Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pratham Books - Not Just Books, but a Vision for Our Tomorrow…

This guest post was sent to us by Vaishali Shroff who is a freelance writer and editor who loves writing for children. You can find some of her stories at Vaishali runs 'Eik Thi Rani' which is based out of Pune You can reach her at vaishali.shroff(at)gmail(dot)com or eikthirani(at)gmail(dot)com.

Eik Thi Rani ( began its humble journey of encouraging reading among children as young as 2 years in Pune, a few months ago. Our vision was (is) simple – to empower young minds through reading, to make them think through stories and creative exercises woven aroundthe stories in an age where Google thinks for us. To encourage them to willingly pick up books overcomputers and TV remotes. To make reading a habit!

When I started approaching parents for my kids’ reading club, I met with responses ranging from normal to shocking. One parent said she was “scared” her daughter would be disinterested in books and end up wasting her time and money. Another parent did not see any visible benefits of reading compared to going to an art or craft class. Some said their children already read so much, there’s no need for someone else to read for them. There were no doubt some who did agree that reading is a building block in a child’s life.

Pratham Books has truly been an inspiration for Eik Thi Rani. Their Read India initiative only encourages us to believe in our efforts and not give up.

When read aloud, Pratham books are like an audio-visual treat in print for the kids – beautiful
illustrations, lovely concept stories that are well-defined for different age groups, innovative themes, and superior quality books at very affordable rates. Last but not the least, the picture of a sweet child at the end of each story with a book in hand saying a heart-felt thank you, makes the read completely worth it!

Reading aloud to children from a very young age has myriad benefits. Apart from improving their vocabulary and sense of sentence formation, it gives them a feel of real life situations and how to face them. It teaches them life lessons that are implicit in each story – could be about compassion, love, friendship, not aspiring to be something you are not, wit, and humour. It teaches phonics in a very natural manner. It teaches them to be patient listeners, preparing them for school.

Show the same picture to ten children and you get at least ten stories! All different! At a recent reading club session, we read Too Many Bananas, written by Noni, published by Pratham Books and the results were truly outstanding. This story is about Shringeri Shrinivas, a banana plantation owner who is unable to sell his ripe and sweet bananas. No one wants to buy the bananas from him. Worried about his harvest, he seeks advice from a Farmer’s Center. The rest of the story is about what he does with the bananas. On being asked, “What Shringeri Shrinivas did with his bananas”, one child replied that he ate them all and became a fat man and one day his stomach burst and he became a thin man again! Another child quipped that he donated them to the monkeys and elephants in a zoo far away. And I could site many such lovely examples of creative thinking.

For reading aloud, it’s best to get books that are one level higher than their age group. It’s a good
way to introduce new words, longer words, tongue twisters. Each book must fulfill a purpose too. For instance, any Dr. Seuss book, say Hop on Pop or The Cat in the Hat, is ideal for learning word families. Pratham titles such as Playtime or Too Many Bananas are all about wit and humour, their Tell me…Now series introduces concepts like Colours, Tastes, Feelings, etc. through questions and answers, or even their “Going to…” series (Going to buy a book, market, wedding) that gives more information about these places through a cute story. The idea is that with each book you can introduce something new to a child. It is one of the most important things to keep them engaged throughout the reading session.

We salute organizations such as Pratham Books that are achieving significant and critical milestones in educating the future of our country and reading clubs such as Eik Thi Rani can only bring such lovely books closer to children.

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