Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Suzanne Singh's Interview with Not Just Publishing : On Pratham Books, Reading, Publishing and More ...

Sunil Patki of Not Just Publishing interviews Suzanne Singh, Managing Trustee of Pratham Books.
In conversation with NJP, Suzanne shares the not-so-known facts about Pratham Books. Her statement, “Over a period of time, we started to understand and recognize people who believed that a social cause can be a driver in itself. And I think, everybody at Pratham Books believes in the cause,” clearly defines the commitment. 
“A book in every child’s hand” is the mission of Pratham Books and Suzanne believes that it is not impossible.
Watch this four part interview to learn more about the work we do.

(In case you can't view the videos here, please click on the following links to view them : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Visit Not Just Publishing for more interviews with Indian publishers.

Pratham Books Champion : Arundhati Chattopadhyaya

As part of the International Year of the Forest, we were running the 'Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow' campaign. We asked our AWESOME community if they would be volunteer to become aPratham Books Champion and conduct storytelling sessions based on the book "A King Cobra's Summer'. And again, our friends volunteered eagerly. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Arundhati Chattopadhyaya who conducted a storytelling session at Hamara School in Goa. Arundhati Chattopadhyaya, a graduate of St. Xavier’s College, began her dance career in Bombay. She mastered the Pandanallur style of Bharata Natyam from Guru Raghavan Nair. She was part of the Marathi Theatre group Aniket and mostly acted in experimental plays. After bagging the Maharashtra State Award for Acting in 1974 she moved to New York City where she began teaching and performing dance and acting in off-Broadway theater productions. In 1987 she began documentary and feature filmmaking. Arundhati currently lives and works in Goa.

Arundhati writes about her storytelling experience ...

The book reading was highly appreciated. As i told you before this bunch is pretty savvy to the king cobra and they absolutely loved the illustrations. Activity afterwards was a quiz, a snake bite enactment
and drawing .... seemed the right ending for this group. 

The kids had a great time listening to your book. The love angle was much appreciated by the young teenagers and the perils and adventures kept them guessing what was going to happen to our hero. I enacted the python eating sequence and they were wide eyed and completely silent. They found Kaala sleeping in the farmers bathroom hilarious (different kinds of screams were enacted). They knew quite a bit about eyes turning milky and skin shedding. The girls wanted to know if the male has one partner or many/how many babies come out of each egg. They liked the elephant sequence and Nilgiri langurs (we did an entire orchestra of their alarm calls). How typical can you be? The boys loved the territorial fight sequence.

We divided the group into 2 sections. Girlz/Boyz and the quiz started.
The questions included :
Height of Kaala
Where did he live
How many days did he hide in the tree hole?
What do you call a snakes poison?
How many eggs laid by Kaala's mom?
Snakes shedding its skin another word (moulting)
Teeth called?
can a snake hear?
The different egg shells ( soft and hard)

ACTIVITY 2 : Enactment of a snake bite and treatment met with it. 
I connected this scenario with the friendly farmer in the book Once an innocent king cobra had entered a farm house, but the people were not sensitive as the farmers family in the book and they tried to catch the king cobra in a horrible manner and the snake got so upset, he turned around and showed his irritation by biting a farmer. So what do you do in a situation like this? The kids knew the correct way of treating a snake bite (amazing)

So we did a mini skit. The opening of the skit a girl is running around saying a snake has bitten  her. Another person comes and ties her wrist very tight and makes it worse. A third person comes with a  blade and says they should cut it off. The fourth person says she should be taken to a baba, his  mantras will cure her. Fifth person brings hot tea. Finally a dupatta appears and a loose tourniquet is administered and the person is taken to the hospital. You have to remain calm and reach the hospital for
antivenin. Each time the wrong move was done all the kids would shout NO. A little kid called the ambulance and made the sound and everyone joined him. Call 108

ACTIVITY 3 : Drawing 
We had Xeroxed Kaala's picture and kids could write what they felt about the story or color it . Little ones colored it and I have to collect the older ones assessment.

Thank you Arundhati 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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Via Moonbot Studios

Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

The story of Mr. Lessmore is a simple one. We meet Morris quietly writing his book, when a freak storm uproots him and his city, Wizard of Oz-style, leaving behind not even the words on a printed page. While picking up the pieces, he meets a friendly book that leads him to a new home and life. It is a wordless story about words and stories.

A Small Reminder

Whooooosh ... this month seems to have passed by so quickly! We've been busy at the Jaipur Literature Festival, the Urdu Kitaab Mela and more. But, the one thing that everyone seems to be talking about is - THE CALENDAR! So many people who've received our calendar have been sending us the most lovely comments about it. 

