Friday, October 28, 2011

Where an Editor Makes it to the DSC Prize 2012 Shortlist

Looking through the 2012 DSC Prize shortlist, we were delighted to see this there.

Chandrakanta: A Street in Srinagar (Zubaan Books, India, Translated by Manisha Chaudhry)
Congratulations, Manisha! 

Our Thoughts on the Akaash Tablet

The Internet has been abuzz with the news of India's $35 tablet christened Akaash. Nikhil over at Medianama had asked us for our comments and we reproduce our full length comments below. 

We are are a non-governmental,not-for-profit charitable organization that publishes high quality low cost children's books with a mission to see “A book in every child’s hand”. With a view to furthering this mission, we use multiple mediums, formats, licenses and methods to publish and distribute books on varying subject of interest and relevance to children.

However, as we understand it, the first iteration is primarily targeted at the higher education segment which is not our market. All the same, assuming such a device will, in time, be available to primary schools as well, our comments are below.

How do you think the low cost $46 tablet Aakaash, released by the Indian government will impact your business? 

In India, the book publishing industry and especially in the markets we serve has two big challenges. The first is the high cost of distribution that a device along with a data connection (wireless, in this case) is open to disruption and this, in our opinion, is a good thing. The second, is that rising and volatile print and paper costs no longer exert as much pressure.

That said, we believe the impact on our business, as it were, will be minimal. Paper still offers tremendous benefits in the markets we serve and we do not see that changing in the short to medium term. The low cost and high value of the books we publish mean that it is possible for every child to actually own or hold and read a book of their own. However, we welcome all technology that makes it possible to reach more children at lower cost and in fact, this underpins our open content model.

What are the opportunities that you could consider for your business on such a tablet?

As above, we think we have an opportunity to skirt existing logistical challenges and this is rather exciting. We are also hopeful that the Government's entry in to this space will also validate open source and open content models such as the one we are building.

What kind of content/services delivery model would you prefer - via the web browser or applications?

I think there are use cases for both. Basic content delivery via the the web using web standards and open formats are important because they can be accessed via multiple devices and methods. Applications are interesting because they allow for a greater degree of value addition. However, it does lead to a walled-garden which is less than ideal.

In general, there is a further point we'd like to make:

There has been no mention of Unicode in any of the public communications and we think the MHRD and this device can play a very important role in the industry and public adoption of Unicode.

India's linguistic diversity is mirrored in the works so published and one particularly onerous problem is an abject lack of diverse “print ready” Indic OpenType fonts that are Unicode compliant and this problem is further exacerbated by the lack of adoption of Unicode in publishing work-flows. Such lack of standards compliant fonts are a serious drawback to technological attempts at publishing existing works in new mediums as it adds to the cost and time of conversion. The Government can play a catalytic role in this space for the stated purpose of using technology as a way to scale content dissemination and interactivity for education. Given the proposed wide scale launch of this device and the Government's involvement, a logical opportunity that arises is content for such devices when they are eventually rolled out and there is some hope that this large opportunity will spur the development of Unicode compliant Indic fonts and publishing work-flows.

Our recommendation is that the MHRD should mandate the use of open type Unicode fonts for multiple reasons including the fact that using Unicode fonts are the only way to achieve cross-platform interoperability and is a global standard, given India's push towards copyright reform for the print impaired, it is imperative that Unicode fonts be used in the creation of Indic content because it is otherwise a huge barrier to conversion to print-friendly formats and lastly, Unicode, being an open global standard guarantees content accessibility in the future and ensures no proprietary font and vendor lock in.

However given the lack of high quality and varied typefaces that are both screen and print optimised Open Type Indic Unicode fonts and the importance of linguistic diversity to India's cultural heritage, it is imperative that greater attention is paid to the development of such fonts under licenses that allow for free re-use and to fix issues in the fonts that might arise. Further, the Government should fund the open development of at least 5 such fonts for each the 21 Constitutionally recognised languages and make these available not just for free, but under free license to re-use and improve as well.

The following does not represent Pratham Books' official position but is Gautam's personal opinion:

The PIB press release has an interesting portion on Content Creation.

I do not agree with the requirement that “All IP (Intellectual Property) created under projects funded by this Mission will vest with MHRD”. Since there is content that is funded by the MHRD, such content should rightfully be in the public domain as it is publicly funded.

Further, it is unlikely that all content that is or will be loaded on to the device can have copyright assigned to the Government and perhaps an open licensing model would work better – for content to be considered for the device, it necessarily must be under an open license, for example: The Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike license.

I do not fully agree with the requirement that “All content should be created using open-source software.” While this is indeed important, without the MHRD and the other wings of Government making a concerted effort to spur and support the development of open source tools for content creation, this might lead to a shortage of content. HoIver, I fully support the position that all content must be delivered and loaded in open, standards compliant and royalty-free standards and either licensed appropriately.

I fully agree with this statement that “All content created under this Mission is for open access by all and cannot be charged for in any way” and would urge the use of a public domain license for content funded by the MHRD and an open license for content that is loaded on the device. I would also urge the MHRD to create an online portal where all of the content is available online under the same conditions to ease access and discoverability.

