Sunday, November 30, 2008

Innovation in Educations

This file is licensed under the Creative ...Image via Wikipedia

Gijubhai Badheka was a contemporary of Gandhiji. For 24 years, he ran the most creative school for children in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. Everyday, he told children a story — which captivated them and whetted their appetite for more. In the afternoons, the children would enact those stories. Soon, they became so adept with words that there was no need to ‘mug-up’ the dialogues by ‘rote’. If they forgot a few lines, they could ‘invent’ them on the spot. Gijubhai felt it was totally illogical and foolish for every child to have the same, state sponsored textbook.

He said, “What could be more foolish than all the 50 children having the same book.” So, when the new session began, Gijubhai urged the children not to buy ‘textbooks’ but instead, give them the money for buying storybooks. So, in the 1920s’, Gijubhai swept aside textbooks and bought three different storybooks for every child. With this large collection of illustrated storybooks, he started a classroom library.This was a library with the children’s own money — not gifted by UNICEF, Pratham or the World Bank. Instead of three textbooks, children could now read over a hundred colourfully illustrated storybooks. Gijubhai’s progressive vision of education “not the word but the world”, has been replicated by few schools since independence.
Source: Deccan Herald
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Post Bookaroo

Four children reading the book How the Grinch ...Image via Wikipedia
A few years ago, it would have been packed, end to end, with Enid Blytons and perhaps the occasional Dr Seuss book (frowned upon by parents because it wasn’t “meaningful enough” for young children). But now there’s an abundance of titles by Indian writers such as Chattarji, Anushka Ravishankar, Paro Anand, Venita Coelho, Ranjit Lal and Aniruddha Sengupta — all of whom are present at this festival, hosting interactive sessions and workshops, and having a rollicking good time by the looks of it. And all of whom are refreshingly open-minded about the possibilities of children’s literature.

“We’ve finally outgrown the patronising idea that a good children’s book must have an obvious moral attached to it,” says Sayoni Basu, publishing director, Scholastic India, pointing out that it’s possible now for children’s writing in India to be fantastical, silly, irreverent, even dark, as long as it doesn’t get too negative. “People are realising that kids are tougher than they get credit for.”

Scholastic India alone has published around a hundred original children’s titles this year, and other publishers such as Pratham Books (which co-organised Bookaroo), Tara and Puffin are expanding their catalogues too. Another key development, says Basu, is that the quality of illustrations has vastly improved: “a children’s book now looks like something you might actually want to pick up”.

Parvati Sharma in the Tehelka:
FOR MITA KAPUR, a co-organiser of Bookaroo, one of the best moments of this first-of-its-kind children’s book festival was watching a mother sitting on the lawns with two children on her lap, reading to them from a book. When she looked again, a few moments later, the mother was surrounded by about 15 children, all wanting to hear the story.
Suess Landing at Universal Studios' Islands of...Image via Wikipedia
“On a normal weekend”, she says, “they might have been in their own, separate rooms, watching television”.

There was a definite warmth to the event, not least that of the winter sun falling on the friendly green lawns, compact amphitheatres and gravelly paths of Sanskriti, on the outskirts of Delhi. Children ran around the grounds in between sessions of storytelling, comicsmaking and painting. There was none of the yelling for quiet that often becomes a parent’s public face.
Nimi Kurian writing in The Hindu:
Books open up a world of adventure, fun, magic and enchantment. How would it be to meet the people who created this world? That is what happened at Bookaroo, the Children’s Literary Festival, held recently in Delhi. For the first time ever, there was a festival to celebrate children’s books.

Most of them came to have a good time, and a good time they did have. It is not often that one gets to meet the minds behind the books you have read and ask them the reason for writing these stories or what inspired them. Stories set in times and places you have not been to and in journeys you have never been.