So, here's a little reminder that it isn't too late to order a copy

Our Green Calendar is an initiative carried out in the International Year of the Forest 2011 as a part of our "Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow" campaign to spread awareness among children about the importance of conservation. Printed on lovely eco-friendly paper and designed by Priya Kuriyan, this colourful calendar can be used to mark important dates - such as birthdays, exam dates, and dates for positive conservation activities like planting a sapling, watering a roadside plant, closing a leaking tap, running a race to support a green cause, and so on! Fill this calendar with green ideas, note down little tips and ideas that will help us make this world a better place.

What’s more, all proceeds from the calendar sale will be used to buy books for Pratham Books Champions’ (read more about them here), who in turn will spread the joy of reading to children in their communities. Your gesture will thus bring us closer towards our mission of putting “a book in every child’s hand”!

Click here to order your copy.

Priya Kuriyan also shared a few spreads from the calendar on her blog. View more images of the calendar here.

One of our illustrators, Sonal Goyal, was so happy with her calendar that she even sent us a sweet little hug ...

Thank you all for showering us with so much love! Have a magical year ahead.

Friday, January 27, 2012

IFA's Art Education Conference

Via Kali Kalisu

Over the past three years, IFA, in partnership with the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, has intensively focused on the empowerment of the school teacher under one of its major funding programmes, Arts Education. This far-reaching initiative called ‘Kali-Kalisu’ has brought multi-pronged Arts Education workshops to over 500 teachers in rural and small-town Karnataka.

As an extension to this project, the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan and IFA are jointly hosting a major Arts Education Conference on 3rd and 4th of February, 2012, at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore.Participation in the Arts Education Conference is open to key stakeholders in Arts Education in India and abroad. Artists, teachers, educationists, policy makers, donors and organisations interested in issues related to diversity and social justice. 

Please read the concept note that can be downloaded here.

Click here for more details. View the entire schedule here.

Pratham Books Champion : Abhinav Agarwal

As part of the International Year of the Forest, we were running the 'Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow' campaign. We asked our AWESOME community if they would be volunteer to become a Pratham Books Champion and conduct storytelling sessions based on the book "A King Cobra's Summer'. And again, our friends volunteered eagerly. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Abhinav Agarwal who conducted a storytelling session in Bangalore. Abhinav is a software engineer by profession and works atOracle India. He is a post-graduate from IIM Bangalore. Bangalore has been his home for close to 10 years now. When not reading stories to his children, he reads books, takes photos, and puts them all on his blog at http://blog.abhinavagarwal.net His other likes are Hindi music and retro Hindi movies.

Abhinav wrote about his storytelling experience on his blog ...

On a bright Sunday morning on Dec 18, at 9:30AM, our small apartment complex library opened up, and the kids started trooping in - seven of them. All excited by the prospect of a story-telling session and the chance to do some drawing too. At the very outset I had to remind the kids, gently, without dashing their hopes, that we would "try to draw" something from the book after the reading, and that I could not guarantee any sort of decent results. I have the equivalent of "two left-feet" when it comes to drawing. I also have two left feet when it comes to dancing, so both abilities sort of complement each other. Kids being kids, all they wanted a good story and an opportunity to spread color on canvas.

This whole episode had started a couple of weeks earlier, when I had emailed Pratham Books, asking them whether I could volunteer to be a book reader for their soon-to-be-launched book, "A King Cobra's Summer", written by Janki Lenin and illustrated by Maya Ramaswamy, and be what they call a "Pratham Books Champion",an honor to be sure, since I lay no claim to being a champion. They readily accepted. Maya from Pratham Books called back and spoke with me, and a few days later the book had arrived by mail. The first order of business was for me to read the book. Which I did. In half an hour I had gone from cover to cover. I was quite taken in by the high-quality printing, the gorgeous use of colors, and the easy-to-understand prose, and how the story weaved a rich tapestry of information about the king cobra within its pages.

On the Sunday, after the children had all gathered, over the next 45 minutes we spent a very interactive 45 minutes (see - no point in wasting even a single minute) going over the book. Rather than make it a one-way aural street, I had breaks every five minutes or so, asking the children questions about Kalaa. Of course, the kids had questions of their own that couldn't wait even those five minutes! Right on the first-page, where we are told that king cobras grow to over 15 feet in length, one way to bring this length alive for the children was to tell them that 15 feet would have meant placing four kids on top of another - give or take a few feet. Or that 15 feet would have been almost the entire length of the library room. You know that children have 'got' it when you hear the appreciative 'ooh' and 'aahs' from them!

The part where Kaala gulps down the python elicited a few 'eews', and rightly so. One should peel the skin before eating it, right? Don't we peel the skin of a banana before wolfing it down? See, right there there was a distinction to be made between humans and animals, or in this case, reptiles.

A swift 45 minutes later, it was time to start with the drawing, and to bring out the Raja Ravi Verma in all. Or so went the wistful hope. 

The portraits of Kaala on pages 2 and 20 were quit similar, and in the end we selected the one on page 2 to draw. It also looked the easier of the two. Once the outline had been drawn, the children went about tracing the outline with a black sketch pen, and then started filling in the colors.