Donate to Creative Commons

It's no secret that we at Pratham Books are huge fans of Creative Commons. If you are wondering why, please do read our case study.

CC Line by Shinjirou / CC BY

Here is their blog post and we'd urge you all to donate. Every little bit helps.


Today marks the official launch of the 2011 Creative Commons Annual Campaign! Please join us in powering the future of openness!
This year, we are offering a limited teal edition of the CC “I love to share” t-shirt to everyone who donates $50 or more (until supplies run out). For those who donate $300 or more, in addition to the t-shirt, we are offering beautiful hard copy editions of The Power of Open, stories of creators sharing knowledge, art, and data using Creative Commons.
The world is experiencing an explosion of openness. From artists inviting creative collaboration to governments around the world requiring publicly funded works be available to everyone, the spirit and practice of sharing is gaining momentum and producing results. We post about these results frequently; subscribe to the CC newsletter for a distilled monthly rundown.
Creative Commons relies on donations to build and constantly improve the technical and legal tools that enable openness to flourish. The future of openness is bright, but ensuring that future requires urgent and sustained effort. CC is continuing to improve the usefulness of our licenses and helping even more artists, institutions and governments share their works. We are reaching a critical mass and need your support now more than ever.

What you can do to help

Help us share the power of open! Spread the word in the following ways:
We’re a nonprofit organization that is very happy to provide our tools and services for free, and we want to remain that way! Learn more: “Why does Creative Commons run an annual fundraising campaign? What is the money used for and where does it go?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Diwali Offers on Our Books

This Diwali light a diya. Light a cracker. And light up a face!

The festival of lights is just around the corner. You could celebrate this Diwali in many ways. Eat mithai, wear new clothes, distribute gifts. And light up many young lives too! By gifting books to children, you will not only be lighting up their faces but also their lives!

This Diwali, Pratham Books has put together special Diwali sets with exciting offers. If you wish to buy these book sets for your children, grand children, nieces or nephews, click here

Note : Some of our customers have reported a few issues while ordering the books. While placing the order, they have noted that the cost of the set is more than the cost of the offer. We haven't been able to fix this problem yet. In case you face this problem, we will send you books for the additional cost you have paid and also include some story cards for your child. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Sweet or dark stories?

An article in The New York Times brings up an interesting question - is there too much darkness in present-day books for young readers? Well,fairy tales that we've all grown up with had their fair share of dark characters too - remember the witch with the poisoned apple?

Excerpt from the article, "No More Adventures in Wonderland":

".....the traditional villains of children’s books — fabulous monsters with a touch of the absurd.Like Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things and countless others, they walk a fine line between horror and zany eccentricity. They may frighten young readers, but their juvenile antics strip them of any real authority."

Read the entire article by Maria Tatar here. And do send us your comments on what you think young children should be reading.

Image: Illustration by Zainab Tambawalla, for 'Paplu, the Giant' written by Ramendra Kumar, published by Pratham Books.

Friday, October 21, 2011


1. Book Launch : ESPI MAI IS STUCK AGAIN And Other Goan Tales

Via an email sent by Frederick Noronho 

Anita Pinto will be releasing her second book on Goan stories for children entitled “ESPI MAI IS  STUCK AGAIN And Other Goan Tales” on Saturday, October 22, 2011, at the Kala Academy Grounds, 5 pm.

The book is being published by Goa,1556 and the lively illustrations are by none other than Goa’s popular cartoonist Alexyz . The Foreword is by Writer and editor Victor Rangel-Ribeiro.The event
itself, which begins on a serious note with a Panel Discussion on Children’s Literature will actually hold a carnival-like atmosphere as Anita has thrown open the event to all children – and it promises to be a fun evening – courtesy the generosity of the Lions Club of Mapusa Suburban, who are sponsoring it. All children and their parents are invited.

About the book : You know you are in for a treat when a leopard comes to dinner inBicholim. You meet Masu, the unhappy fish and the delightful Devika Duck. Or you wonder about a boy called Holfsky Polfsky and hear all about the lovable Espi Mai on her return visit from Mumbai.

Read these and other exciting tales about a myriad of characters. Stories set in various places all over Goa- from the hustle and bustle of northern Mapusa, to the calm, sunny, southern region of Canacona .


2. Book launch : Oluguti Toluguti: Indian Rhymes to Read and Recite

Via an email sent by Tulika Books

We are happy to invite you to the launch of Oluguti Toluguti: Indian Rhymes to Read and Recite, one of our upcoming books that is a first of its kind. The book is a very special mutilingual collection of rhymes in 18 languages from across different parts of the country along with the same rhymes in a transliterated version and a creative adaptation in English as well. 

Date and Time : Saturday, 22 October at 4 p.m 

(Please click on the image for a larger view)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Shared Sense of Fun and Willingness to Imagine - Ken Spillman's Thoughts on Storytelling Sessions at Akshara Foundation

In the month of July, we had a visitor who came all the way from Australia to conduct storytelling sessions at the community libraries run by Akshara Foundation. That visitor was Ken Spillman. You can read about the sessions here. A few days ago Ken sent us an email to share his thoughts on the storytelling sessions. Ken said ...

