Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Congrats Dhwani!

One of our first guest bloggers was the lovely Dhwani Yagnaraman. Back in 2009, Dhwani was only 12 years old and she wrote so well (You can read her previous posts here, here and here).

Today, we found out that a story written by Dhwani was selected as one of 31 stories out of 1400 entries that were submitted in the Write&Read story writing program run by Katha and HP. The story will appear in a book that will be published by Katha.
Katha will now help to place the book in libraries across the country and it will also be available for purchase for Rs 375. Proceeds from book sales will be donated to schools operating in underprivileged communities in Delhi, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh. (via Write&Read)
Congrats Dhwani! We can't wait to read your story. And good luck with your writing!

Children's Literature Festivals in India and Pakistan

Last week was a super busy week for us. It was exhausting as well as exhilarating! Why were we so busy? Because we were participating in two children's literature festivals last week - Bookaroo in India and the Children's Literature Festival in Pakistan.

Compiling a few reports from different newspapers about the events ...

Essar Foundation Bookaroo in the City is co-produced by Bookaroo Trust Teamwork Productions and Pratham Books and is supported by Essar Foundation. ‘We are delighted to partner Bookaroo in the City in their quest to promote literature among school children in India.

Knowledge is best when shared and therefore our focus on ‘Bookaroo in the City' phase of the event, which makes an effort to reach out to maximum number of schools', said Mr. Deepak Arora, VP Essar Foundation.

This two-week long extravaganza of book-related events culminated in three days of dramatic readings and interactive at the festival held at Sanskriti Kendra.

Pioneers in children literature such as Anupa Lal, Tapas Guha, Deepa Agarwal, Mala Kumar and Tanya Luther Aggarwal along with international authors such as John Dougherty, Satoshi Kitamura and Adeline Foo were part of the event.
Read the entire article here.

For the fourth edition, the festival of children's literature has gone back to its original venue at the Sanskriti Anandagram. The "Doodle Wall", the "Kahani Tree" and other spots are now as familiar as old friends because most of the kids tearing about the lawns, curling up with books or getting new ones autographed are two-three Bookaroos-old.

"We've been coming since it started," says Tinni Sawhney who's brought her 12-year-old daughter Aranya. "For us it's a planned event," she says over lunch she has brought from home. Former visitors are alerted by mail. "We grew up with a lot of books," she continues, "Our worry is our kids are losing out on the joy of reading." Not her kid, though. Aranya, student of The Shri Ram School, is an avid reader, loves Harry Potter and fantasy fiction in general. "I'm going to start on The Wizard of Oz and Call of the Wild," she says. She particularly enjoyed Samhita Arni's session on "Sita in the 21st Century" based on her graphic novel, Sita's Ramayana with artwork by patua artist, Moyna Chitrakar. Classical literature, this time Greek, also appears in John Dougherty's session on "Zeus - On the Loose Again!" in which Zeus deals with a school bully. Bhutanese writer, Kunzang Choden, read stories from her land - folk-tales re-told for kids.
Read the entire article here.

Pakistan’s first ever children’s festival focusing on books, and promotion of learning, reading and writing activities, the event was organised by Oxford University Press (OUP) and Idara-e-Taaleem-o-Agahi (ITA). The event was filled with activities for children, and while these kept them anchored to their seats, their teachers and parents also enjoyed the day’s events.

Nadia Jamil started the day off in the main hall with story-time, while Marilyn read from Tom Sawyer in the auditorium, and a live cartoon and Muppet show was presented by Nigar Nazar. Some of the sections were meant for adults, where young entrepreneurs and educators of Pakistan gave presentations in the Audio Visual Room, and Shahina Alvi and Mona Qaiser read on ‘Why Some Children Cannot Read: Challenges of Inclusion’. A creative writing class for teenagers was also held, where they were given tips and guidelines on how to write in a creative manner. ‘Meet the Author’ was also held, where Zara Mumtaz spoke to children about their favourite stories, poems, characters, etc and a question and answer session was held afterwards. Children took active participation in these sessions.
Fahmida Riaz taught children how to write stories, while Tania Hasan from OUP edited them and Shireen Syed, also from OUP, illustrated and designed the stories. The whole session left the children awestruck and immensely interested in writing and illustrating.
Read the entire article here.

Via Dawn
Talking to Dawn, former federal education minister Zubeida Jalal said unfortunately there was no concept of book reading in government schools because of a lack of libraries and availability of supplementary readings. However, she said, the festival by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi and Oxford University Press proved that children were inquisitive and excited to read books.

National Urdu programme head Parveen Saleem Syed and PRATHAM books assistant editor Rajesh Khar said it was a great sight to see hundreds of students visiting bookstalls, buying books and learning from different sessions.
Read the entire article here.

You can also read the article by the Tribune newspaper here.

Alma Mater and Mother Tongue

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Swagata Sen Pillai writes about two more sessions she conducted during Bookaroo in the City ...

For most of us, going back to the school we passed out of is a special experience! To be able to do so in the capacity of someone with the freedom to interact with children at length, share the same electrifying atmosphere of learning and interchange of ideas, to walk the hallways with nostalgia certainly, but also with new purpose...that is a rare chance! Yet that is precisely what i was gifted with,in my session with the Kendriya Vidyalayas-for I went back to my alma mater-KV Andrewsganj, after 30 years... this time, as a story teller! (Had my teachers been around, they would probably have said-That is always true of most of our students-they are ALL great ‘story’ tellers!!)