What you see on the whiteboard down is my own attempt at fleeting artistic immortality. The book lies at the foot of the whiteboard with its pages opened to the pages.

By about 11AM or so we had decided to wind up - the children had shared a very enjoyable 90 minutes listening to, participating, and then drawing from the lovely book, A King Cobra's Summer.

Kudos to Pratham Books and their amazing team for everything. Their books are informative. They are educational. And they are entertaining. And they are cheap. I kid you not. And that's not even a pun. The books are very affordable, and here's to them coming closer every single day to their aim of getting a book into every child's hands.

Thank you Abhinav 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.

Sutradhar’s Open Forum - “Language and Literacy”

Via an email sent by Sutradhar

Sutradhar invites you to an Open Forum on ’Language and Literacy’ on 3rd February (Friday), at 4 p.m.

Venue: Ashirwad, St Mark’s Road, the lane opposite State Bank of India.

Time: 4 - 6.30 pm (Tea will be served at 3.45 pm.)

Language learning lies at the heart of the schooling experience. Understandably so, as language enables children to acquire other skills and proficiencies, and helps them comprehend the world. Many children encounter an unfamiliar medium of instruction when they start attending school. This can be an alienating experience, more so when the home is unable to step in and provide the necessary support. Children who flounder with the school language tend to fare poorly in other domains, and their self-esteem and social interactions are often inhibited.

A few individuals have explored the complexity of how children learn language, and how a rich culture for learning language can be nurtured. The Open Forum is an occasion to learn from their experience.

The akshara heritage: Research about how children learn to read has predominantly been with regard to the English language. Less in known about Indian languages that use the akshara symbols as a writing system. Sonali Nag, Newton International Fellow at the University of York, U.K., and founder of The Promise Foundation, Bangalore, will speak about her work with the akshara languages. The akshara is quite unlike the English alphabet in its form and logic, and Sonali’s work is documenting how these differences shape children’s cognition and the teaching of language. Recitation, writing practice, memorising all manner of materials, nuanced engagement with language and book reading are some of the experiences from classrooms that she will explore in her presentation.

The Karadi Path: The aspiration to learn English cuts across socio-economic groups. Thousands of children and teachers have put in tremendous effort towards this, with minimal results. C.P Viswanath, CEO of the Karadi Tales Company, Chennai, will speak about the Karadi Path – a unique pedagogy that has been developed indigenously, specifically for learners from non-English environments. The programme offers the possibility of becoming fluent in understanding and speaking English in just 60 hours. In contrast to traditional teaching methods that tend to be linear and logical, this approach is organic and multi-sensorial; and combines elements of music, storytelling and action. The premise is that English can be learnt intuitively just like the mother tongue.

The Hippocampus Reading Foundation: Umesh Malhotra, Director of the foundation, will share the evolution of the “Grow by Reading” programme. This programme seeks to initiate and galvanise libraries within schools to promote the reading habit. The programme is sequentially graded at 6 reading levels, with appropriate books for each level. Fun activities that children can do after they read the books motivates them to read and re-read, and spurs their comprehension. The programme offers scaffolding for librarians by way of an initial orientation, a monthly calendar of activities, and periodic meetings. The service is offered in 5 languages, and has been adopted by schools, NGOs and the government of Karnataka.

Visit www.sutradhar.com and place your orders; we will bring your materials to the venue. RSVP Sutradhar at 25288545, 25215191 from Tuesday-Saturday.

India’s Business Books Take Off

Via Hindustan Times
Whether it’s a large chain retailer or the smallest bookstall at an airport departure gate, Indian bookshops all have one thing in common — the predominance of business and management titles. 
English-language biographies of leading business figures and self-help books about how to make a fortune pack the shelves, tapping an apparent thirst for success and self-improvement in the fast-growing South Asian nation. 
“Business books are very important to us,” said Sonal Gandhi, head buyer at the leading chain Crossword, which has 86 stores across India. 
“It’s the more populist ones that really sell. We don’t really do a lot of technical stuff. But we do business management, self-help books, a lot of biographies, which sell a lot,” she told AFP. 
But Nielsen BookScan, which tracks retail sales, said the value of the business publishing sector grew at a rate of more than 25 percent from the second to third quarter of the current financial year. 
The overall market increased at a rate of 18 percent value-wise in the same period.
Nielsen BookScan estimates that it tracks more than a third of all English-language Indian trade book sales, using data from retailers including Landmark, Crossword and the online book, film and music store Flipkart. 
“Business books are important because they command a higher retail price as compared to other genres like fiction or self-help and still generate good volumes because the target audience is upwardly mobile and affluent,” he said. 
“Some business books in hardcover have print runs higher than best-selling fiction titles in the same format.” 
Krishan Chopra, publisher and chief editor non-fiction at HarperCollins India and Collins Business, said the phenomenon mirrors India’s expanding economy, as well as a shift in attitudes towards success and money. 
“It’s part of the growth story,” he said.
Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Republic Day Spirit

This Republic Day, Delhi-based NGO Family Of Disabled (FOD) and Select Citywalk join hands to pay tribute to the soldiers of our country through an exclusive exhibition-cum-sale of original paintings on January 25-26, from 11 am – 11 pm at Central Citywalk. You are also invited to witness the two extremely talented artists with disabilities painting live @ Central Atrium, Select CITYWALK, Saket, New Delhi on January 26 between 12-2 p.m. and 5:30- 8:30pm.