It all began with a question. Would I like to Skype with some of the kids who attend community libraries established by Akshara Foundation in some of the poor areas of Bangalore? I thought about that for a full thirty seconds. Yes, I would Skype, but it wasn’t my preference. I’m not fond of phone conversations, and not yet convinced that phone calls through a computer screen are really any better. Perhaps instead I could make sure Bangalore was included in my next India itinerary, and I could visit the Akshara kids in person?

That’s exactly what happened – and I’m so glad it did. The release of my book Advaita the Writer (Tulika) provided an opportunity and, on 21st July, the Akshara team welcomed me to HQ before whisking me off to the D.J. Halli Community Library. The immaculate appearance of the kids surprised
me – neatly attired in school uniforms and with hair well-groomed, they would not have looked out of place in the most snobby Australian schools. I was also surprised that most of the kids attending the session were students at a convent school and had a good grasp of spoken English. I’d come prepared to improvise, but was instead able to read, discuss and field questions without an interpreter. It was a wonderful experience. That the kids appreciated and have benefited from Akshara’s libraries programme was obvious – they love stories, and sat on the floor attentively long after our session was scheduled to end. I have since received photographs of the session, capturing  wide eyes and open hearts.

Next day, Akshara Foundation took me to the Rajendra Nagar Community Library. The children were packed so tightly in that a handful of boys needed to listen from an adjoining room, with others silhouetted against the sun outside the front door. What a marvellous bunch they were! Unlike the D.J. Halli kids, they didn’t speak English… but did it matter? Not a whit. Sometimes, the librarian and Akshara people assisted with translation – but most of the time it was unnecessary. I felt a connection with these children that was beyond language, perhaps a result of their open hearts, our shared sense of fun, a passion for books and stories, and our willingness to imagine. Laughter filled the room – and not just because I organised a few of them into a chorus of ‘kookaburras’.

Throughout my career as a writer, I have enjoyed interacting with kids of all ages and I’m fortunate to have visited a wide range of schools in many different countries. I left Bangalore certain that my future touring would include more visits to areas of economic disadvantage – and full of admiration for Akshara Foundation. The work it does is practical and effective. I saw for myself that the Foundation’s community libraries are a beacon in the lives of many children. They are lighting new worlds now, and exposing possibilities for a future that is richer in more ways than one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spreading the Joy of Reading – The Pratham Books' Way

Via MSN Specials
Pratham Books was created in order to:
  • Reach out to ALL children in India with high quality books that are affordable
  • Publish children's books in multiple Indian languages so that children in every corner of India can have access to books
Ms. Suzanne Singh, Managing Trustee, Pratham Books says, “There are more than 300 million children in India, and a large percentage of these attend government schools. These children need books that they can relate to and in a language that they can understand. In urban India we are so used to seeing and associating with non-Indian characters that we don’t make much of it but the same reading material in a rural context, and that too in English just does not work. It is this asymmetry in the children's book publishing indisutry, that Pratham Books is hoping to bridge. 
"Affordability is another aspect of Pratham Books that is worthy of exploring. Ms. Suzanne further drives home the point by adding, “Our books are reasonably priced, with most books available under Rs. 25. Most people, especially our online urban buyers are very surprised by this. 
Another admirable route the organisation is taking is via their treatment of copyright on these books. By all usual methods of operation, the publisher owns the rights to the creative content in books published, but Pratham Books has a very inclusive policy on their content and they use the Creative Common License which isn’t as restrictive.  
We queried as to the best way to volunteer and Suzanne insisted that the ideal way to help is to help them spread their content as far and wide as possible. And they’re more than happy if you were to adapt it in the process! For volunteering opportunities and any other queries, write to them at 
Another way to help is via events. Pratham Books’ stronghold is Bangalore and they have a presence in other metros as well. “What we’d like is if people volunteered to run events in parallel with the ones we conduct in Bangalore or elsewhere.”
Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pratham Books Champion : Neela Gupta

24th September was a very special day for all of us at Pratham Books. We managed to create a book in 4 languages in 2 days. But, we also had many friends from within our community volunteer to become a 'Pratham Books Champion' and conduct storytelling sessions in their neighbourhoods. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Neela Gupta who conducted a storytelling session in Vadodara. Neela has worked as a librarian for about 30 years in different kinds of libraries (research library, an industrial library, a public library, a college library and school libraries). According to Neela, this is her longest and most enjoyable tenure of work is with 5 different school libraries. It gave her a chance to be with children and try to understand the world of children ranging from age group of 6 - 18 years. She has learnt a lot from watching and interacting with them. Neela has also volunteered with different underprivileged groups and tried to introduce them to the world of books. She says, "This kind of work gives me immense pleasure. I feel it connects me to a marvelous world of magic where there is some new discovery everyday. It also helps me explore myself and my relationship with children and adults."

Why did you volunteer to be a Pratham Books Champion?

I have been following Pratham Books for the last 2 years and am greatly impressed by and happy about the books being published, the enthusiasm, persistence and variety of ways in which you are trying to reach children. I find a similarity between the objectives of Pratham and Aura. So, it inspires me all the more. If more efforts of this kind come up, the world will be different.

