and adolescents of Jagdamba Camp slum community in South Delhi. It started as a library in the community, Kitaab Ghar, with reading and story-telling sessions conducted everyday. This has now grown to a community-based initiative that focuses on education, empowerment and employability. 

Kitaab Ghar continues to be a space for children and youth to study, read and learn in. On the 7th of September, we held our first reading day at Kitaab Ghar. The day was a huge success, reaching out to over 90 children and women, all of whom read in Hindi and English. We decided to repeat the magic of International Literacy Day by institutionalizing "Pagdandi Day" as a day of reading in the community on the 3rd Saturday of every month. On this day, reading sessions happen in the Kitaab Ghar and outside. While volunteers conduct reading sessions, based on a theme, for age-specific groups through the day, staff and volunteers distribute books to households and read out stories to adults and children in the narrow lanes of the community. The day aims to create a buzz around reading and celebrate reading anywhere and everywhere. With every month, our outreach is increasing with more and more children and adults being encouraged to read through the day. This month (February), 125 people read and listened to stories through the day while 60 books were distributed to households.

A big thank you to the Swechha and Pagdandi team for taking giant leaps to spread the joy of reading!

If you want to do your bit to spread the joy of reading, register for this year's International Literacy Day campaign.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Leading Reading Schools of India Awards 2015

(Click on the image for a larger view)

The Leading Reading Schools of India Award is an annual award established by Young India Books - India’s foremost review site of children’s books; to recognize and honour the five leading schools of the country; schools that believe in the power of the written word and inculcate a love for books and reading.

The competition is open to children of all reading institutions, viz, libraries and book clubs, however only schools are eligible for the Award.

The theme for the year 2015 Award is Wild about Wildlife. Books that showcase Indian wildlife – a fast dwindling heritage, have been carefully selected as reading material to enable children to appreciate our flora and fauna better and to reflect on the challenges that they face. 

The junior group will write a note about a day in the life of an animal or, illustrate a scene from the selected book. Likewise, children from the senior category will write an autobiography about an animal or illustrate the story in 4 - 5 pictures.

Winning schools will receive a citation plus a year’s membership to the Bombay Natural History Society and a hamper of books.

Prizes will also be given to children in both the junior and senior categories and their work will be posted on the Young India Books website as well as on the site of our partners for this event.

The librarians of the top five schools who have successfully cast a magical spell of love for books on their students will also receive a token of appreciation.

All participating children will receive a participation certificate.

To know more, log onto

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Garden Library for the Migrant Communities and Neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv

Via ArchDaily

The Garden Library for Refugees and Migrant Workers was founded in 2010 as a social-artistic urban community project. The project sees the right to a book as a fundamental human right and a possibility of both escape and shelter from daily misfortunes.
The library is located in the Levinski Park, by the Tel Aviv central bus station. The park is the place migrant workers congregate on weekends. It was important for us that the library come to the people, that those who maintain illegal immigrant status will come without fear, that the library would not have a closed door or a guard at the entrance who would check and ask questions.

The library has no walls or door. It is comprised of two bookcases, which are supported by the walls of a public shelter located in the heart of the park. It is transparent and illuminated from within so that, at night, the books glow in the park. 

The library contains approximately 3,500 books in Mandarin Chinese, Amharic, Thai, Tagalog, Arabic, French, Spanish, Nepalese, Bengali, Hindi, Turkish, Romanian, and English. The children’s cabinet also holds books in Hebrew.
The books are not catalogued according to conventions of genre or author name, but according to the feeling they arouse. Every detail in the sorting and categorization system reflects the spirit of the library: The library is a small and parallel world: the books wander between the shelves as their readers have wandered/are wandering the world. They carry with them their emotional history. The placement of the book is not decided by popular vote, but by the last reader. Even if ten readers thought a book was amusing and the eleventh thought it was dull, the book will move to the Boring shelf – at least until the next reader weighs in.

Image Source : The Garden Library

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Making the World Fall in Love with Indian Folklore

Hema Vijay's article talks about the handmade books being produced by Tara Books and how they are making the world fall in love with Indian folklore.

Today, if children in western countries are enjoying stories based on Indian mythology and tribal folklores, as much as they love their Walt Disney animations and fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, then a great deal of the credit should go to Gita Wolf and her publishing house, Tara Books. 

