Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Children’s Content in Regional Languages

Sandhya Taksale, Editor-Pratham Books, writes about a seminar she attended recently.

Industrial Design Centre, IIT Mumbai organized a one day meet on 'Creating Content for Children' in Pune on 30th July.The organizers were interested in studying Indian language publications for children. In Pune, the focus was on Marathi. This meet was one of the activities of a larger project called 'Damaroo'. Similar meetings were also conducted in Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Bhopal and Calicut. The outcome of the regional meetings and discussions will be documented in the form of a booklet and will be a part of IDC's International Seminar and Exhibition of Books for Children to be held in November 2011 at IDC, IIT.

The organizers invited a small group of 10- 12 people including authors, illustrators, designers, publishers etc. The objective was to understand the concerns and approaches of the participants an d
the context was the current regional language publication scenario. It was wonderful to share the joys and concerns of our field with the creative minds who wanted to do things differently. Each of the participants presented their work to demonstrate their process of engaging with children’s content.

In the presentation about Pratham Books, the multilingual nature and affordable cost was underlined. This nature helps to bring in fresh air in regional language publications and in turn the local talents can have openings in other languages at the national level.

Apart from a broad understanding of Marathi publications for children, some other issues that got addressed were related to how one can create material for children today that can connect them to rich traditional regional storytelling forms including visual art. Prof. Shilpa Ranade and Prof Raja Mohanti from IDC participated in this meet.

Some highlights of the discussion:

1. Children's literature is still on the periphery, so there is a dearth of new talent
s, fresh ideas and new experiments. But at the same time, some are working passionately and nurturing fresh talent. The need is to get connected and find ways and ideas for low cost publishing.

2. Our critics and society at large fail to take enough cognizance of Children's books in regional languages. The efforts in this field need to be discussed. This negligence and total silence is very painful.

3. What children like is very difficult to decide. We have to go both ways. Giving them what they like and
also introducing other things which we think are essential. For example - different styles of illustrations have to be used for the books, from Indian traditional art to modern art, . It will strengthen visual literacy.
4. How to deal with the aggressive market of animation films and cartoons and make your books sustainable is a big challenge.

5. Many times, the text of the story is on different level of understanding compared to the visuals. They should go hand in hand and have to be of the same level.

6. Folktales are important as they are nourishment for the soul, as food is for body.

7. Approaching schools directly and having book fairs in the campus helps a lot.

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