Neela conducted her session at Setubandh. Setubandh is a part of the NGO called -Aura -a learning place. Aura is a a non profit organization working with children - urban as well as underprivileged. Neela wrote to us about her session and said ...

Vaishali and self drove down to Setubandh around lunch time. As we entered the locality, everything seemed to be quiet but as Vaishali opened the door of the centre, children came running as if they emerged from their hidden places. Their eager and happy faces reflected all that was going on in their mind. They couldn’t wait to get noticed, to share their stories, to listen to what Vaishali had to share and to know who was the new person visiting them.

We sat down in a circle. I introduced myself and told them about the significance of the day. I also shared about the Pratham books initiative. And then…I took out the story book Ritu’s letter gets longer and longer…It was very obvious that they connected to Ritu immediately. I had three copies of the book so they could share the other two copies, could read along and enjoy the illustrations. The part that they enjoyed most was Ritu’s writing on her grandfather’s letter that ‘Please do send Mani’ (‘Chokkas mokaljo’) and the way she had messed up the word.

Next was the Dungali ni shaal. The story about all the veggies arguing about who was the best. The illustrations caught their attention first and they loved it. We named each one a vegetable which amused them. The story was much liked by them.

By this time, boys had started coming in as it was the time for the boy’s group. One boy who likes to do headstands most of the time rushed in and headed straight for the wall where he could do the head stand. He can listen to something well only if he is upside down!! This was the most suitable time to open my laptop for the story of Ulta pulta girl. Since I did not have a Gujarati hard copy, my friend Vaishali clicked on the pictures in my laptop while I narrated the story. Their focused listening was making it clear that their imagination and connection was strong. Their laughter in between sounded like a fresh water stream running down a hill, jumping off the rocks and pebbles.

This activity was followed by letter writing. It was an exciting moment to get a post card in their hands and each one was eager to write or draw. Each one wrote her address and returned the post cards to me. I mixed them up and then distributed the cards to them. Some were at a loss as to how to write a letter. Some did not wait at all but wrote whatever came to their mind. It was a moment of great satisfaction and fun for them because they were getting a chance to express themselves and reveal their inner world.

One girl was very keen to have the books. She told me to get books for her and her friends. She has written a letter to Pratham Books which will be posted on Monday.

It was a very good experience for me too. I loved every moment of it and wish to thank you for giving me this opportunity. Thanks Pratham Books! Wish you all the best for becoming bigger and bigger and reach every corner of India and every corner of children’s minds and hearts.


A week later, Neela wrote to us again about some surprise visitors. Read on to find out who her surprise visitors were ...

It is one week since the last story telling session happened. Yesterday being a Saturday- a half day at school, the children who had heard the stories were tempted to listen to and read more story books. To my surprise, 5 children walked down to my house (about 2 km. from their area) and knocked on my door! I was pleasantly surprised! We shared the story of banana-Kela, kela, ghana badha kela.. which was not shared last week. They read the other story books again and then we talked for a while before they left.

Thank you Neela for spreading the joy of reading!

Click here to read the stories sent in by all the Pratham Books Champions. 

Note : If any of you want to be a Pratham Books Champion and join us on our journey of getting 'a book in every child's hand', write to us at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org.

Bandra's First Public Library

The longing for a library their kids could bond over, a chit-chat over casual evening walks and putting thoughts to action, have resulted in three friends bringing to Bandra its first public library. 
 The library, which opened its doors to the public on Friday, September 30, will kick off with the children’s section stocked with over 3,000 books, and eventually expand its facilities to adults.
Forty-seven-year-old Vibha Kamath, a French teacher and a mother of two, was first struck by the idea of opening a library in her neighbourhood after a visit to her sister in the US in 2004. Her nephew, she noticed, was a voracious reader at just six years old. On asking, she was told that the easy availability of children’s literature in the local public library was the reason behind the boy’s reading appetite. 
After returning, Kamath scouted for places to start a library, but Mumbai’s ever-increasing real estate prices kept her from realising her dream. In the meantime, Kamath’s day job as a French teacher got busier and her reverie got relegated to the recesses of her priority list. 
In 2006, one balmy evening, while Kamath was out on her regular evening walk with a couple of friends, she noticed a huge nondescript space that read Maharashtra Mitra Mandal Library. The almost non-functional municipal library seemed like the perfect conduit to revive Kamath’s desire. She took down the phone number on the nameplate and made a call. But the venture didn’t work out, yet again. 
In November 2010, egged on by her mother, Kamath decided that her dream deserved at least another try. She found an enthusiastic friend and supporter in Vaishali Shinde, 41, and the both of them decided to call the committee managing the library, one more time.
Within eight months, they had made their pitch, met with mandal officials and signed up to maintain the library for a period of two years. By July 12 this year, their friend Sonal Bimal, 41, also hopped on board to help manage the library. The trio immediately started work on getting the library up and running and sent out emails to friends and family seeking donations—both, funds and/or books. 
Since then, the library has received Rs3 lakh, three thousand books, furniture and furnishings, a computer and software, mattresses, a water filter and even a home theatre system.  
Located next to Bandra Gymkhana on the quiet D’Monte Park Road, the library is housed on the ground floor of Princess Building.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source : Mumbai Boss