Invited to do the session with part of the Primary school in the morning, I felt a deep sense of nostalgia as I entered the school gate-a horde of memories jostling for space, tumbling out from every nook and corner of my mind-I could have done several sessions on the stories that pushed themselves to the forefront of my consciousness right then alone! We entered the junior school, my haunt of many happy hours, and were pleasantly surprised (If a little taken aback!) to be informed that the entire primary section would be turning out for the session! The numbers were challenging-650+ children, from Std 1-5. Simultaneous engagement - a daunting task-but one that I welcomed nevertheless, as both teachers and students were so very enthusiastic. And so, sitting out in the open air, in the moderately admonishing sunlight, with a weathered tannoy microphone squeezing out in tinny tones the tales I told. We trod for an hour, a path through wonderland-oblivious to the cacophony of the passing honks on horns and swift swish of tyres, the dust and the space between us- caught up in the magical world
of flights of fancy. Pahalwanji, Suraj ka Gussa, Muft ke Teen... When we finally wrapped up, we were firm friends, sharing memories we had just made, joined through the common bond of friendship with the authors who had captured our imagination, the artists who had painted our visions as well, linked through the words that still echoed in our ears...! Our greatest reward-being asked to come back and share time with the next session of children too-the teachers enthusiastic in their invitation!

As if this session set in nostalgia wasn’t reason enough for celebration, I was asked to conduct a session in a Bengali medium school a few days later-another whopping bonus! I love my mother tongue and seek opportunities to practice it as often as I can, and thanks to the proliferation of languages that Pratham Books deals with, one such had come my way! Off we trotted to the quiet little school set in a quiet little neighbourhood, with a quiet little Principal who welcomed us with great promptness and acceptance, calling in the Headmistress who quickly ushered us into the library-the only place where a large number of children could be accommodated, in the absence of a hall. Fresh-faced young fourth graders sat awaiting our arrival, unsure of the purpose of the interaction, but enthusiastic -partly prompted by curiosity, (the staple of young minds!!) and partly by the unexpected thrill of ‘bunking’ class! I looked around at the bright young canvases spread out before me-a little unsure of how these urban, privileged children, with access to every means of entertainment, would react to the offer of stories read out in Bangla (Since most urban children do not consider it ‘in’ to speak their mother tongue! ) and was completely bowled over when a chorus of ‘yessssssssss’ accompanied by air punches filled the room the minute they heard the session was in Bengali!

We went through the adventures of Saboo and Jojo and learnt about the habitat of a large number of other jungle friends in Home Sweet Home, commented on the aptness of the illustrations, heard from those who had pets(including girls with white mice-all named Jerry!!) and younger siblings(wailing or otherwise!!), survived a broken table on which restless wriggling bottoms jostled for space (I sheepishly begged pardon from the Librarian who wore a resigned smile-as it was I who had taken permission for the boys to sit ON the table rather than AT it!!!) and then parted with promises of fresh illustrations to the stories and fresh stories to the illustrations on my next visit!

The fifth graders were even more enthusiastic-having heard of the fun discussions and eager to prove themselves more than equal to the task of active participation. Unanimously choosing In Search of the Rain Woman, the children followed each step of Jeeva and Jatin, discussing the reasons for the conditions they found en route to the Rain Woman, exploring ideas and offering suggestions, tying in what they knew with what was unfolding in the tale, their eager young faces the picture of rapt concentration, happily partaking of the dose of ‘Information, Entertainment, Knowledge, Language Skills’ that they had all agreed were the key take aways of reading outside of school books which had to be read anyway! The quick repartees, the amazing capacity children always have of getting to the point, the width of their thinking capacity, the parallels they drew at each step...and all while following the albeit simple but vernacular rendition of the storyline made the entire session one filled with energy and
fun. The interaction ended with applause for the story, the listeners and books in general, and our young participants solemnly promised to pass on the story in their own words to siblings, friends and juniors in the school as and when the opportunity presented itself. We were also pleasantly surprised to hear that the Headmistress who had a class with the first graders after our first session, had promptly shared the story of Home Sweet Home with them, drawing much comment and enjoyment!

Sorry to have reached the end of my engagement with Bookaroo in the City for 2011, I nevertheless had a deep sense of satisfaction that we do have audience and readership even among the jet-setter groups of children of urban India, and a building up of anticipation already for the next such round...other children, different books, another year...but the same joy and sharing! Thank you Pratham Books!

You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two More Days to Donate Books to the Aviva Great Wall of Education

Sachin donated books to the Aviva Great Wall of Education ...

Chaman and Fenny (The Puppetarians) also donated books to the Aviva Great Wall of Education...

And many other people also donated books to the Aviva Great Wall of Education!

Since, Pratham Books was the bookstore partner for this year's wall, we decided to keep the online platform open for people to donate books till the end of November.

This means that you only have time till the end of tomorrow (30th November, 2011) to donate books to this initiative.

As a part of this initiative, all books donated will be distributed to underprivileged children across India. ‎1 million books were collected so far.. and still counting.

You can donate books online through Pratham Books. The sets are available in a number of easy denominations – Rs.100, Rs.200, Rs.500 and Rs.1000. So go ahead – donate book sets on our e-store and help put a book into the hands of little children, who will have the pleasure of owning a book.

Important note: For all donations to the Aviva Great Wall of Education, orders will be directly shipped to the respective NGO partners. Nevertheless for our internal records we need you to add your shipping address while ordering the books. Once you have placed an order, you will receive two confirmation emails.

Image Source : Sachin donating books (Education is Insurance Facebook page), Puppets donating books (from the Facebook page of The Puppetarians)

A Kid’s Guide to Humayun’s Tomb

Via India Real Time - WSJ

A new illustrated guide, “Let’s Explore Humayun’s Tomb,” aims to bring the history and architecture of medieval Delhi alive for children. The book was published earlier this month by the Archaeological Survey of India, and was commissioned by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which restored the tomb and is now working with the community in the surrounding neighborhood of Nizamuddin.

Conservation architect Ratish Nanda, India head for the trust, says that over 300,000 children visit the tomb every year. The book, available in Hindi and English, is a way to allow more children explore art, architecture and the city’s history, he said.

