Friday, May 31, 2013

A fun way for kids to learn all about 'Rupaiya Paisa'

When should children start learning about money? Should children get pocket money? Is it okay to pay a child for doing a simple chore? Does that amount to child labour. Journalist, author and Pratham Books editor Mala Kumar says she thinks so much about all these things that she finally decided to learn about these things - and hence, wrote the four books in the Rupaiya Paisa Series. Manisha Chaudhry caught up with the author who confesses she used to find writing out a bank slip stressful!

The author, Mala Kumar reading the 'Rupaiya Paisa' series to children in Hoskote, Bangalore

1) How did the idea of a series on financial literacy for children germinate?
As Pratham Books evolved and saw more of its readers, one of the areas that we wanted to touch was financial literacy. We were very keen to create books to engage children in understanding the world of finance. Schools do touch upon this, but finance is such an intrinsic part of the child's life that we felt they needed to be empowered with knowledge as early as possible. There are more than 200 million children in the country who need good and joyful books to get them reading more, and to empower them as future citizens. The 'Rupaiya Paisa' series is a small, and hopefully, a  significant attempt in that direction.

2) Share the process of developing these books. How long did it take you to write them? What changed along the way?

The first thing we decided was to involve the experts. Vijay Mahajan of BASIX, an organization involved with microfinance and training at the grassroots readily agreed to work with us, and to the credit of Basix, a senior team engaged with us in a two day write-shop.Since I attended the workshop, it seemed appropriate that I write the books - as an editor and Pratham Books I knew the audience well. And as a freelance journalist, I could compile the large chunks of information generated at the workshop and through my research into easily digestible books.

We started planning the books as fictional stories with characters and a plot. After just one chapter my team and I knew that this was not working. The fiction was coming in the way of the facts and concepts. Hence we decided to do it in the non-fiction mode, with many little stories and situations to explain the concepts. The writing took two years, since I did this after working hours. We went through several drafts and worked on suggestions from many people.

Once the illustrations started, there was a constant back and forth on the text too. If a part had been illustrated and was thus self-explanatory, I would cut or edit the text. These changes continued almost till the end. 

We are very proud of the four books that have come out of that, and hope to use this model to create much more gap-filling content for children. There are more than 200 million children in the country who need good and joyful books to get them reading more, and to empower them as future citizens. The 'Rupaiya Paisa' series is a small, but we hope significant attempt in that direction.

3) What role did the illustrators play?
Deepa Balsavar, the illustrator, and Priti Rajwade the designer, were in constant touch with me. We had several rounds of phone calls where we decided what needed to be illustrated. Since the subject is tough we relied heavily on the illustrations to lighten the matter.

4) Was it difficult to choose what to keep and what to leave out?
Yes, it was quite a challenge. Like in most subjects, there is always more information that an author wants to share with her readers. But in this case, the challenge was to make the books easy to read, and we had to keep our own finances in would have been counter productive to write longer books and price them higher! At the same time, the greed was to pack in as much value into the series as possible so that the children -  and through them, their families - could be better informed about finance.

5) What did you learn from writing these books?
Well, honestly I can now say I am finally financially literate! You see, finance is not my subject, nor has it interested me till I started writing these books. As a daughter of an accounts officer, and the wife of a banking professional, I've never had to make financial decisions! The other thing I learnt is that we need such books for children, rooted in their reality.

6) Something funny that happened while you were working on them...?
Confession time - till we all moved to Internet banking, writing out a challan in my friendly neighbourhood bank used to be a  stressful thing for me - I always felt I would make mistakes that would somehow make banks crash, and that my incompetency in all things financial was evident to all the people at the bank. Words like Payee used to confuse me. And then recently, an old bank officer met me and said, "Nice to hear that you have written books on finance!"

The other thing that made us all laugh was when we started suggesting names for the series. I can't share the names now, but we came up with some awful ones and some great ones!

The set of four books in this series cost Rs. 160 only. They can be bought from the Pratham Books eStore.

blog comments powered by Disqus