Both the participating artists, Sheela Sharma (from Lucknow), who paints with her toes as she lost both her arms in a train accident, and Shreekant Dube (from Delhi) who couldn’t fulfill his dreams of entering the army as his right arm got amputated due to an accident but trained himself to write and paint with his left hand, are living examples of the Huber Humphrey quote, “It is not what life takes away from you that counts. It’s what you make of what is left with you.” These artists have triumphed over their disabilities and completed their Masters in Arts.

Pratham Book wishes you all a very happy Republic Day!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Visit us at the Kolkata Book Fair

For a listing of all Pratham Books events and book fair participation, please click here.

The Unexpected Inspirations Behind Beloved Children's Books

The Atlantic shares a few of the stories and inspirations behind popular books that we love ...

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Inspiration: A train journey
Complete Harry Potter seriesOne day in 1990, struggling writer Jo Rowling was taking a train from Manchester from London. She’d apparently spent most of the day apartment-hunting up north — she was planning to move to Manchester with her boyfriend — and as she day-dreamed on the journey home, an idea popped into her head: a story about “a scrawny, little black-haired, bespectacled boy.” The only problem was that Rowling didn’t have a pen with her, so she spent the rest of the journey developing the idea in her head, and set to work on what’d become Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) that night.

2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Inspiration: Scary relatives, an inability to draw horses
Fun fact: Where the Wild Things Are was originally going to be called Where the Wild Horses Are. The only problem was that as it transpired, Maurice Sendak couldn’t draw a convincing horse to save his life. In the end, his despairing editor changed the title on the faith that if Sendak couldn’t do horses, he could “at the very least draw ‘a thing.’” The “things” he drew ended up being caricatures of the “hideous” family members who’d visit the young Sendak’s house on a Sunday afternoon. “I drew my relatives,” he admitted to the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “They’re all dead now, so I can tell people.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Going to a Wedding!

Hello, hello hello! We're all off to celebrate a very dear colleague's wedding. He's the guy who has made us all such great believers in Creative Commons, and in sharing our books with the world in many many ways. We've just put a whole lot of books (159 books actually) for free downloads on the International Children's Library site, including the book 'Going to a Wedding'!

Since he is such a tireless advocate of the social online media, what better way of showing our appreciation than by giving him and his bride an online present! Here it is G & S, enjoy this little bouquet of poems when you're done with smiling for the million cameras, and shaking hands with your friends, and tucking into the wedding feast.
For you with love and affection from all of us at Pratham Books! Wishing you both a very happy married life!

This is from the New York Puplic Library, Children's Literature @ NYPL,
I Want to Be Your Personal Penguin: Wedding Readings from Children’s Books by Kristy Raffensberger

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger

The story of a leaf who isn't ready to let go from the tree.
And then, high up on an icy branch, a scarlet flash.
One more leaf holding tight.
"You're here?" called the Little Yellow Leaf.
"I am," said the Little Scarlet Leaf.
"Like me!" said the Little Yellow Leaf.
Neither spoke.
Finally… "Will you?" asked the Little Scarlett Leaf.
"I will!" said the Little Yellow Leaf.
And one, two, three, they let go and soared.

Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton
A penguin pleads his case to a bewildered hippo. (There is also a musical version, sung by Davy Jones from The Monkees.)
I like you a lot.
You're funny and kind.
So let me explain
What I have in mind.
I want to be your personal penguin.
I want to walk right by your side.
I want to be your personal penguin.
I want to travel with you far and wide.

Like Likes Like by Chris Raschka
A lone cat sees pairs of animals and longs to find his mate. But first, he learns to appreciate the wonders that he finds on his search. (The illustrations are integral,it might not work with words alone.)
Unlike the rest. Unlucky, alone.
Ah. Oh. Rows and rows
of roses.
He sees
…a breeze, trees
high, wide skies,
In luck.
Looks like
like likes like.
Oh. How lucky.
Not alone now,
two together,
in rows and rows
of roses.

I Like You by Sandol Stoddard
The many reasons for liking someone.
I like you because
If you find two four-leaf clovers
You give me one
If I find four
I give you two
If we only find three
We keep on looking.
… I like you because if I am mad at you
Then you are mad at me too
It's awful when the other person isn't
They are so nice and hoo-hoo you could
just about punch them in the nose.
… I would go on choosing you
And you would
go on choosing me
Over and over again.