“A lot of what the book uses is oral history in Nizamuddin, the usual Mughal chronicles, — Akbarnama, Babarnama — and so on, and a lot of understanding of the site,” said Mr. Nanda in a recent interview. About 70,000 books have been printed in the first run, and should already be available at the tomb .
Read the entire article here. You can also see a slideshow of the pictures here.

Image Source : India Real Time - WSJ

Of Schools and Books and How Things Look! : Swagata Sen Pillai

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Swagata Sen Pillai writes about the storytelling sessions she conducted in a few MCD schools ...

MCD schools are supposed to be dull, dinghy and disheartening places to go to…the children, (“Oh poor dears….”), definitely in need of cheering up and deeply deprived! That, indeed, is how a large number of the so called elite and even the not so elite population of urban areas view these much maligned institutions of education!

Well, was I in for a surprise-despite the fact that I have no such mis-founded impression! As part of the Bookaroo in the City initiative of Pratham Books, the very first school I stepped into, in one of the most congested and less favoured neighbourhoods of the city, pleasantly surprised me-first by the sheer size of the premises the school was housed in! Innocuously set in the middle of a residential cum commercial area, the school not only had plenty of space-including a playground many private and better off institutions cannot boast of, but also airy class rooms and....the most significant sign of all.....happy, energetic and enthusiastic children! Enough to warm the cockles of the curmudgeonliest heart-and mine was far from that!

Head mistresses and masters committed to doing what they can to improve the learning experience of their students, staff that recognises the signs of happy learning-(the chai wala in one school came up to me and thanked us for making the children happy as they worked with us-a sure sign of an empowering environment!), school environment that encourages as much physical as mental calisthenics and the opportunity to learn offered as often as possible...the MCD schools had it all! I visited three in my five school stint and loved the experience. The children in all the schools were amazingly interactive, eager to participate-they even had their own role-plays and short stories ready to present-which was highly encouraging as it meant that they had very healthy exposure to creative content and activity. The room was invariably decorated with the handwork of the children-bright, colourful, creative and plentiful.

The boards awash with names and special abilities related to story-telling, drawing, craftwork, the ready acceptance of the stories, the enthusiastic participation in the storyline-even completely unfamiliar ones from alien lands....all of this fed fresh impetus into the endeavour of re-introducing the joy of books...the happy faces made every second worthwhile...the genuine support and appreciation from the teachers encouraged the hope that this would continue long after the single hour of our interaction had faded from memory...the friendship forged between the authors and illustrators and their brand new readers, in which we were a mere link, seemed to rest in safe hands, and we came away content and grateful for the chance at being a part of this wonderful wheel of continuity wrought by words and pictures, turned by ever eager young minds.

You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tell a tale today!

A story is like life: the more you share it, the better it grows.(Free, free, free!!! This quote by yours truly is copyright free and you don't even need to attribute it to me.)

But do read this excerpt from J.K.Rowling's Harvard University Commencement Address
The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination (J.K. Rowling-Copyright June 2008)

" And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
'As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.'"
For the full text of the speech go to:

If you have a story for Pratham Books, send it in : we'll share it with the world.

See you at Bookaroo!

The event we have all been waiting for is finally here! The Bookaroo festival of children's literature is happening this weekend - 26th and 27th November!

The venue for this year has changed! The festival is being held at the Sanskriti Kendra, Anandgram, Mehrauli Gurgoan Road. Please click on the map below for a larger view

Note : You can't take the entry between P-165 and P-164. You have to come from the Arjangarh Metro station side.

If you WALK from the Arjangarh metro station, it will take you about 10 minutes to reach the venue. There will be shuttle buses at the metro station to take you to the venue.

You can view the schedule for 26th November below (please click on the image for a larger view)

You can view the schedule for 27th November below (please click on the image for a larger view)

See you at Bookaroo! Click here for more information on the festival.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bookaroo in the City (Day 8) : Rabani Garg and Tanya Luther Agarwal

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

While looking at the Bookaroo in the City schedule, I had planned on attending Rabani Garg's session. It would actually have been the first session I would have witnessed after arriving in Delhi. Unfortunately, the schedule was changed because of a school holiday. Fortunately, I did get to witness Rabani's storytelling session.

Iswarya (the Bookaroo in the City volunteer) and I drove through the lovely streets surrounding Lodhi Gardens to pick up Rabani. And we begun on the long drive to an MCD School in Rohini. The long commute times actually allow the volunteers to learn more about the storyteller they will be working with.  Rabani told us more about the Reading Caterpillar - a reading club she had started for children. 

Apart from one story, Rabani had not come with a fixed plan on how she was going to conduct the session. She would figure out which story to tell after seeing how old the kids were. Once again, we were driving around in circles in search for the school. After being directed to the most famous channa-batura walla in that area and being subjected to the hunger-inducing smells wafting from the shop, we were then directed to the school (and our stomachs growled in protest!). A big impressive school stood in front of us.   

As the kids and we settled down, another incident occurred. There was some confusion about the unit tests being conducted and the children were almost taken away from the room. Thankfully, the kids stayed back, the confusion got sorted out and it was time to listen to stories!

Questioning the kids on whether they believed stories were true or false, Rabani warned them to hold on to their seats. "Why?", she asked. "Because sometimes children go so deep into a story that they can't come out of it", she said. The curious yet innocent children actually held on to the mats they were sitting on. 

Sitting on the chair placed in front of the children, Rabani broke into a song. The session had started! Through two different stories, we heard about how 'truth' found a place in stories. Rabani modulated her voice, hopped around the room and all eyes and ears were on her. The children begged for 'ek aur story'. Rabani took out the large pictures she had painted on charts and told her story. As each pictured was revealed, the children got involved in the storytelling process. The pictures were displayed in a row for the children to see and these pictures acted as cues for the children to participate in the story. They listened keenly, sang loudly and smiled gleefully. 