Mita Kapur writing in The Hindu:
Subhadra Sengupta, an author and one of the organisers said, “we were a little sceptic whether a fest around books would get a good response. The standard comment was that people don’t read and so a fest without magic shows and giant wheels will fall flat. So what Bookaroo did was prove that books are important to a lot of parents and kids and they can generate real excitement.” Manisha Choudary of Pratham books, who was instrumental in doing the city outreach across MCD schools in Delhi with eight authors, feels that the time was right for a book fest. “Whether it was the people in Pratham or friends, everybody is waiting for a well done, imaginative event around books. We had great luck in getting Sanskriti, lovely weather and such a wonderful mix of speakers! In all the MCD schools, the events were hugely enjoyed by the children and there is great scope to do Bookaroo events round the year in schools — events such as plays, readings in both English and Hindi for mixed groups of kids from both public and government schools.” Urvashi Butalia added value, “What Bookaroo showed is that if you make books available and exciting, kids will rush to read them, they’ll flock to book-related events in droves, as they did in the MCD schools and here and they’ll exchange their ideas and dreams with people who they think are interested in them. I told a young boy in my neighbourhood about Bookaroo. He couldn’t make it to Sanskriti but he came round the next day with a bunch of his stories, saying, ‘auntie, if you like children’s books, would you like to read what I have written; and so I did, and they are utterly brilliant — mature, nuanced, wonderful, how’s that for collateral?”
Sandhya Rao writing in The Hindu:
A hundred fresh-faced nine- and 10-year-olds sitting packed three to a bench gazed at me curiously.

Vanakkam! I said, again. And again. From the general silence spluttered a few murmurs of ‘Welcome’. I continued to talk in Tamil, holding up a picture book, till a relaxed buzz started to fill the room full of Hindi-speaking children who had probably never heard Tamil before.

After that, when I asked, “Shall we read this book in Tamil?” the response was a resounding “Yes ma’am!” So we read together stories about paatis and naanis and grandmas and dosas in Hindi, English and Tamil!

I was at a primary school in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar Phase 3 as part of Bookaroo in the City, taking writers and illustrators of children’s books to municipal schools during the country’s first-ever children’s literature festival in November.

About seven others were at schools in places such as Shalimar Bagh, Karol Bagh, East Patel Nagar and East Lakshmi Market. Organised by Bookaroo, a registered charitable trust, the event was held in November in municipal schools, and at the Sanskriti Anandgram, an aesthetic and spacious venue just beyond Mehrauli, provided free of cost by its owner, O.P. Jain.

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Another Sale

Our thanks to Venkat Mangudi for helping organize and run a Pratham Books stall at Ferns City.

Venkat also helps us with our ERP system and our library management software.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Truck-loads of books for Bihar kids

Colourful, lovingly-written and well-produced books are on the way to thousands of little ones attending school in over 70,000 government schools in Bihar. In fact, three truck loads of children's books got sold out in just two and a half days! And teachers who could not buy books on the third day were so disappointed that they created a ruckus in Gopalgunj, reported 'Hindustan', the Hindi language newspaper from state-capital Patna. The book fair organised by the Bihar Department of Education, was the first in the series being held in all districts of Bihar.

How did this unbelievable situation arise in a state often maligned for being non-responsive to initiatves to do with elementary education? The Central govenment recently decided that schools could utilise 2% of the funds given to them through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to buy books and resources to improve reading levels. The goverment of Bihar decided to use this fund to encourage all schools to buy story books for students of class 1 and 2. The first step was to call independent publishers to provide books for distribution across Bihar. The next step was the selection of books by reading experts. The third step was to get publishers to sell the selected books through melas in 37 districts between November 23, 2008 to January 7, 2008.

Bihar selected 20 books and 20 story-cards from Pratham Books. In a massive operation, the Pratham Books team set out to print, dispatch and make available books for sale in the melas, many in remote and not-easily accessible places in Bihar. With ample help from the local members of our partner NGO, Pratham Education Initiative, we've hired people and vehicles to assist us in this unique initiative from Bihar. The demand for more books in the very first set of melas, in Saran, Siwan and Gopalganj, is an indication of the interest that teachers have to go all out to improve reading levels among their children. Bihar's initiative is a model that can easily be replicated in other states to improve reading levels among young students.