Some Things Go Together by Charlotte Zolotow

Pairs of things that go together.
Pigeons with park
Stars with dark
Sand with sea
and you with me.
… Hats with heads
Pillows with beds
Sky with blue
and me with you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Different Tales : Stories Addressing Issues of Marginalization

While the ideal childhood, often depicted in storybooks, maybe more or less true for children from the middle class, it is not so for those children removed from what we may consider the mainstream – for those less privileged or marginalized. 
These children also go to school, although a majority of them never make it through school. They also read the same textbooks and some of the same storybooks. While the child from the mainstream can identify with the lessons or stories he is reading (as they largely depict his life), the child from the margins of society cannot. There are few stories about this child, no textbook details his life. It is this gap in children’s literature that Different Tales, a series of 13 children’s books telling the stories of children from the marginalized sections of the society seeks to fill. Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies has brought out the Telugu versions of these books, and the Malayalam and English versions have been published by DC Books. 
 But the children depicted in the 13 stories are brave, energetic, determined and confident. The stories in Different Tales are not about victimhood but about how these children manage their lives. They work, play and study all at the same time. These stories are not about conforming to the standard but in a way challenging the existing naturalized literature. Khadeer Babu’sHead Curry (one of the books in the series), for instance, is a story about the pleasure of eating meat, in this case a ram’s head. How often have we heard even a mention, let alone an entire story, of non-vegetarianism in Indian children’s books? 
While the stories in Different Tales are mainly meant to provide the marginalized children strong and powerful images of their lives, their readership is not restricted. These stories are also meant to educate the mainstream children about the lives of children from different backgrounds.
Read the entire article here. You can learn more about the books and buy them here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do Flowers Fly?

Came across this animated video on the state of many schools in our country. A look at how the system curbs imagination and is training kids to learn without really 'learning'. 

Every time I've read one of the posts sent in by the Pratham Books Champions, I am always amazed to see the different ways in which they have conducted the storytelling sessions. Similarly, teachers and parents need to be inspired to go beyond the textbook!

While we are on this subject, you should read this excellent article on the Mommy Labs blog : Are You Facilitating Open-Ended Learning for Your Child?

JLF in the city Meet the Author

Pratham Books is pleased to introduce the “JLF in the city Meet the Author” program for schools. 

It is organized jointly in association with the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival , Pratham Books  and supported by the Tehelka Foundation and the Ministry of Culture.

DSC Jaipur Literature Festival is the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific, and the most prestigious celebration of national and international literature to be held in India. It encompasses a rage of readings, talks, debates, performances, children’s workshops and interactive activities held in the beautiful heritage property, Diggi Palace in Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur.

JLF in the city Meet the Author sessions are organized with an objective of bringing children close to books and provide children an opportunity to interact with visiting authors at the one of the largest festivals in the world - JLF. Children are introduced to the magical and wonderful world of books. We believe that if children get an early taste of reading books for pleasure, their educational journey becomes exciting and full of the joy of discovering things on their own. The habit of reading makes them self motivated learners and books become friends for life.

The literature festival primarily aims at bringing authors and talents in the field of literature from across the globe. We are going to bring some of the children’s authors, book illustrators, performers and artists interact with children in schools under the program.

This part of festival has something for children across the ages of 3-15 years and we believe children enjoy listening to writers and artists share their stories, introduce their work and bring books alive for children. 

The Meet the Author program is being conducted on 18th and 19th January 2012 .

During the festival days the action shifts to the Young Adults’ Workshops on the theme Democracy Dialogues. A Tehelka Foundation initiative, a not for profit Trust that has been working at the intersection of Active Citizenship and Youth Empowerment for the past 7 years, these workshops explore the essence of democracy and seek to promote a culture of public reasoning, even as we create spaces for dissent and dialogue. Registration for these workshops is open at the moment for young adults between the ages of 15 – 18 years. 

Click here to see the schedule of the Jaipur Literature Festival (20th-24th January, 2012).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Find Our Books at the All India Urdu Kitab Mela, Mumbai

The National Council for Promotion of Urdu is having their annual exhibition at Mumbai. You can find our books at :

13th All India Urdu Kitab Mela
Venue: Saboo Siddique Polytecnic Grounds, Byculla Mumbai
Stall No 9.
Dates: 14th Jan 2012 - 22 Jan 2012
Time: 12 noon - 9pm 

So, drop by the stall and jump into a world of stories!

The 13th All India Urdu Kitab Mela organised by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) has a treasure trove of more than 20,000 titles by 60 major Urdu publishers in India. A huge turnout, that comprised of students, teachers, professionals and book lovers, were seen flipping through the pages of their favourite tomes at the Saboo Siddique Engineering College in Byculla on Saturday.

“If the language was on the decline, would thousands be flocking to an event like this,” said lyricist and poet Gulzar, who inaugurated the 9-day book fair. "My only concern is that while Urdu is spoken and understood widely, it is rarely seen in schools or colleges," he added.