Rabani admitted that she had conducted several storytelling sessions for children but had never met such an engaged audience. Bidding us farewell after handing us thank you cards, the children trooped out. The session ended with a plate of samosas - ending the hunger that Iswarya and me had been experiencing since morning (we had skipped breakfast, been made hungrier by the smell of chole-batture and all of Rabani's stories included food). So, our hunger had ended and the children's hunger for stories and books had just begun! Having met the librarian and the zonal incharge, we knew that the kids would not be deprived from devouring books. Cheers to storytellers who spark the hunger for stories and to empowered teachers who make sure that the kids make the most of the resources available!


Debahuti Brahmachari writes about the session conducted by Tanya Luther Agarwal (via Bookaroo blog) ...

I was very happy with the venue this time as it was my campus. So, I knew that there would be no early alarms ringing. But I began feeling happy too soon as the news came that there are three KV’s all around the place. The venue was not at all clear till the very next day. Adding to this confusion was the fact that the author was unreachable. I knew that this was a plot by my alarm clock as it did not like the comfortable and cozy relation I shared with my bed. Urgh!!!

So I was all red in the eyes with no clue about the venue or the author. I was all set to read out the stories to the kids if no answers were received within the next half an hour.

Soon Pallavi texted me the author's new number. I buzzed Tanya Luthra Agarwal. She was all set and met me with a sparkling smile on her face. Elegantly dressed in green, we had a brief conversation about her eight year long journey as an author. Her kids being her greatest critics gave her the inspiration to come out with the best within her.

The head mistress welcomed us with full energy as the kids settled down and looked excited. As Tanya started off with her sweet little story about ‘bulbulli, the restlessness gradually stopped. Intrigued by her presence and her stories, the students were already on their way to the discovery of ‘Masala Chai’. And despite the sun's rays blocking their view, the little boys sitting at one corner were completely captivated by the author’s voice.

As the stories ended the kids came to the stage to share their views about the stories and what they learnt from it. They all thanked the amazing storyteller as well as me and rushed to us for a perfect picture at the very end.

You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Bookaroo in the City (Day 7) : Valentina Trivedi

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

17th November turned out to be the day I would get to meet two people I knew from last year's Bookaroo - one was the lovely volunteer Iswarya Subbiah and the other person was the storyteller Valentina Trivedi. This was the third year that Iswarya has volunteered for Bookaroo in the City and it was great to hear her perspective on how this event is growing (you know that we are reaching almost 100 schools this year?). 

We reached Valentina's house a little early. In the middle of our chatting, Iswarya decided to call Valentina to let her know that we had arrived. Her phone was engaged. Iswarya tried again. Soon, we were calling her frantically and hoping that she hadn't forgotten about the session. Suddenly,  there was a response and Valentina reached the car in a jiffy. It was nice to know that Valentina remembered the paper cherry blossoms we made for her session at last year's Bookaroo.

We were heading to the Asharan Orphanage (run by Hope Foundation) in Multan Nagar. The long drive to the orphanage gave us ample time to learn about how Valentina had become a storyteller. We also learnt what she was planning to do for this year's main Bookaroo event (No, we won't tell you in this post. You will have to come to Bookaroo to find out!).

Time flew as the three of us talked about varied topics. Finally, we were at the orphanage and waiting for the kids to arrive. A few kids walked in and Valentina immediately started talking to them. Children of different age groups seated themselves on the mat placed on the ground and waited in anticipation for the event to start. The kids started getting restless as we waited for more kids to arrive. But, as soon as Valentina started her session, the room went quiet. The children stared with eager eyes. A few of the children had cognitive disabilities but were able to follow Valentina's lively performance.
During her performance, we could hear a small voice saying something. Whose voice was this? As the children looked in the direction of the voice, a puppet entered the scene. The children were so excited on seeing the puppet. Soon, the puppet was shaking hands with all of them and was even named by them. After some time another puppet entered the scene. A scary looking mouse! Scary because it looked so real. The children laughed as one of the boys tugged on the rat's tail. 

Valentina's performance was so spontaneous - she would add elements that the children wanted to add and make it their story. While telling a story which involved a magic pot that threw out things one wished for, the children named toys (even beyblades!), food and other things. A sad (but true) reminder of their reality was when a child said she wanted the magic pot to give her a mummy and a papa! 

Looking at the children's faces at the end of the session, one knew that Valentina had cast her magical spell and taken them to a different world in the one hour that she had spent there.

P.S. - Valentina also asked us if we knew where she could buy puppets from (in India). Do you have any suggestions?

You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bookaroo in the City (Day 7) : Anupa Lal and Richa Bhaskar

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Storyteller Anupa Lal writes about her session (via Bookaroo blog) ...
Travelling comfortably across Delhi on a crisp,cool, not-yet-traffic-ridden morning is pleasant enough. 
Heading for a storytelling session with kids, on 17th Nov., made it pleasanter.
And conversing, on the way there and back, with someone as bubbly and yet as mature as my pretty escort Divya Karwal – a young writer – made it a morning to remember. 
Divya and I reached Kendriya Vidyalaya, Tagore Garden well in time for the session.
From the moment we entered the gate we were impressed. 
The school building as well as the area and lawns around it were clean, orderly and well-maintained. 
The dynamic Principal, the affable Head Mistress, indeed all the teachers we met made us feel very welcome. 
Then it was time to go to the library and tell stories to the assembled 100 or so children of classes 1 and 2. Once again, I was happy to be told that many of the bright 7 and 8 year olds in front of me heard stories from their parents or grandparents, something we took for granted when I was a child. 
I launched into my first story ‘ Little by Little’, a folktale retold for Pratham Books. Children love the build up of suspense in it. And carried on…. 
I think the greatest reward for a storyteller is the gleam in a child’s eye as he or she listens intently to your story. 
The greatest high is the pin-drop silence when every child in the room is listening…..