Even as this blog is being written, our colleagues are doing brisk business in West Champaran, East Champaran and Muzzafarpur. The 20 books and 20 story-cards packed together in flat cartons, are being bought by teachers for their school libraries. Multi-tasking is the order of the day, as our team leaders hand over the books, keep an eye on the money box, count out small change, make sure the cheques that they receive are filled in properly, dispatch assistants to deposit cash in the local bank, answer a petulant teacher who wants to know why he can't have one of the BIG cartons that he sees in the corner. And what about your food and water, I asked ? Well, that's just not as important as 'putting a book in every child's hands' my colleague shouted into his mobile phone just now!

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Friday, November 21, 2008


"European Culture - Internet EditionImage by Gwire via FlickrEuropeana – the European digital library, museum and archive – is a 2-year project that began in July 2007. It will produce a prototype website giving users direct access to some 2 million digital objects, including film material, photos, paintings, sounds, maps, manuscripts, books, newspapers and archival papers. The prototype will be launched in November 2008 by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

The digital content will be selected from that which is already digitised and available in Europe’s museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. The prototype aims to have representative content from all four of these cultural heritage domains, and also to have a broad range of content from across Europe.

The interface will be multilingual. Initially, this may mean that it is available in French, English and German, but the intention is to develop the number of languages available following the launch."

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We're at the Bangalore Book Fair

World BOok Fair 2006, New DelhiImage by Hi Pandian via FlickrI meant to post this earlier.

Pratham Books are available at the Books For Development Stall [Stall no 100] at the Bangalore Book Fair.

The book festival is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the entry fee is Rs. 20. It ends on November 23.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Penguin Books - Book Design

Via Daring Fireball comes this link to Penguin Books' Flickr stream of book covers and designs. Very cool.

Paper Tigers

Via a comment on our blog I found the Paper Tigers Blog which:
"... expands the website’s Pacific Rim and South Asia focus to include all multicultural books for children and young adults. We’re starting small, and we’re not sure where we’ll end up going, but isn’t that how most creative work begins? The team blog includes the following main posting categories: Conversations & Editorials, Books at Bedtime, Eventful World and The Tiger’s Bookshelf."
They are a part of the Paper Tigers project and it:
"...wants to highlight the richness of the children’s book world in the region, and to be a useful resource for librarians, teachers, parents, and publishers.."

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Future of the Story

old movie projectorImage by FasterDix via Flickr

Via the New York Times:
The movie world has been fretting for years about the collapse of stardom. Now there are growing fears that another chunk of film architecture is looking wobbly: the story.

Its mission is not small. “The idea, as we move forward with 21st-century storytelling, is to try to keep meaning alive,” said David Kirkpatrick, a founder of the new venture.

But Mr. Kirkpatrick and company are not alone in their belief that Hollywood’s ability to tell a meaningful story has been nibbled at by text messages, interrupted by cellphone calls and supplanted by everything from Twitter to Guitar Hero.

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Radio Reading

Photograph of a young girl listening to the ra...Image via Wikipedia

Arti writes about a program that TRF and Pratham Books are jointly working on:
One of the early partnerships we had explored for our community radio station was with Pratham, especially Pratham Books...

Now, all these weeks later, we’re looking at a concrete plan to air a regular slot, at least twice a day, that takes Pratham’s reading pedagogy to a wider audience through the radio. To those children left behind. To those children left at home.

As we hammer out the programming, train the volunteers, and learn from the process about what works and what doesn’t, I’m hoping that the content we create in this process can be used by community radios and Pratham across India. To start with, in the Hindi speaking states, since that is the language in which we are working, and later, as regional language adaptations in other states.

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Life Magazine Photo Archive by Google

Cover of Life MagazineImage via WikipediaVia Daring Fireball


Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.

