Monday, May 21, 2012

Book-ed Tales

Neatly stacked books on the shelf sit patiently, waiting to tell their stories. They embrace within their covers childhood tales that go beyond regional, linguistic, and social-economic boundaries.

Welcome to the world of stories, weaved specially for children. On Wednesday evening, as the book 'Aunty Jui’s Baby', written by Madhuri Purandare, was released in five languages, one could see how tales can grip any audience. Over 70 kids sat listening to the story, and later indulged in an interactive drawing session. Organised by Pratham Books, this was just one in a series of book-related activities that this not- for-profit organisation has been undertaking.

Established in 2004, the organisation works with the sole purpose of ensuring that there's a book in every child’s hand. “Stories are integral to growing up,” says Sandhya Taksale, editor, Pratham Books, Pune. “We believe that though there are provisions and systems to ensure education to kids, story books do not really reach every child. They are expensive or there is a language issue. Pratham Books was founded to bridge this gap. Our sole aim is to make story books affordable and easy to access.”

The organisation's head office is in Bengaluru. In Pune, Taksale and a few volunteers run the organisation. On their portfolio are more than 215 titles in English. But Taksale believes it’s their regional language books that really make a difference. "A sense of identity is ensured if a child can read a story in his own mother tongue. More often than not, regional language books do not cater to children’s books, and if they do, they are difficult to procure. When translated books are wrapped in catchy book covers, illustrations and elaborate drawings, a child feels like reading them."

Purvi Shah, brand manager, Pratham Books is quick to furnish the organisation’s reach with numbers. “Most of our books are priced below Rs 25. We have printed over 8.5 million books, 10 million story cards and touched a readership of 25 million. But there's still a long way to go – 200 million children in India still grow up without stories.” 

Availability of story books in regional languages has also made sure that story -telling in languages like Urdu gets a face lift. “Often the only material in Urdu is based on religion. Apart from that, nothing else is available. If you look at the language, it is so liberal. We have introduced several translations in Urdu too.” 

An interesting initiative of Pratham is the 'Creative Commons'. Under this project, translated books are put up on the Internet for free access to all. “It's amazing, once we made our resources available online, the distance they traveled. We've had books translated into languages we didn't know, our audio books have been used as teaching tools by volunteers teaching underprivileged children in their neighbourhood, and our books are being converted into Braille,” says a proud Shah.

NOTE : The article states 'An interesting initiative of Pratham is the 'Creative Commons''. 
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. We (Pratham Books) license some of our books under Creative Commons licenses. We haven't started an initiative called 'Creative Commons'. For more information on Creative Commons, visit

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