 Volunteer Debahuti Brahmachari writes about the session conducted by Richa Bhaskar at the MCD  School in Malka Gunj (via Bookaroo blog) ...
The regular ringing up was on the previous evening, as I called the school coordinator and she explained the route towards the school. But I knew one thing that the directions were not at all clear to me. Sigh! 
So next I got in touch with the author and as the phone rang I was still trying to figure where Malikagunj was? (that sounded better to me). Soon I stopped worrying about the malika location as a sweet, soft voice greeted me on the other side. I knew one thing, I would have a beautiful session with this lady. 

The morning chill touched me sharp at 6 am in the morning, I saw my watch and smiled, for a change I did not have an early morning session today. But despite the perfect opportunity to snuggle in my bed, I was already up on my toes gearing up for the day’s session —‘into the magical world of characters.’ 
As my cab picked me, my driver bhaiya zipped zapped zoomed across the unbearable traffic and we reached our first destination. Richa ji was already outside her house all dressed up in red. As we greeted each other, her warmth was the best part all through the journey. 

It was a little difficult to locate the school but finally the coordinator Shahana helped us through the streets. Children rushed to the library as soon as they saw the Bookaroo banners. The atmosphere became all lively, energetic and full of anxiety to know what lay ahead. 
Richa ji bought the characters all alive as the kids entered a different world ranging from a little caterpillar to a butterfly, from ghosts to shadow images and finally to kinship tales. The finest part was the use of little props to enact the stories which were interestingly made from toothpaste covers, paper plates as masks, chocolate wrappers, etc. Visual aids, use of repetitive language structures and making the children enact the characters led to a fun filled session by the brilliant storyteller. To add up to it she bought chocolates, which I distributed to each kid present at the session. 
Finally, as the school bell rang the kids were all ready to go home, but did not forget to thank us with beautiful “thank you” cards made by them. A bunch of them came up to me to take down the details of the Bookaroo festival and promised to see me again. 
Their promises gleamed in their eyes and it was the truth that-
“The soul is healed by being with children”
So it was with me!!!


You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Bookaroo in the City (Day 5) : Devika Rangachari

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Volunteer Divya writes about the session conducted by Devika Rangachari (via Bookaroo blog) ...

‘Writing stories? No, thanks, not for me. How will I do it if I want to be a scientist or a doctor or a footballer? Is it really a serious career option, I don’t even know what to write about in the first place?’ These were the questions that most class VIII students were asking when Devika Rangachari started her interaction session at Kendria Vidyalaya School, Sector 24, Noida. But things were to change soon enough! 

Devika, a historian and a writer, has established herself as a children’s book author whose stories, ranging from picture books to biographies, draw from her personal life experiences as well as her from her work. For example, her book ‘When Amma Went Away’, although categorized as fiction, is largely about her own life as a South-Indian child growing up in North-India. Whereas another book by her, ‘The Wit of Tenali Raman’, comprises captivating historical stories which most people had never heard of before.

“Writing is great, and never a hurdle in your career. You can fit it into your free time and create stories while pursuing a career in any field,” she said to the kids. Encouraging them, she told them how by writing the picture book ‘Whitey and the Monsters’ she could better deal with her fear of darkness. “I also used to be afraid of Maths and Science when I was at school but no-one told me writing a funny story about these subjects will make me less scared,” she said. “Now I suggest you too write about whatever worries you – you’ll see it helps a lot!”

Chilled out and down-to-earth despite 20 national awards (!) in her bag, Devika also spoke about how she didn’t know that she wanted to be a writer until she finished school. “I was always asked by my teachers to participate in essay competitions, write for the school magazine, and what not. But I realized that I could write much later. Everyone used to ask me what I wanted to become when I grow up and I wouldn’t know. I just didn’t think I could to be an author even after I finished school. … So don’t worry if the same happens to you. Just keep writing what you like – you don’t even have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to – and one day you will know that you are an author.”

The enthusiastic, and impressively responsive, children of KV school asked a number of questions as Devika gave them some brilliant advice on ‘Qualities of a good writer’, ‘Importance of reading in a writer’s life’, ‘Picking up the right book to read’, ‘The importance of blurbs’, ‘Plagiarism’ and much more. By the end of the one-hour session, the ‘No-way!’ statements had encouragingly turned into the positive ‘Where can I start?’ questions. As soon as the session was over, a happy, wide-eyed boy ran up to Devika. “Thanks. I feel so much more confident by listening to you. I think I can start writing now,” he said grinning and grabbed a Bookaroo Festival 2011 flier from the table.

It’s amazing to see how just a one-hour session with an author could inspire children to write. They all may not become authors later on in their lives, but at least they would discover ‘writing’ and so, their voice. Most of all, they would discover the wonderful world of books. Do you agree?

You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Shishuvan Educational Fair

Via an email sent by Chintan Girish Modi
Every alternate year, Shishuvan designs an Educational Fair - an interface for parents, teachers, students, artists, crafts persons and non-profit organizations. The aim is to celebrate the school’s philosophy of education. Our teachers and students set up the stalls supported by diverse individuals and organizations. The fair connects us with the city and adds value to our neighbourhood. 
The theme for this year's fair is 'Fun'. 
(Please click on the image for a larger view) 
About the school: Shishuvan is a 10-year old English medium ICSE school in Mumbai, rooted in Indian traditions and global in its outlook. 
Shishuvan believes that every learner comes with a curriculum of her/his own. The school is an environment in which learners find the support for their learning. We trust and respect this purpose and provide the resources for the same, thereby keeping the onus of learning on the learner. We enjoy nurturing our students' curiosity, applauding their willingness to apply themselves in establishing and honing their skills. Additionally, we ensure socially relevant exposure to widen their contact with and perception of the world. 
To know more about the school, visit

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

5 Reasons Why November is an Awesome Month

November is turning out to be a fabulous month for us at Pratham Books. So many things have been happening in this month and we still have so much to look forward to.