For two decades now, this Chennai-based children’s book writer-turned-publisher has been churning out stories on literature, folk art, philosophy and politics with intriguing narratives and mesmerising imagery imprinted on fabulously textured handmade paper.

Presenting their brand of creativity in this already unique world of eclectic storytellers are tribal artists from different parts of India. How did the publishing house hit upon the game-changing idea of getting these tribal artists to illustrate their books? 

Explains Gita, “We felt that India has several living art traditions that need to be explored. We network with museums, craft centres, and, of course, our researchers go to different villages across India to locate these tribal and folk artists.Our books derive heavily from such research explorations because tribal art offers new ways of seeing the world and is great for illustrating children’s books.”

Image Source : Tara Books

Crossword to Open 10 stores in Tier-II Cities

Via Business Standard

Even though the online shopping is a growing trend in India, the offline players like Crossword, a books retailer chain of Raheja Group, is planning an expansion in tough market conditions.

'Crossword' book store, Pune (Poona)The company is opening 10 stores across India focusing on tier-II cities. These cites are Guwahati, Kozhikode, Surat, Coimbatore, Ballarpur, Vapi, Kohima, Gandhi Nagar and Goa. Most of the stores will be based on franchise model. Currently, Crossword has 89 stores in 27 cities across India.

Commenting on the rising trend of e-commerce and online shopping, Kinjal Shah, chief executive officer, Crossword said, “Our largest business comer from the books category. The online shopping has increased in India and is growing rapidly. But its is not going to affect our business because In India people still prefer to visit a book shop for buying. The touch and feel factor for buying books will remain for long. The retail book shop business is still growing at 15 per cent annually. Most of the players in the retail books shops, have shrinked its business where as we are expanding our network. Retail book shop is a challenging business and sale per square foot revenue is lower. Our stores are designed as a new age bookstore which focuses on being a community centre for society. There is a lot of emphasis on recommendations, browsing pleasure & discovering your next read."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bookstores in Delhi (for the Bibliophile's List)

Ritika Bhatia shares details about three bookstores that should be on every bibliophile's list - from first editions, vintage copies, old comic strips and rare, personally signed books.

Shakespeare & Company Sign No.2 DetailAnjali International Book Store, located in Central Market, Lajpat Nagar - that bustling space that sells anything and everything from coffee to coffins - has been named after owner Ramesh Madan's daughter Anjali. Madan, himself an avid bibliophile, has over 3 lakh books stashed away in various warehouses. I found a first edition copy of W Somerset Maugham's Catalina, priced at a paltry Rs 200. Apart from classics, comic fans will be delighted to find copies of old Indrajal comics, Amar Chitra Katha books, Mad magazines as well as collector's edition magazines. Madan's most precious item is The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven - one of the six copies in the world - that contains records and music sheets, priced at Rs 30,000. 

Amid grimy auto repair shops and coaching class centres in Kotla Mubarakpur is nestled Timeless Bookstore, a red brick building with French windows and forest green shutters. 

Stocking mostly coffee-table books, the best picks here are almost all of Raghu Rai's works (from his Varanasi, Calcutta, Mother Teresa series, priced at Rs 2,000 each) and Henri Cartier Bresson in India by Satyajit Ray (also for Rs 2,000). There is a 50-year commemorative edition on Martin Acoustic Guitars for Rs 2,500. 

Hauz Khas Village's slow but steady decline from culture-lover's haven to commercial hub has seen the demise of Navratana Art Gallery and Bookstore that had set up shop in 1999. Now having moved to a gallery space in Gurgaon, owner Nikhil Gupta invites customers by appointments to view his collections that include signed copies of books by Jawaharlal Nehru and Lala Lajpat Rai as well as historical maps of India such as those from Bombay Presidency, Jaipur and Hyderabad.

Remembering Pran : The Creator of Chacha Chaudhary

ComicCon India  (46 of 52)

One of India's most successful Indian cartoonists Pran Kumar Sharma passed away on Wednesday. Pran was the man behind the famous comic series Chacha Chaudhary. Other of his famous characters include cartoons like Shrimatiji, Pinki, Billoo, Raman, Channie Chachi and many more.