The 60-odd stalls at the Kitab Mela display everything from poetry penned by Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal to popular fiction writers like Ibn-e-Safi, Sadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chugtai. One can also find books by contemporary poets and writers such as Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhianvi and Gulzar.

Read the entire article here

Illustration by Ruchi Shah

Book Review : The Timid Train

Please click on the image for a larger view. You can buy the book here.

What Are Kids in India Reading?

An article that appeared in the Hindustan Times in November 2011 gives us a glimpse into children's reading habits in India.
... a survey to get a sense of what urban children aged 3-12 in India's metros are reading and the role parents are playing in shaping the habit. 
The findings are interesting. For instance, 35% children spend an average of 3-5 hours on non-school related reading in a week, 77% parents said their kids read their first book at age 4 or before while 74% parents encourage their kids to read by getting them books home and 14% do so by reading out aloud to them. Parents will rue 'it's not enough', but Anita Roy, children's writer and commissioning editor at Young Zubaan, says the figures are heartening. "Being in this field, I spend 30-40 minutes a day reading for pleasure, so 3-5 hours a week is not bad. It's also nice to learn that the attitude of the parents is encouraging," she says. 
According to the survey, while most kids - 72% - have read the authors (Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Tintin etc) that their parents did, it's the contemporary foreign titles of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Diary of a Wimpy Kid series that are topping their lists. Sci-fi writer Samit Basu feels these titles signal a 'golden age' in children's reading. "Potter, Jackson, Wimpy Kid are all fantastic books. They are well-told stories that work for all ages. Also, they are at the height of global popular culture at this time," he says. In terms of genre, the survey threw up comics as the most popular (25%) followed by adventure (20%), fairy-tales (18%) and sci-fi (16%). 

"Indian writers are writing stories set in their country. No more copying Enid Blyton," says Sen Gupta. Adds Manisha Chaudhry, editor with non-profit Pratham Books, "Whether it's a Paro Anand exploring the Kashmir insurgency or a Siddhartha Sarma grappling with the Assam conflict, Indian writers are taking on tough subjects." 
As the churning continues, some even forecast that the trend will reverse in just few years from now. "Foreign authors may occupy 65-70% of the pie, but five years from now, it'll be the Indian authors taking on the scene," says an optimistic Mago.
Read the entire article here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

International Conference on Book Therapy


Date : 9 - 11 February 2012

Venue : Indian Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, India

Special attraction of the Conference
1 Exhibition of outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities 2010-2011.
2 International Exhibition of Picture Books/ Books to heal.
3 Exhibition from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC), the Indian Section of International Board on Books for Young People (Ind. BBY), is holding a three-day INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON BOOK THERAPY from 9 – 11 February, 2012 at New Delhi, India.

AWIC, founded by Late K. Shankar Pillai in 1981, is a voluntary organization dedicated to the development of creative literature for children and the promotion of reading.

This Conference aims to deliberate upon the therapeutic aspect of literature and the impact of children’s books on the victims of natural calamities and man-made disasters such as war, terrorism, violence, hatred and social injustice.

Book Therapy has a far-reaching impact upon the mental health and all-round personality development of children. It cultivates reading interests, instills positive values and builds hope for the future.

Various sessions of the Conference will include:
- Writing to heal
- Reading to heal
- Activities to heal through books
- The Role of Books in Disaster Management

The Conference offers an excellent opportunity to interact with and share the experiences of eminent speakers, and learn about disaster management in different parts of the world. There will be attractive exhibitions and cultural programmes during the conference.

Click here for more details and to find out about the registration process.

Pratham Books Champion : Arundhati Venkatesh

As part of the International Year of the Forest, we were running the 'Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow' campaign. We asked our AWESOME community if they would be volunteer to become a Pratham Books Champion and conduct storytelling sessions based on the book "A King Cobra's Summer'. And again, our friends volunteered eagerly. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Arundhati Venkatesh who conducted a session in Bangalore. An engineer by degree, an IT professional in her previous life, she now works for an NGO, is an aspiring writer and kid-lit enthusiast, a mother, an observer of life and people, a feminist, a minimalist and a compulsive maker of lists! She is at peace only if she has been productive or learnt something every day. She blogs at http://arundhativ.blogspot.com/. Her journey with books began with Enid Blyton, when she was six. She discovered the joy of reading picture books in her thirties! Arundhati loves being around children as much as she loves books. She believes every child should have the opportunity to explore the world through books. She thinks what Pratham Books is doing is wonderful - producing affordable books in many Indian languages, and on themes that any child in the country will be able to relate to.

Arundhati writes about the storytelling session at the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled ...

As I read the book in preparation for the event, I realised the children at the NGO would love it and relate to it in ways that privileged city-bred kids may not. Combining fact and fiction, it is an interesting read.