1. Aviva Great Wall of Education and Pratham Books

The Aviva Great Wall of Education has collected many books this year - thanks to the generous donations made by people all across the country. Many people also donated book sets through our store. You can continue to donate to the wall till the end of November. Click here to see how you donate books to this initiative.

2. Bookaroo - Children's Literature Festival

People in Delhi - Bookaroo is just around the corner. This year's festival will take place on 26th and 27th November, 2011. Please note that the venue has changed and will now be held at Sanskriti Kendra, Anandgram,  Mehrauli Gurgaon Road. The venue is gorgeous and is well connected by the metro. So, mark your calendars, set your alarms and bring your little ones to this amazing festival of books! You can see the schedule for both days here and here.

3. Bangalore Book Fair 

The Bangalore Book Fair is back! Find us at Stall No. 254 at Gayatri Vihar, Palace Grounds, Bangalore. The book fair is on till 27th November, 2011 (between 11am-8pm). See you there!

4. Our Books are Going to the Children's Literature Festival in Pakistan

Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and the Oxford University Press (OUP), in collaboration with Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI) Pakistan, are conducting the Children’s Literature Festival in Lahore on 25th and 26th November, 2011. We are happy to announce that our Urdu and English books will be displayed at the festival. You can read more about the festival here.

5. Bookaroo in the City Reaches about 100 Schools Across Delhi

If you follow this blog often, you know that we have been talking about Bookaroo in the City frequently. A few more days to go before Bookaroo in the City concludes (and Bookaroo begins!). This year we have reached around 100 schools across Delhi in 2 weeks. Phew! A tiring but heart-warming exercise.

We hope that all of you are having a great month and we hope to see you at some of the events mentioned above. Is November turning out to be a great month for you too? Leave us a comment and tell us why. 

Happy November-ing!

Bookaroo in the City (Day 6) : Indu Harikumar

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

As soon as I reached Delhi, I knew that I would be attending Indu Harikumar's session. Having conducted a storytelling session with Indu earlier this year, I knew that we were going to have a great session. While we drove around in circles and tried to locate the Deepalaya school in Okhla, I finally got to see Indu's first book - "How do we weigh Appukuttan?". We finally reached the school and were greeted very warmly by the school staff. They were surprised to see Indu as they had assumed that the author and storyteller was an older person. 

Children from different grades streamed into the vast open space delegated for the storytelling session. Indu started the session by reading from her own book. The kids jumped in to guess the identity of the person (in this case - an animal) being described. They scrambled a little closer to take a look at the illustrations and were delighted to learn how an elephant was weighed. I know that one of Indu's favourite books published by us is 'Annual Haircut Day'. She chose to read from this book and had the kids giggling by the end of the story. This story has always been a hit with kids.

When the kids were asked if they knew any stories and wanted to share them with their classmates, several kids volunteered. We heard story after story (some kids even wanted to tell more than one story!). Inspired by all these stories, the Bookaroo volunteer Shashank also decided to tell the kids a story. He remixed the 'Lenny and Tweek' story he had heard at an earlier session and talked to the kids about friendship. 

Soon, we jumped from stories to singing. Indu flipped pages and showed them the gorgeous illustrations from the book 'Geet ka Kamal' (published by Eklavya). The story about a man who was searching for a song had all the kids reciting lines after Indu. With the help of a young child who was reading with Indu, the students were soon singing a funny song. One could see other kids peep out of their own classrooms with curiosity. 

After this session, we left for the session at Deepalaya school in Sheikh Sarai. This school was also hard to locate. Nevertheless, we reached way before time and surprised the staff. We waited in the car for a while before we were led to the entrance of the school and were pleasantly greeted by girls who sang a welcome song for us. 

Soon, we were in a class full of 6th and 7th graders. The kids were older than the kids at the previous session. We wondered if the stories would be too simple for them. But, that was certainly not the case. If you have a good storyteller, even a simple story transforms into a magical one. The children didn't hesitate in guessing the endings of the stories. The kids were asked to share stories again and we found a few brilliant storytellers among this group too. 

The volunteer Shashank stepped up to share a story too but then decided to get the kids to create a story themselves. With cues from the children, the framework of the story had been set. There would be two friends. The story would include elements of friendship, toys, games, fights, love and Facebook! Yes, Facebook too!  With each sentence provided by the kids, Shashank weaved a story in a few minutes.

Pallavi from Teamworks and Poulomi from Essar Foundation also joined this session and were equally entertained by stories told by Indu and Shashank and the wit of the children.

It was interesting to see how these sessions had different types of storytellers - the main storyteller and the inspired storytellers! 

You can also read Pallavi's account of this session here.

You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

One Nation Reading Together

Our friends at Scholastic sent us an email about the 'One Nation Reading Together' programme. They also sent us the lovely reading pledge that was created by Ranjit Lal.