Pran began his career in 1960 as a cartoonist for the Delhi-based newspaper Milap with comic strip Daabu. In 1969, he sketched Chacha Chaudhary for the Hindi magazine Lotpot, which made him famous.

Pran Kumar Sharma who created the legendary character of Chacha Chaudhary breathed his last on Wednesday. Chacha Chaudhary was one character who defeated all other characters like Superman, Batman and Spiderman because Chacha Chaudhary depicted heroism through his brain and not by mere looks or anything else.

He was included in People of the year 1995 by Limca Book of Records for popularizing comics in India. Pran received a Lifetime Achievement Award 2001, from Indian Institute of Cartoonists too.

Read the entire article.

Did your childhood also consist of a diet of comics that included Chacha Chaudhary? Comment and share your memories of Chacha Chaudhary comics.

Image Source : Saad Akhtar

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Do Schools Ignore Talents?

Learning World producer, Aurora VĂ©lez, met Sir Ken Robinson in Paris to talk about talent, innovation and educational challenges as part of Learning World on "XXI Century Education" 

We All Become Literate Story by Story

“We all become literate story by story.” I heard Carole Bloch from Nal’ibali mention this at the recent launch of the African Storybook Project (ASP). What a wonderful thought and it resonates so well with the ethos of Pratham Books and all the new platforms that we are trying to build.
Saide’s African Storybook Project is an initiative to stimulate the provision and use of openly licensed stories in local African languages for early reading. They launched the website with hundreds of stories across English and 25 African languages.

Our conversations with the team started last year when they chanced upon our books released under the creative commons licences. They wanted to use our books for their upcoming website. Ofcourse, you can we said. And months of engagement led to us being invited by the SAIDE team for the launch of their website.

Our chairperson, Ms. Suzanne Singh was the keynote speaker at the 2-day symposium and she spoke about Pratham Books' integrated approach and the alternative models to get a book in every child's hand. As expected there was a lot of interest around our model and it was very inspiring to see other people be in awe of our work and come and want to know more. We had a display table and everyone wanted to buy our books in bulk. Needless to say all the display books were lapped up.

It was very interesting to hear Judith Baker talk about how the idea of such a project came about. Judith is the founding member of 'The African Storybook 'project and also their Literacy Consultant. She said many years ago she had raised $1000 in the US to start a library in South Africa but when she went to the book shops she could not spend the money as there were no books in Zulu. So even though she had the money she could not start a library. That is when she started these conversations with like-minded people on creating a website which could create local language content for African children.

It was quite shocking to hear that a good children's book in Africa costs about Rand 100 which is approximately Rs. 700 and books are largely available only in English. This problem arises because the overall population numbers in Africa are so small that publishing in local languages is not a profitable endeavour– infact because there are fewer people talking a single dialect/ language, the local entertainment – television programming / news channels are also not available in most African languages. So the whole joy of conversing and reading in local languages is completely lost.

A large selection of books in English
Not a large variety of books in the local languages

The conference was a good mix of people from various education departments, people leading the pilot sites in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa and partners like us. If you haven't already visited their their lovely website, please do and try a shot at reading Pratham Books' very popular title, 'Where is my Bat' in Sepedi, Lumasaaba, Kiswahili, Sesotho and many more African languages. 

Since we were going such a long way we took an extra day off to visit some of the pilot sites that the African Storybook Project team had enabled. We visited a primary school in Atteridgeville. The pilot sites are focussed on training the on-ground teachers at the sites on use of the website and training them on how to conduct the storytelling sessions with the children.They equip each pilot site with a laptop, projector and wifi. This enables the teachers to use the laptop for the translations and the projector is then used for sharing the revised local language story in a classroom. We had the good fortune of seeing the teachers in action and they were such an enthusiastic bunch when it came to narrating the stories to the class. The children as expected were a delight to watch and super excited to have visitors.
A grade 1 child holding a print out of the story translated by his teacher on the African Storybook Project website

We wish our friends at the African Storybook Project all the best with their initiative and hope thousands of African children get access to lovely stories in languages that they can read and relate to. 

Closer home, Pratham Books has also been working on a similar collaborative Story Publishing Platform. Its most amazing how similar ideas are surfacing parallelely in different parts of the world. Seems like this is the need of the hour! Watch out for this space to know more about our foray into the world of digital books and platforms.