I prepared the following activities:
a. The children would have to pick a paper, read a word from the story and act it out (strong, scared, lost, langur, elephant and so on)
b. Pick the odd one out, Match the following, Fill in the missing letter, Find words that rhyme
c. Giant words – they had to combine words from two different sets to make a compound (or giant) word. Eg. king cobra, horn bill, rat snake, sun light 
d. Anagram – make as many words as possible from the title of the book.

I had class 6, twenty five boys and girls eagerly looked forward to the session. One boy said he’d been bitten by a snake and showed me the scar! Since it is quite a long story, I used the illustrations and described the key events in Kannada. They shot questions at me - how long does it take to completely shed the skin? What does it eat? – the book had given me all the answers! The children listened, fascinated. The book worked better than any of the books I have used with these kids so far.

The book provided scope to open up the discussion to –
The king cobra lost his eyesight temporarily during the period he was shedding his skin.
The king cobra could not hear.
His mother starved while she protected her eggs, then went away after the eggs hatched.

After the story, we played the games. They enjoyed making giant words. Meanwhile, the book was passed around. I could see the kids take in the pictures and go over the story.

What everything else fails to do, a book can - bring boys and girls together!

The activity they had the most fun doing, was the anagram. It was amazing to see them come up with word after word. Less than a year ago, these very kids had struggled with phonetics. I told them they had come up with fifty words. We’ll do a hundred, they said. I wasn’t sure that was doable considering they seemed to be running out of ideas. I was delighted as I watched them work collectively towards achieving a common goal. orange, mango, crossing, crane, cream, music, basic, camera, bank, mumbai, menu, memo, socks, uncle... One boy told me his name was there too – Kumar. It was time for lunch but there was no stopping them!

When they reached 90, it felt like Tendulkar was nearing a century! Fittingly, the hundredth word was ‘games’.

Thank you Arundhati 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.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Calendar that Puts a Smile on a Child's Face!

See some pages of the calendar here.

This New Year, gift your child a beautifully designed calendar by Pratham Books. Our Green Calendar is an initiative carried out in the International Year of the Forest 2011 as a part of our "Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow" campaign to spread awareness among children about the importance of conservation. Printed on lovely eco-friendly paper and designed by Priya Kuriyan, this colourful calendar can be used to mark dates for positive conservation activities - such as planting a sapling, watering a roadside plant, closing a leaking tap, running a race to support a green cause, volunteering with an NGO that works with green initiatives and so on! Fill this calendar with green ideas, note down little tips and ideas that will help us make this world a better place.

What’s more, all proceeds from the calendar sale will be used to buy books for Pratham Books Champions’ (read more about them here), who in turn will spread the joy of reading to children in their communities. Your gesture will thus bring us closer towards our mission of putting “a book in every child’s hand”!

The Page Turner

What a fun way to start your morning!

Watching Joseph Herscher's Rube Goldberg machine made me smile. In this interview, the artist defines a Rube Goldberg machine as "a device that accomplishes a simple task in the most complicated way possible". The New York Times carried an interactive description of the machine. Also, watch this interview with Joesph Herscher to learn more about his work.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” 
― Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Jump Into Jilebi Land – The Making of the Story

Last year, we conducted the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest. Participants had to remix a set of pictures from one of our books and create a new story with these pictures. Sruthakeerthy Sriram was the winner in the 'below 16 category'. 

Sruthakeerthy wrote to us and told us how she came up with the story :

It all started when my father informed me about a story writing contest. Not just any story writing contest (as he hastened to tell me). This was one story writing contest which was quite unlike others. At first, I was indifferent. This was just another one of those contests which I frequently participated in. However, by and by, as I found out more about the contest, I realised that it was in reality quite different from other contests. Since it was different, I naturally began to take a lot of interest in it! For one thing, it was an online contest conducted by a children’s publisher. Another thing that appealed to me about the contest was that we weren’t given the topics and asked to write a story (this is the standard thing). Instead, we were provided with pictures and all we had to do was to write a story based on the pictures. I was really excited at this novel way of writing a story. Even the prize was an unusual (though wonderful) one. The winner would see his/her story in the form of a published book!!! This kind of reward was something I had never dreamed of in my wildest dreams and it was the icing on the cake. I decided then and there that come what may, I would take part in this contest. Time was not a problem as the contestants had about one month’s time to submit their story, but I got to work at once with great gusto. 

Then, suddenly, enthusiastic as I was, I realised that I did not know exactly how to go about writing the story, as this was the first time I had taken part in a contest where the story had to be based upon the illustrations. Suddenly, I had a brainwave. My first stop was the computer. I shooed my brother out on the pretext that I wanted to work on my story. Poor guy! (I am being sarcastic) He couldn’t do anything as I had my father’s whole-hearted support. I immediately logged on to the Pratham Books website! Once there, reading some entries of last year’s contest was a piece of cake. I found some of the entries (especially Listen to my Body and Ranju meets Puchee) very entertaining. They were also the solution to my problem. After reading these stories, I got a very clear idea about how to use the pictures to the fullest and write my story. I also downloaded all the pictures. Now, all that remained was to start writing my story. Hmmmmm........... 