Our friends at Saffron Tree are turning 5! Follow the Saffron Tree blog as they celebrate their birthday with CROCUS 2011.
Saffron Tree turns five this year. Five. It has a nice ring to it. Mainly because five is an important number in many traditions. There is of course the ancient pentagram or the five pointed star, incidentally, dating back to the Vedas too, as a symbol of man, the five wounds of Christ, the five times a devout Muslim is called to prayer, the five symbols of Sikhism and not so sacred but oh so important, the five fingers on a hand. We at Saffron Tree however, decided to narrow our focus to Aristotle's five classical elements, namely, water, fire, earth, air and ether.

As is usual, we bring you a veritable bonanza. Reviews, art and craft, our very popular Crocusword and interviews galore, of arborists, archeologists, environmentalists and more. Even as I type this I wonder if I've given you too much of a peek. Perhaps I have. So I'm going to stop here and leave you thirsting for more. What I will share with you, is our lovely banner, designed by the very talented Lavanya Karthik. Feast your eyes on it, folks and brace yourself for the smorgasbord ahead. As ever, spread the joy, share the beauty of the written word and tell the world that CROCUS 2011, is almost here.
So, mark your calendars and join the party at the Saffron Tree blog.

City of Pieces – An Urban Festival of Creative Practices

Via maraa
maraa is happy to invite the city of Bangalore to City of Pieces: an urban festival of creative practices as part of the annual October Jam. City of pieces is a nine day festival that interrogates the violence of the everyday transformation of the city from the perspective of creative practice. It travels across different public and semi-public spaces, committed to reclaim dead, found and empty spaces in the city. City of pieces brings artists and creative practitioners to respond to the city we inhabit.
Some of the events that may be of interest to our readers include:

1. City Writes | Writing workshop
     22nd October | Saturday | Page Turners | 2-5pm

As urban reality changes in cities of the world, people bring to the urban milieu a new set of meanings related to immigration, social-assimilation, politics, poverty, education and culture. Is it possible to share lived experiences, realities and transitions through writing - stories, poetry, fiction and non-fiction?

Rheea Mukherjee, fiction writer and Co-Founder of Urban Confustions, a literary magazine, invites you to a writing workshop that will allow you to spill that traffic induced tension into words. Come explore your thoughts with writing exercises, mutual storytelling and discussions on gender, migration and class in relation to Bangalore. The workshop will culminate in a short creative writing piece and participants will be encouraged to come up with a long term writing project that may result in a city anthology. Professional writers, amateur writers, closet writers, and writers who have not yet written are all welcome.

To register mail or call 95353-16411 before 20th October


2.  City of Words | Poetry
     25th Oct | Tue | PageTurners | 5.30 - 7.30 pm

While poets might have been less successful at playing the part of the unacknowledged legislators of the world, we would like to believe that they have had partial success as the clandestine architects of cities. But lets not mistake clandestine for unreal, because even though the poet’s cities are built in the realm of imagination and language, which real city would be worth living in if it weren't supported by a vision of what it means to live together.

We invite you to come with poems and passages, your own or borrowed, that speak of the city that you would like to create. The poetry reading session will be followed by a creative exercise where selected words and sentences from the material you brought will be used as building blocks for our own city of words.

To register mail or call 81056-75350 before 23rd October


3. Lost Loves: An Exploration of Rama's Anguish | Talk
    28 Oct | Fri | Alternative Law Forum, Infantry Road | 6 pm

We invite you to a talk by Arshia Sattar about her book Lost Loves. Lost Loves returns us to an older and yet more relevant than ever tradition of the story of the Ramayana as a story of trial and tribulation, of the subtlety of right and wrong, and of love and loss. The book explores the Ramayana as a 'portrait of consciousness hidden from itself'. In her introduction to Lost Loves, Arshia Sattar reflects on the recent career of the Ramayana, a text which has largely been associated with its political appropriation towards the cause of aggressive religious nationalism. The talk will be followed by a discussion.

Please mail or call 98807-55875 for further clarifications

You can see the entire schedule here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pratham Books Champion : Sandhya Sharma

24th September was a very special day for all of us at Pratham Books. We managed to create a book in 4 languages in 2 days. But, we also had many friends from within our community volunteer to become a 'Pratham Books Champion' and conduct storytelling sessions in their neighbourhoods. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Sandhya Sharma who conducted a storytelling session in Delhi. Sandhya is doing an MA from IGNOU and is also working as a Hindi teacher in a private school in Delhi. Sandhya wrote to use about her session and said ...
Maine story telling session ghar par hi 24.09.11 ki sham ko kiya. Main Burari me rahati hoon. Yeh North Delhi ka ek village hai. Vaise main pehle school mein padhati hoon aur bachcho ko kahani sunana mujhe bahut pasand hai. Is session mein mere saath mohalle ke 14-15 bachche jude. Age group 3-10 years tha. Mere pass printout to tha nahi isliye maine kahani 2-3 bar achchi tarah padh li thi. Sabse pahale maine unse International Girl Child Day ke baare me baat ki .Unhe hairani hui ki children's day,teacher's day ki tarah ye din bhi manaya jata hai. Uske baad maine unhe Neeche Se Upar kahani sunai. Unhe aur kahaniyan sunne ka man kar raha tha. Mere pass CBT ki Nirali Poshak aur Pratham Books ki Anootha Asia books thi. Maine in kitabon mein se unhe kahani sunai. 