About the programme (via Scholastic India)

Scholastic India invites you and your students to join schools all across the country on Friday, 25 November 2011 to celebrate the pleasures of reading. 
 One Nation Reading Together is an annual event, where children in schools across the country will spend 30 minutes (preferably at 12 noon) on the designated day reading for fun, and doing other activities that celebrate reading as a pleasurable and enriching experience.
In 2010, an estimated 850 schools around the country participated in this event. They read the specially written reading pledge and celebrated reading as a pleasurable and enjoyable activity. 
In 2011, we are proud to announce that the reading pledge has been written by the award-winning author Ranjit Lal.  
Over 6000 schools across the country have been invited to participate in this exciting event. One Nation Reading Together is also about granting access to books to children who normally do not have access to them.  For every school that participates in the event, Scholastic India will donate 100 books to the library of a needy school. 
(Please click on the image for a larger view)

(Please click on the image for a larger view)

Will you and your students be celebrating the joy of reading too?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bookaroo in the City (Day 4) : Tapas Guha and Suvidha Mistry

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Volunteer Urvashi Das writes about the session conducted by Tapas Guha (via Bookaroo blog) ...
After an absolutely sleepless night I fished for any excuse to get out of today’s session. In my insomniac state I helplessly failed and found myself staring into space. As my alarm screeched at me I still lay in bed. Then some strange energy overtook me. I leapt out, brushed, bathed, dressed, drank my cup of coffee and I was still sleep deprived but ready for the day.
The house number of Tapas Guha on my sheet made me nervous. 1332. But with the very able Mr. Sukhdev driving me around, I cannot, not be on time,like ever. Little had I known, my talent too has his sunrise later than today’s unavoidable one. 
After that, everything that followed seemed to happen in a flash of lightening. When it was over, it didn’t seem enough. One could tell from the faces of the little 8th graders that they wanted more. It was easy to see why. After all they were the lucky ones who not only got to interact with the brilliant Tapas Guha but also miss class. Oh the lost charm of being in a school! 
I speak not only for my today’s visit to Kendriya Vidyalay but also for the other sessions I attended, the talent the children exhibited was amazing. Bookaroo and all the story tellers, illustrators and the musicians involved with Bookaroo who choose to give these children their time and show them a world which they were unaware of, has in my mind broadened their horizon at least in some infinitesimal way. I’d say Bookaroo has in many ways achieved what it aimed at. 
Inhibitions however do seem to take a toll on the children. I can’t forget the blank anxious expression on their faces when they were asked to “have fun with cartoon characters”. There was a look of need for some purpose behind having to draw a cartoon. They failed to understand why they were made to draw something which wasn’t going to get graded! 
Only if you dare to be a little aimless, a little daring and just try anything on your own can you achieve something. That is my staunch belief! Could they have had a more meaningfully purposeless time? I’m in no doubt that the 8th standard children of Kendriya Vidyalay, Masjid Moth had a Children’s Day that they will remember. I’m glad they saw a different face of education. And I am glad I overcame my sleep attack!

Volunteer Iswarya Subbiah writes about the session conducted by Suvidha Mistry (via Bookaroo blog) ... 
Much before we’re introduced to the world of letters, we are introduced to the world of pictures. And this is what illustrator Suvidha Mistry was trying to remind the children of M.C.D School, Indra Nagar on 14 th November. As children grow up, the emphasis is often taken away from pictures and focused on words. Ms. Mistry tried to coax the children into bringing their imagination to life through the media of illustration instead of writing. Through two sessions, one with boys and the other with girls, she managed to get everyone involved in artistically expressing their creativity. 
The children were extremely happy to take some time away from studies to know that one could learn something very important using just paper and crayons. Mrs. Mistry encouraged the children to use their imagination in their art, and gently persuaded to think outside the box. 
The children responded enthusiastically to all that she said. The most important message that children took away from the session is that pictures can be as significant or powerful as words. And I’m sure the next time they are asked to write a story in class, they’ll take time out to illustrate it too!
You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Bookaroo in the City (Day 3) : Jose Louise and Ranjit Lal

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Volunteer Jit Banerjee writes about the storytelling session conducted by Jose Louise (via Bookaroo blog) ...
For the first time I went to a private school as a Bookaroo volunteer and there was a marked difference in the experience. My talent for the day was Jose Louise, who has been the most interesting person I have accompanied so far. Mr. Louise trains forest guards to combat wild animals for a living! 
I picked him up from his Noida office at 8 in the morning and headed for Rohini and the Venkateshwara Global School. It was a long journey from one end of NCR to the other but I wasn’t complaining. Mr.Louise was endlessly entertaining and freely shared his experiences of belonging to the beautiful symbiosis of nature and development that is Kerala and his experiences rescuing snakes and training wildlife personnel in the densest of jungles. 

On my way I called the Principal who gave us precise directions to the school and inspite of a minor traffic situation and a major crazy-driver situation we reached the School on time. 
Venkateshwara Global School has the plush appeal that is typical of schools of its kind. It was a pleasant experience meeting the staff there who welcomed us and accompanied us to the children who were sitting in neat rows in a room on the third floor. Mr. Jose Louise’s credentials and professional interest in snakes was enough to hook the children to the session. 
Mr.Louise was charismatic and informative at the same time. He referred to his friend Janki Lenin’s book on King Cobras and enthralled the children with his fun facts about snakes. The children were exceptionally responsive and grilled him with incessant questions. Finally, we had to request the teachers to announce that we were out of time. A quick goodbye to the Principal and handing over of posters and fliers neatly wrapped up the session.

Iswarya Subbiah writes about the session conducted by Ranjit Lal (via Bookaroo blog) ...
Every kid who has ever read a story has at some point wondered what it would be like to write one. The children of KV Lawrence Road, Keshavpuram had the delight of listening to author Ranjit Lal on 11th November on precisely this topic. Mr. Lal spoke to the children about literature and the importance of reading in every child’s life. He insisted that a good reading habit and a wild imagination are the cornerstones to every author. The children listened in rapt attention as he described to them what went through his head while writing his own books, detailing everything that an author needs to take into account like the ending, a plot twist, the title etc. 
After the session, Mr. Lal was met with many enthusiastic questions. Though it took some time for the children to open up, once the ice was broken, the children had one question after another for Mr. Lal, who was only too happy to oblige. 
All in all, the session was a major success, with the kids learning much about the nuances of writing. Something which I’m sure will hold them in good stead all their lives.
You can read all the Bookaroo in the City blog posts here. You can also view more pictures here.