This is Google at its best. Beware — you could lose the rest of your day searching this archive for gems like this and this and this. And most certainly this. (Via Andy Baio.)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Robotic Writers

The installation 'bios [bible]' consists of an industrial robot, which writes down the bible on rolls of paper. The machine draws the calligraphic lines with high precision. Like a monk in the scriptorium it creates step by step the text.

Starting with the old testament and the books of Moses ‘bios [bible]’ produces within seven month continuously the whole book. All 66 books of the bible are written on rolls and then retained and presented in the library of the installation.

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On Joining the Commons

Today, we dipped a toe into the waters of the Creative Commons pool. We've been working with the Nepal wing of the One Laptop Per Child project and the Open Learning Exchange, Nepal had written to us asking if we could provide content for their project in multiple ways:

1. On their low cost laptops being distributed for children's use.
2. In their eBook library.
3. Translated into Neplai for local use.

We had sent them:

1. Annual Haircut Day
2. Moon and the Cap
3. Happy Maths 1- 4

You can see and download all these books at our Scribd gallery by clicking here.

They liked these books very much and we have licensed them under a Attribution­-Noncommercial­-Share Alike 2.5 India Creative Commons Licence.

Our thanks to the authors, Noni and Mala Kumar and the illustrators, Angie and Upesh for making this possible.


Thanks to Philipp for the write up. He goes on to add:
... the NonCommercial option makes things unnecessarily complicated, but since they are part of a larger commercial publisher, I suspect it was the mother company’s fear of the unknown (Share What?) that meant it would be non-commercial or non-creative commons. And choosing pdf as the only file format for publishing them makes remixing a bit complicated (in fact, so complicated that Gautam himself was unable to remove the “all rights reserved” disclaimer from the books - he added the creative commons blurb at the end). So, there is room for improvement, but more importantly it’s another step in the right direction - and yet another project we can point to that has found a way to make open licenses work.
We'd be happy to hear from everyone on what formats to post this in and how to make this easier to re-use and remix.


We also have some free books for download here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival

Hay-on-WyeImage via Wikipedia

Seema Chowdhry writing in The Mint:
It all started with a Lounge article on the Hay-on-Wye festival in the UK. “I was intrigued by the idea of a festival like this and asked Jo (Williams), a regular customer at our store (also a former organizer of the Red House Children’s Book Award in the UK), to explain the concept. As my partner and I heard more about it, we wanted to do something on the same lines but for children,” says Swati Roy, co-owner, Eureka Children’s Bookstore, New Delhi, publisher of Heek, a magazine for children, and one of the organizers of the Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival 2008.

Her partner and Lounge’s Under 15 columnist M. Venkatesh, along with Anita Roy, commissioning editor, Young Zubaan; Jo Williams; Anushka Ravishankar, author and editor with Scholastic India; Manisha Chaudhry, commissioning editor, Pratham Books; and author Subhadra Sen Gupta have put together the country’s first children’s literature festival, which starts in New Delhi next Saturday. “Unlike most children’s book fairs in India, we are not focusing solely on book sales. This festival will be a platform where children’s books will be viewed not just as objects, but as gorgeous, bouncy trampolines which will encourage their imagination and creativity,” says Anita.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Embrace Your Inner Pirate

Zoloft, an antidepressant  (and anti-anxiety) ...Image via Wikipedia

One example of this is the prescription drugs market. Western drug companies don’t sell AIDS drugs to the developing countries that make up 90% of the people suffering from AIDS because they can’t afford to pay the price. Because of profit, drug companies use patents to ensure that cheaper, generic drugs do not enter into these developing countries as competition. (Page 62 if you’d like to read more about this particular example.)

The problem is that many lives could be saved, but fear of losing profit stops these companies from saving those who need it most. Mason suggests companies need to harness this creativity and collaborate with these so-called pirates.

OK, so this is an extreme case but just think about it: What would happen if instead of simply worrying about dollar signs and only the bottom line? Too often companies forget what customers are saying, how they perceive the company’s brand and how the product or service can serve creative thinking and the consumer.