 When asked why she volunteered to be a Pratham Books Champion, she said -
" Pratham Books Champion mein volunteer maine isliye kiya kyonki mujhe bachhon ke saath kaam karna pasand hai."
It is amazing to see the continuous impact of that one storytelling session that Sandhya conducted. She says,
 "Mere aas pass ka mahol aisa hai kikahani padhne sunne ko bekar ka kaam samjha jaata hai. Yaha kisi ke pass Champak, Nandan ke alava kuch aur nahi mil sakta. Aur Champak, Nandan bhi ginne chune log hi jaante hain. Khair, is activity ke kaaran bachchon ne meri kitabein dekhi aur tab se lagbhag har saptah main unhe koi na koi kahani suna deti hoon. Kahani sunte samay unke chehre dekhne layak hote hain aur uske bad kitab ke sath ve kafi der tak apas me kahani ki bate karte rahate hain."
Thank you Sandhya for spreading the joy of reading!

Click here to read the stories sent in by all the Pratham Books Champions. 

Note : If any of you want to be a Pratham Books Champion and join us on our journey of getting 'a book in every child's hand', write to us at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org.

Hunting and Gathering

If you are a regular visitor of this blog, you already know about Pushpi Bagchi and her book which aims at getting kids to think about the food they eat. Last month, Pushpi wrote a guest post on how to create edible gardens. Today's post is about educating children about what we eat.

We’ve all studied about how the early man hunted and gathered his food. We’ve definitely come a long way from there. A month’s worth of groceries is sometimes just a phone call away since a lot of neighbourhood grocers offer free home delivery!

I think shopping for food is a lot of fun; it’s also an excellent learning opportunity for children. I remember going to the fish market with my grandfather in Calcutta while on holiday carrying the designated “fish bag”. I always had a morbid curiosity with the long blades that the fish mongers used to cut the fish, “what if they slice their fingers off?” I thought! It was here that I learned that to check the freshness of fish you check under the gills, if it’s a bright red you’re good to go.

My family used to live in the Middle East where supermarkets the size of stadiums were the norm and I would invariably get lost staring at stacks of chocolate biscuits or detergent. But what I remember more vividly is this vegetable market we used to go to where produce was sold directly off the back of trucks. Shopping for food should be a sensory overload. Good produce should look good, smell wonderful and be nice to touch, then it will surely taste fantastic as well.

Most of us living in urban spaces have traded our local sabji mandis for chain supermarkets. While supermarkets have the benefit of offering a better shopping experience in terms of a clean, organised and efficient environment; a farmers market or sabji mandi has many benefits as well. You are more or less assured fresh produce as anything that is not will give its self away by its appearance, smell and texture. Nothing is pre-peeled or cut and wrapped in cellophane. You’re also assured produce in their prime seasonally. No watermelons in December or strawberries in May.

Children while accompanying their parents on grocery shopping trips, or at home, begin to assimilate food choices from a very young age. We must keep that in mind when we shop. If the food we buy is always pre cut, packed in cardboard, or wrapped in cellophane we are depriving children of understanding the tactile nuances of food. Learning how to tell a ripe tomato from an unripe one, or sniffing out the best oranges should be part of growing up.

Fresh produce which is grown close to your home, fruits and vegetable that are in season, that have been handpicked with care will taste better than something that comes pre packaged. Don’t you think so?

- Pushpi Bagchi,

Image Source : Pushpi Bagchi

Bring Happiness to Kids in Hospital this Diwali

This Diwali touch the lives of the little children in hospitals in a meaningful way, your simple diwali gift could range from a small box of sweets or a packet of crayons and colour books. 
There are a number of children who spend Diwali in hospitals as they are suffering from various illnesses and who may not have anything to look forward to this Diwali. However, you can bring a difference to their life. Sometimes, all it takes is a little love and care so when you are busy in exchanging gifts with near and dear ones, just give a thought to bring little happiness to these kids. Join our volunteers to celebrate Diwali with kids in hospitals or just drop some gifts and sweets if you can’t make it.
Click here to read about how you can donate or volunteer for this cause.