Bookaroo in the City (Day 3) : Anupa Lal and Tanya Luther Agarwal

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Anupa Lal writes about her own storytelling session at MCD School, Karol Bagh ... (via Bookaroo blog)
The 11th morning of the 11th month of 2011 saw me setting out – on behalf of Bookaroo in the City – for the Ahata Thakurdas M.C.D. Primary School for girls located in Karol Bagh, New Delhi.
Rajesh Khar from Pratham Books joined me there.
This school is tucked away in one of several narrow lanes bordering the Sarai Rohilla railway station. I was reminded of a time when one could take a leisurely walk down almost any of Delhi’s lanes or roads without fear of being pushed around, honked at or run over. How times have changed ! 
The little girls seated expectantly on a dari, welcoming me with friendly smiles, were from classes 1 to 5. After every story I told them, I stopped to ask if they wanted me to continue. Young kids are honest. If they don’t want to hear you any more, they tell you. Since these little girls kept nodding, I told them 4 stories and didn’t try their patience any further!
An interaction with children can often be tiring, but it is a most satisfying kind of tiredness. 
After a pleasant chat with the Principal and teachers of the school, Rajesh and I left, plunging once again into the chaos and cacophony of modern Delhi.


 Volunteer Urvashi Das writes about the session conducted by Tanya Luther Agarwal (via Bookaroo blog) ...

“Words are beautiful” she wrote on a ruled piece of paper evidently torn from a school notebook extended to her by a little girl asking for an autograph. 
You know you have a brilliant session when the children cheered gleefully and other kids popped their heads out of their classroom windows to listen to the speaker, intrigued by her story.

The story Tanya Luther Agarwal narrated to the 6th and 7th graders of Kendriya Vidyalay Air Force Station was “Jungle Brew”. A very interesting take on how the world’s first cup of “masala chai” came to be created. 
The children sat on the concrete, restless,entertained, amused, excited, some moved away from a friend for talking too much, others distracted by my camera. Sitting in columns dressed in an uniform white, grey and navy, with red ribbons in the girls’ hair adding a touch of colour.

When the session ended the children surrounded Tanya Luther Agarwal like a swarm of bees, flooding her with questions and asking for autographs. And I couldn’t understand why I was asked to sign autographs too!
You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Bookaroo in the City (Day 2) : Shveta Kalyanwala and I. Lakshmi

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Volunteer Faraz Rizvi shares a short note and some pictures from the session conducted by Shveta Kalyanwala ... (via Bookaroo blog
The children enjoyed the session very much, listening keenly to the story. As a matter of fact, according to their coordinator it was the first time that the children sat there for such a long time without moving!

Volunteer Divya shares her experience of the session with I. Lakshmi ... (via Bookaroo blog)

Mrs. I. Laxmi made her debut today as a storyteller at Andhra School, Pushp Vihar, New Delhi. A content translator who speaks English, Hindi, Telugu, Oriya and Bengali, Laxmi is extremely fond of kids and of course, books written for kids. This was surely evident in the way she mesmerized the kids with her stories – perfectly packaged in sweet motherliness and ready laughter. 
She says, “Comic situations are a great way of keeping children focused till the end. It’s even better if you can show them amusing illustrations.” Laxmi mostly used Telugu picture books published by Pratham Books. It was refreshing to see less of unnecessary animated gestures and role playing (and over acting) that has become the norm for storytellers these days, and more of traditional storytelling with vivid descriptions of characters and intervals between a story to discuss a particular scene or situation. The way the kids got lost in a story and then suddenly jumped into the real world to share their thoughts with Laxmi, and then gradually got lost again in the story … it was almost as if a child sitting in his mother’s lap was trying to prevent the cherished story-time from ending by asking more and more questions. Don’t believe me? See the pictures and you will know! 
Laxmi told me that it was Pratham Books who encouraged her to participate in Bookaroo in the City. “At first, I didn’t think I could do it, but now, after the session, I have to say I loved it.” Well, I guess, this is what Bookaroo is all about: encouraging new talent who can inspire kids to discover the wonderful world of books. 
I wish good luck to Laxmi and, as the Andhra School children said, please do come back again, Ma’am – we want more stories!
You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

Bookaroo in the City (Day 5) : Premola Ghose

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Premola Ghose's session was the first session I was attending after arriving in Delhi. As I found my way to the Kendriya Vidyalay in INA Colony, I couldn't help but think about all the wonderful sessions that were conducted through last year's Bookaroo in the City. This year we were reaching out to more schools and children. Bookaroo in the City was growing!

Since I reached a little earlier than the author, I had the chance of watching the school prepare for the event. Everyone was excited about this event. This was the first time that Bookaroo in the City was coming to their school. The teachers scrambled around, making last minute arrangements. The session was held in the library. As the children streamed into the library, Premola and her friend Poonam Sahni entered the room. 

Premola chose to read from her book 'Tales of Historic Delhi'. As she read from the book, children were taken on a tour of Delhi. As the retinue of animals in the book travelled across Delhi, describing the sights, the children imagined the places they had only heard of. Premola also showcased the images from her book through a PPT, giving the children a glimpse into the world she was talking about. Though the children had visited the most famous sights, many of them did not know the history behind these sights. Premola invited some of the children to share their experiences and talk about the monuments they had visited. Poonam Sahni, the co-publisher of the book, also joined in to take the children on a tour of historic Delhi. 

Premola and Poonam crafted a quiz based on the illustrations from the book. The library was buzzing with voices as the kids tried to guess the names of the historic monuments.

As we sipped on hot tea and munched on pakoras after the session, I couldn't be happier to be back for Bookaroo in the City.

P.S - I also found out how Siri Fort got its name. Gruesome story! Look it up or read  'Tales of Historic Delhi' to find out.

You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.