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Read the full piece at Business Pundit.

Scholastic Book Covers

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Preserving Local Languages

An article in the New York Times describes the work of the Adivasi Academy in Tejgadh, Gujarat. The Academy was founded by Ganesh Devy.
TEJGADH, India — In an academy deep in the agrarian countryside of western India, five students were writing briskly in ruled notebooks. They were in their early 20s and newly enrolled, but there was no discounting the gravity of their assignment: When they are finished, the world will have five more documented languages.

One word at a time, they are producing dictionaries of languages with which they grew up, but which scarcely exist in the rest of the world. These are oral languages, whose sounds have perhaps never before been reproduced in ink.

“If we make this, those who come after us will profit from it,” said Kantilal Mahala, 21, taking a brief respite from his work on the Kunkna language. “In my village, people who move ahead speak only Gujarati. They feel ashamed of our language.”...

“If a community has a strong sense of identity and a sense of pride in that identity, it wants to survive and thrive,” Mr. Devy said. “The new economy is important. The old culture is equally important.”

(Click here for the full article)
Post via Gowri at the KLP Blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Round Up

Boxes of BooksImage by Pinkpollyanna via Flickr

This time, it's a publishing special edition of round-up.

First Book is a nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. We provide an ongoing supply of new books to children participating in community-based mentoring, tutoring, and family literacy programs.

Story Revolution has an excellent list of general Indian publishing resources as well as Indian book publishers and sellers. Books mark this one. Our picks are:
  • The Open Library Blog -- by Usha Mukunda, a librarian and teacher with a passion for children’s books.
  • Arvind Gupta's website -- an amazing resource! lots of lovely books for download, including many Newbery award books. Also, educational books, toys and films.
  • Sutradhar, Bangalore-- "Sutradhar brings together imaginative learning resources for young children under one roof."
  • Eklavya, Bhopal -- publishes " children’s literature, activity books, lesson modules, teaching aids, educational classics, resource books for teachers, reports and compilations of studies etc. While the majority of these titles are in Hindi, there are also titles in English and other Indian languages."

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Doctorow on Copyrights

Cory Doctorow on choosing things for boing boingImage by mhuang via Flickr

Cory Doctorow, of Boing Boing fame, has a an article titled "Why I Copyfight" that is more than worth a read.
There's a word for all the stuff we do with creative works — all the conversing, retelling, singing, acting out, drawing, and thinking: we call it culture.

Culture's old. It's older than copyright.

The existence of culture is why copyright is valuable. The fact that we have a bottomless appetite for songs to sing together, for stories to share, for art to see and add to our visual vocabulary is the reason that people will pay money for these things.

Let me say that again: the reason copyright exists is because culture creates a market for creative works. If there was no market for creative works, there'd be no reason to care about copyright.

Content isn't king: culture is. The reason we go to the movies is to have something to talk about. If I sent you to a desert island and told you to choose between your records and your friends, you'd be a sociopath if you chose the music.

Culture's imperative is to share information: culture is shared information. Science fiction readers know this: the guy across from you on the subway with a gaudy SF novel in his hands is part of your group. You two have almost certainly read some of the same books, you've got some shared cultural referents, some things to talk about.

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Free Books from Concord Free Press

Free Books!Image by kelownabc via Flickr

Via the 26th Story the story of the Concord Free Press:
We Publish Books and Give Them Away for Free

We’re dedicated to a different kind of publishing, one that connects readers and their communities in new ways. We’re interested in expanding the definition of publishing and re-invigorating the book, which isn’t dead yet, by the way.

No matter who published them or how good they are, most books go on a familiar trajectory—new, used, shelved permanently, dusty. Ours keep going from hand to hand, generating donations along the way. Readers are generally good people. We give them a chance to get great books for free—and make contributions to organizations and individuals right in their own community, wherever that may be.