As it was the vacation period, the afternoons were long and dreary. But now, I decided to utilise this time for writing my story! Not only would boredom be dispelled, my story would also take shape bit by bit. The first thing to do was to form the general plot of the story. I initially decided to mould my story upon a little girl who is hungry, when an appetizing smell of delicious jilebis reaches her nostrils. She decides to play the detective and follows the smell till it leads to the jilebis. Though I was quite satisfied with the plot when I first began to write my story, I realised towards the latter end that it was just a teeny bit like Noni’s “Listen to My Body”. My parents were of the same opinion and my brother, always ready to detect flaws in anything I do, said the same thing. I tried various ways of modifying my story – pruning it here, adding a little something there but NO! It just didn’t seem right. In the end, I had to reconcile myself to the fact that I would have to make a fresh attempt with a wholly different plot. Unable to bear my brother’s sniggering, I pushed my grey cells to the utmost extent. I was determined to make this second attempt a success.

I wondered what sort of plot to come up with, as I wanted it to be innovative and ingenious. I thought and thought and came to the conclusion that the story should be based on something which was the least conspicuous to write about. JILEBIS!!! I made up my mind to make Jilebis the central characters around which the entire story would revolve. Now, I began to rack my brains about how to create such a story where jilebis would be the central characters. Just at that moment, my brother Raghu walked into the room to begin his routine job of irritating me. I did all that was in my power to oust him from the room but to no avail. Nothing worked – not pleading, not threatening, not cajoling. At other times, he was usually bearable, but now, just when I was concentrating so hard, to have him irritating me was too much! Yet, I knew that if he were not there, I would miss his pranks, his jokes and yes, even his irritating ways! I also realised that I would be very lonely if I had no one to fight with, to support, to love and to irritate. Raghu had unwittingly given me the perfect idea for my story! A child who doesn’t have any siblings, who feels lonely, has a surprising adventure one day and at the end of it all, finally gets an extraordinary companion. That was how Divya came into being. 

Divya was a little girl who lived happily with her interesting friend Fluffy (a cute, furry thing). I decided that my story would be centred on Divya’s first meeting with Fluffy and how she felt before and after she met Fluffy. As I wanted my story to revolve around the jilebis, I created Jilebi Land, which is made up of jibis, jilebis and nothing but jilebis! After that, ideas started pouring out and materialised in the form of Jiligate. I thought about the security guards at the gates of any apartment and decided that instead of a guard, I could have a talking door instead! (there are no people in Jilebi Land). I really enjoyed making up a suitable description for the room where everything including the furniture is made up of jilebis! The strange manner in which Divya and Fluffy meet emphasizes upon Divya’s kindness and also upon the stickiness of Jilebi Land! After some time, all jilebis and nothing else, makes Divya a dull girl. She wants to play, but finds out that she is the first human being to step into Jilebi Land in many years. I coined the term Jill-year by mixing the first half of ‘jilebi’ and ‘year’ together. By this time, I had almost come to the end of my story. I wanted to make sure that I did not end my story abruptly. I decided to end my story with Divya taking Fluffy home with her, as I had started with Divya recalling her first meeting with Fluffy. The main thing was to end it on a happy note!

Keeping both, my fingers AND my toes crossed, I showed the story to my parents a second time. This time, apart from some minor faults, they were delighted with my story. At least the idea was a unique one. They were unanimous on one point. It was definitely better than my first attempt. I pranced around the room. Raghu, though, was of the opinion that it was no better than my first attempt (I never take his opinions into consideration - the pessimist!). After I made the necessary changes, I sent it off – not caring whether I would get a prize or not as all that mattered to me was that my parents had appreciated the effort that I had put in and as I had completely ENJOYED and LOVED writing the story!!!!!!!!!!!

The next few weeks were spent in a fever of excitement, anticipation, and suspense. It became even greater when the date of the results was postponed. However, come it did! It was an evening like any other and I had just started on my homework when my father looked into my room and beckoned mysteriously. I followed him into the computer room wondering what was up. My mother was also inside the room. Without saying a word, my father sat down at the computer and motioned wordlessly at the screen. I glanced at the computer and saw that the Pratham Books website was displayed and the results were out. And I was the winner in the under-16 category!!!!!!! When I first saw my name, I really couldn’t believe that it was true. I had to pinch myself once or twice to convince myself that it was real. Not even in my wildest dreams had I thought that I would actually win. The next few minutes were spent in a sort of dream. It was only after I had conveyed the good news to my relatives and friends that it actually began to sink in. My parents were extremely happy and congratulated me. Even my brother had to admit that it was a great thing that I had won this competition. My mother immediately went into the kitchen to celebrate the occasion with some special sweet dish. Guess what? SWEET, SYRUPY, STICKY, PIPING HOT, DELICIOUS JILEBIS!!!!!!!!! I will never forget that day which was one of the best days of my life.