Image Source : Uday Foundation

Rohini Nilekani on The Journey of Pratham Books


Via Deccan Chronicle
But as the saying goes that most good things do not come easy, books reaching out to one of the most important segment of the population seemed like a dream that was far fetched. Although only at first. The fact that there was a necessity to break this barrier began to take shape in a room when like-minded individuals brainstormed on the way forward. Getting books to go to where the children are was an idea that needed to be executed. For Rohini Nilekani, the task at hand was enormous considering the sheer numbers when it came to children who had no access to reading material. But she relentlessly pursued the idea, to the extent that she made a decision to let Pratham Books become an independent entity that can aggressively attack the insufficiency of accessibility an availability of books. 
“I remember the discussion some of us were having about the issue and we were grappling with finding ways to beat it. That’s when I realised that if we needed to work this out, it had to be an institution by itself. That was the magnitude of the work required and I decided that I needed to shift my focus on this entirely. That’s how Pratham Books was initiated seven years ago,” stated the philanthropist and chairperson of Pratham Books.
 And today, Pratham Books being one of the largest in the children’s publishing sector, it has reached out to many million children with over eight million books and nine million story cards shipped out across the nation to libraries, schools and other centres.  
According to her, among the many reasons, one of missing puzzles was availability. She further added, “There was not much for children to read in general in the market and child-friendly books were very few. This lack of reading material can affect the entire ecosystem of reading. Especially in today’s time of textbook and knowledge based society and learning. It was imperative that children experience the joy of reading and what better way to inculcate this than with books that can appeal to the likes and understanding of a child? And that is how books published by us are designed. It had to be simple with good graphics with the visual complementing the text.”  
 The idea and effort, while started off with one person’s vision, had to be collaborated with various stakeholders to ensure sustainability. And Ms Nilekani was clear that bringing authors, illustrators and producers of books together to build a reading country while also relying on markets, philanthropists and the state who is responsible for its’ children, was of utmost importance for the goal to be accomplished.  
It’s been a seven-year journey and Pratham Books continues to gear itself further towards more growth to be able to reach the 160 million kids in every nook and corner of the country, stated Ms Nilekani. 
“It is about geography and technology. In the coming years, India’s broadband will be more widespread. We should also be poised for that technological milestone and while making technology more ubiquitous, make reading too synonymous with it. It is our hope that some day soon every child will be reading well,” she added.
Read the entire article here.

There are a few mistakes in the article. The article mentions that we've published 170 titles in 14 languages. Pratham Books has published 215 titles in 11 languages.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Our Twitter Friends Create a Story

Bird Book

We just can't stop talking about how lovely our community is. You guys are AWESOME! We've got another example of how some of our friends on Twitter collaborated to create a story on Twitter. We started chatting with @asmita when we were looking for people who could conduct storytelling workshops in their neighbourhoods. At the same time, 4 of our authors were collaborating to write a book in 2 days. Inspired by the live write-a-thon, Asmita decided to collaborate with other tweeple and write a children's story.

Asmita tweeted to ask if anyone would be interested in joining her and soon enough she had a team of writers - @ratna_rajaiah, @neobluepanther, @hersoapbox and @asmita. While they were writing the story @pushpz also jumped in to write the story.

They defined the method they would use to create the story - one person kickstarting the story and sending out a few tweets and then letting the next writer take over. The hashtag for the story tweets was #swpb and we watched the story unfold over a few days.

Asmita's blog says, "We wanted to kick off the story by drawing inspiration from an illustration from Pratham Books website but could not reach a consensus. So I took the liberty of picking up their story title “The Timid Train” and starting the story from there."

Asmita has compiled all the tweets on her blog. You can read the entire story here. Let @ratna_rajaiah, @neobluepanther, @hersoapbox, @asmita and @pushpz know what you thought of their story. Leave a comment on this post or on the story post to give them your feedback.

A big thank you to @ratna_rajaiah, @neobluepanther, @hersoapbox, @asmita and @pushpz for creating this story.

Image Source : Katey Nicosia

Visit Pratham Books at the Jorhat Book Fair

Meet us at the Jorhat Book Fair which is taking place between 15th-23rd October, 2011. The venue is Jorhat District Sport Association Playground and the timings are 10 am- 8 pm. So, drop by our stall and jump into a world of stories!

The Telegraph also carried an article about how this year's fair will focus on kids and reading. You can read the entire article here.

Illustration by Ruchi Shah

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Launch : Padma Goes to Space

Via Tulika Books

(Please click on the image for a larger view)

Venue : Reliance TimeOut Store, Ambience Mall, Gurgaon
Date and Time : Saturday, 15th October 2011 at 6.30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pratham Books Champion : Subrat Goswami

24th September was a very special day for all of us at Pratham Books. We managed to create a book in 4 languages in 2 days. But, we also had many friends from within our community volunteer to become a 'Pratham Books Champion' and conduct storytelling sessions in their neighbourhoods. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Subrat Goswami who conducted a storytelling sessions in Bodakho village and Mahabadia village (near Bhopal). Subrat works with the Archaeological Survey of India. Apart from observing the wide gap that exists between different classes of society, Subrat also realized that many people have the means to contribute to society but don't know how or whom to support. Subrat decided to utilize his weekends to work with rural kids and women. Thus, Ahambhumika was started in Bhopal. Ahambhumika has received enormous support from many people they have connected to through social media and all current initiatives are being run by individual contributions only (not by government or corporate support).

Subrat conducted two storytelling sessions - one with the children at the village school and one with the women who attend the Grain school. Subrat writes ...

