Monday, January 31, 2011

Pratham Books : A Big Hit at the Jaipur Literature Festival

Via The Hindu

Books for children displayed at a stall by Pratham at the Jaipur Literature Festival which concluded here on Tuesday attracted a large number of literary fans and many celebrated authors attending the carnival.

Pratham Books — a non-profit organisation floated in 2004 — achieved its objective of “spread[ing] the joy of reading among children” by selling nearly 1,500 books daily during the five-day literary event. Youngsters from the weaker sections of society as also school children of the Pink City made a beeline for their favourite titles.

Of the 200 titles published by Pratham so far, 60 in both Hindi and English were exhibited at the bookstall opposite the Diggi Palace front lawns, which was the venue for daily interactive sessions of literary giants with a probing audience. In between the sessions, book lovers joined the children at the stall, hunting for colourful and attractive titles.

“If the chuckling girls and boys were any indication, Pratham books succeeded in bridging the divide between learning and fun at the literature festival,” Kulbhushan Kothari, Pratham's managing trustee in Rajasthan, told The Hindu here on Thursday. Parents and teachers accompanying the students especially appreciated the illustrations, storylines and the printing quality, he added.

The most popular titles among the books available at the stall were: Narmada: A Pictorial Journey Down The River, Ganga Ki Lehrein and Hanstey-Hanstey Seekho — a pack of 10 story cards. Mr. Kothari affirmed that Pratham's participation in the Jaipur Literature Festival for the fourth successive year indicated its popularity.

In an effort to share the contents and be more inclusive, Pratham has adopted the Creative Commons framework widely — making its stories and illustrations available under an open licence model — and kept the prices of the books very low. Mr. Kothari said the literary carnival considerably helped the organisation move towards achieving its societal mission: ensuring a book in every child's hand.

Events like this also helped Pratham in working to engage the imagination of children in a way that encourages acquiring of knowledge amid fun and frolic, said Mr. Kothari.

The septuagenarian educationist, who sat down at the bookstall through the five days, earlier served with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Indonesia, Thailand and the US.

Mr. Kothari said the 200 original titles published by Pratham feature stories with Indian scenarios and characters covering a gamut from fiction to non-fiction and folk tales to stories about science, constituting the “largest spectrum covered by [any] Indian publisher.”

Noted authors and illustrators such as Bapsi Sidhwa, Manorama Jafa, Ranjit Lal, Olivia Fraser, Tapas Guha, Bindia Thapar and Neeta Gangopadhyay are working with the organisation while producing books for children in the age group of 3 to 14 years. More than 60 lakh books have been printed so far and supplied to 18 States in the country.

Mr. Kothari said the four-page laminated “story cards” priced just Rs.2 each — a big hit with the institutional educational programmes — were sold out at the festival. Projects such as Bodhivriksha in Bihar and Padho Punjab in Punjab have used this material in their reading enhancement and library building programmes.

Referring to Pratham's IT innovations, Mr. Kothari said about 84 of the books are available on digital platforms such as ipads, iphones, androids and e-readers, and a vibrant online community had emerged through Twitter and Facebook, keeping abreast of the organisation's latest initiatives.

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