Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Changing Landscape of Children's Publishing in India

Via FindArticles (original article 'From Red Riding Hood to Radha' in DNA - by Anindita Mitra)

Gone are the days when the only Indian connect in the children's section of a bookstore was to be found in Amar Chitra Katha and regional language books. Children's literature in India is seeing a gradual change.

Written by Indian authors and set in distinctly Indian scenarios, these are simple books that speak of the realities that an Indian child finds easier to relate to. From elephants to autorickshaws, there's a whole host of topics that are keeping the kids entranced.

The trend had been well established by the end of the Noughties, which saw publishing outfits like Tulika Books, Tara Books or Pratham Books get pro-active about publishing children's books with Indian characters in Indian settings.

Suzanne Singh, managing trustee, Pratham Books, explains: "Our major buyers are governments and non-profit organisations who are promoting literacy and encouraging children to inculcate a reading habit. And they do prefer original content by Indian authors as it is more relevant for our children. India has a rich diverse culture and tradition and as publishers we find that there is a wealth of material to draw upon. In the last few years, we have also seen an increasing interest by NRI parents in our books - both in English and Indian languages."

Pratham Books is bringing out such books set in the Indian context. "For our youngest readers we have a set of four, boldly coloured books that they can read for themselves. Lenny and Tweek, Cookie Wookie and A Butterfly that Sat on a Rainbow are all books about different kinds of friends for our Level 2 readers. For older readers, we have a delightfully illustrated Laxman's Questions, and a luxuriously photographed book about the river Narmada, and a heady book called Jungle Brew. Indian traditional crafts like 'chikankari' and 'sanjhi' come alive in a set of books that spin tales about children with dreams," says Singh. All these books are available in English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Telugu.

Though major publishing houses are making an effort, there are two problems. First, a lot of the books by Indian authors are very verbose. The language is beautiful, the descriptions rich and yet, they are not exactly reaching out to the children because they run out of patience cutting through the dense language. On the other hand, many of the picture books for smaller children, somewhat an easier route, can't strike a balance between telling a story and preaching. They need to be more creative," she says.
Read the entire article here.

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