They have never imagined that some day people like us will come to their school and tell them a story.Even their teacher would join in telling stories to them.They had never seen books other than the course books provided to them by the government. But they were fortunate enough when last year Pratham Books donated books to them. They twisted the pages of the colourful story books with happiness and read them with curiosity.Yes, I am talking about the tribal children of a primary school of village Bodakho, district Bhopal.

On 24.09.11 at 10.00 AM, we organsied a story telling seesion of the story "Neeche se upar" sent by Pratham books to us. The teacher of the school Mr. Manful also joined this session. Both of us read the story and enjoyed it a lot. Thanks a lot Pratham Books for this wonderful initiative.

(Note : the date on the camera was set wrong when these photos were taken)

During evening we had the story telling session at the Grain School in village Mahabadia, district Bhopal. Like the school children, this was the 1st time the women of the Grain School were listening to the story. Besides Subrat, founder and volunteer of Ahambhumika, Kamla bai and Manisha (students of Grain School) also joined the session and read the story. They have recently learned how to read and write in Hindi. They were surprised to know that this story “Neeche se upar” was written in a couple of hours online. The women and girls of Grain School enjoyed the session.

Thank you Subrat for spreading the joy of reading!

Note : Ahambhumika is also in the process of creating a library for the children in Bodakho village. If you want to donate books, you can contact them here.

Click here to read the stories sent in by all the Pratham Books Champions.

If any of you want to be a Pratham Books Champion and join us on our journey of getting 'a book in every child's hand', write to us at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pratham Books Champion : Sangeetha Kodithala

24th September was a very special day for all of us at Pratham Books. We managed to create a book in 4 languages in 2 days. But, we also had many friends from within our community volunteer to become a 'Pratham Books Champion' and conduct storytelling sessions in their neighbourhoods. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Sangeetha Kodithala who conducted a storytelling session in Hyderabad. Sangeetha is an MBA by training and a Change Management Consultant by profession. She currently works with an MNC in Hyderabad and takes an active interest in reading and blogging.

Why did you volunteer to be a Pratham Books Champion?

I have been quite passionate about education to all children. I believe a good education makes them responsible citizens and will help them fend for themselves without feeling exploited or underprivileged. I have been working with a few orphanages - mainly helping them get funds for children's food and education. When Pratham book came up with this request, I couldn't say no as this is exactly what I believe in. Also, the occasion was Girl Child Day, which made it all the more important to me. I keep writing/talking about various women's issues and spread awareness through whatever means I have. So, this was a perfect platform in both ways.

Sangeetha shared her storytelling experience on her blog (Sangeetha was unable to narrate 'The Upside Down Story' as the story had not been translated into Telugu, but see what our wonderful storyteller did anyway)...

I've never done it before, but since it sounded like fun and it was on the occasion of International Girl Child Day, I took it up. Pratham Books sent me these lovely stories and a beautiful flexi banner to put up for the kids, which made it all the more interesting. And I had my husband, sister and my friend Indumouly to help me put up the banner and engage the kids.

I am associated with an orphanage close to my place, which is run by a guy who quit a plum job with one of the star hotels in Hyderabad because he felt he should do something for the needy. It has about 30+ kids in the age groups of 1-13. All are sent to municipal schools nearby, and some who get funding through considerate donors are sent to a local private school. I've been visiting the kids for 5 months now, and all of them are quite active and well-read.

When I walked in and told them I'm here to tell you some stories, they were quite excited. I showed them the books with colourful pictures and told them they could keep it and they were all the more eager. I showed them the stories and asked them which would they like to hear from me. Most of them liked the story of the newborn elephant Ambili, and the guy who had the annual haircut day. Only a few asked me to tell the stories in English, and the rest wanted in Telugu. So, I narrated Ambili's story in Telugu, and then read out and showed the illustrations of The Annual Haircut Day story. They all laughed out loud after listening to the annual haircut day story. And they were quite fascinated with Ambili's story, because they could relate to Ambili's curiosity and wish to learn things. When I said 'Ambili was quite scared as a 4-day old because she didn't know anything. She's too small to know anything, right?', they all nodded and said 'Yes, she's too small.'

The kids wanted more after the 2 stories, so I read out the TING-TONG book, which was about various sounds made by different things like temple bell, calling bell etc. I also felt some of the kids might be interested in reading out a story, so picked the Telugu story of the bird who learnt to fly and called 2 kids to read out. I was quite surprised by their flawless reading with proper intonations. Kids never fail to amuse us, do they?!

And the best part was reserved for the end. I asked Vaishnavi, who is in 6th class to come and narrate a story. She narrated the story of 4 friends and a lion. All of them listened to it intently and when I asked what did they learn from it, some of them shouted back - 'You should always listen to your friends' :-)

Good fun session with a bunch of energetic and enthusiastic kids. Love Pratham Books for the kind of work they're doing, which is what I'm passionate about too. Look forward to more such sessions in future!


Thank you Sangeetha for spreading the joy of reading!

Click here to read the stories sent in by all the Pratham Books Champions.

Note : If any of you want to be a Pratham Books Champion and join us on our journey of getting 'a book in every child's hand', write to us at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org.