From our global headquarters in West Concord, Massachusetts, high above (well, we’re on the second floor) the mighty Nashoba Brook (a creek, actually), we’re creating books that connect reading and giving like never before.
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Internet vs. Books

Gutenberg BibleImage by jessamyn via Flickr

In an article in the LA Times, Beau Friedlander opines that "... The instant knowledge provided by the Web is invaluable, as is the deeper communion provided by books."
"The Internet is a volume in our library," Ackerman says, "a colorful, miscellaneous, and serendipitous one -- but not a replacement for books, and certainly not an alternative to spending time in the world and just paying attention to things." Moulitsas believes it's the future, and the old guard needs to get with the times.

For the time being, both of them are right.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

“Every generation needs a new revolution."

Jeff BezosImage by Dunechaser via Flickr

So said Jefferson. And it looks like the book publishing industry will have its revolution soon what with factors trends that seem to be converging rapidly.
"Why are books the last bastion of analog?" Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of, asked last November as his company unveiled the Kindle, a portable, electronic book-reading device. Long after other media had joined the digital revolution - in some cases only after suffering its ravages - book publishers clung to the reassuringly low-tech tools of printing press, paper and ink.

A year later, that bastion is starting to yield. The world of books is going digital, too.

Read the full piece at the International Herald Tribune.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

On the Future of the Publishing Industry

The Largest Barnes and Noble in ConnecticutImage via Wikipedia
A bunch of stories I found at The 26th Story:

A downturn in at Barnes & Noble:
With yesterday’s news of an expected downturn at Barnes & Noble from head Len Riggio and the drop in consumer spending in general, the pressure to generate book sales is on. But does that mean creating books for specific groups of people? Or finding the people who might read the books we are publishing after we’ve already decided to publish them? Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? The book or the reader?
Tribes author Seth Godin discusses free content and the publishing industry:
The huge opportunity for book publishers is to get unstuck. You're not in the printing business. The life and death of trees is not your concern. You're in the business of leveraging the big ideas authors have.:en:Seth GodinImage via Wikipedia

First, the market and the internet don't care if you make money. That's important to say. You have no right to make money from every development in media, and the humility that comes from approaching the market that way matters. It's not "how can the market make me money" it's "how can I do things for this market."
And their review of Tribes is here:
"Boring ideas don't spread. Boring organizations don't grow. Working in an environment that's static is not fun. Even worse, working for an organization that is busy fighting off change is horrible."
And via
A theme of change, appropriate for the night. Publishing is “standing on the cusp of change: digitisation”. Barnsley “not the most digitally sound person” but “cares deeply about books.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon, quoted on books vs. ebooks: before cars everyone rode horses, and “I’m sure people love their horses, too. But you’re not going to keep riding your horse to work just because you love your horse.”

Barnsley does not agree entirely with Bezos. “Is the printed bImage representing as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBaseook dead? I hope not.” However, there are clearly changing reading patterns among digital natives, and digital nomads in the upper reaches of publishing need to ask questions. Does business have to change? Yes. Not a time for hand-wringing. Industry needs to change and maintain its influence. Can’t assume print market will stay the same. Can’t predict future, so need to ask questions.
Read the full piece.
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Photoshop. On the Desk.

(Click to see full size)

If you work in the publishing industry chances are Photoshop, and other Adobe tools, are de rigeur. Here's a translation of Photoshop from a computer to a real life desktop experience. Picture from wandaaaa's Flickr stream.

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‘Mom, please don’t tell me what to read’

Libros en EspanolImage by 09traveler via Flickr

Anu Bhambhani laments on the passing of days of old when " ... kids read what their elders made them read. Kids no more want to be told about ’their kind of books’. They know what they want and accordingly take their pick."
Says Swati Roy of Eureka, a children’s bookstore at Alaknanda, "Magic and fantasy novels have always had their takers. What has changed over the years is the fact that children have become more receptive to the idea of reading, they are showing an interest in reading. They don’t have to be forced by their parents to read, compared to say the scene six years back."

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