Thursday, October 30, 2014

Early Education as Topic of $1 Million Hult Prize

Wonderful to hear that Bill Clinton has chosen 'Early Education' as a topic for the $1 Million Hult Prize. We've been reading a lot about the ASER reports and learning levels of kids in India and this prize will definitely be a motivation for those who want to improve learning in this space.

The international prize, named for Swedish billionaire Bertil Hult, goes to university students competing for a chance to launch their socially conscious business plan. Clinton is a "key partner" for the prize and is in charge of selecting the subject of the challenge each year. Last year, 11,000 teams submitted ideas for tackling health care in what they termed "urban slums." The year before that it was the global food crisis. Before that, energy poverty. You get the idea.

Prize administrators expect about 10,000 applicants to submit ideas for companies that would tackle the issue of early learning in impoverished urban areas around the world. After several rounds of competition, six teams will be named finalists, and one of them will win the 2015 Hult prize at the next Clinton Global Initiative conference.

"The challenge specifically asks teams to build sustainable and scalable social enterprises to address the early-childhood education gap in kids 0-6 years old," according to the Hult Prize website.

And in case some of our readers decide to take on this challenge and need content, we've got a lot of Creative Commons licensed content that you can use for free (with attribution of course). Get in touch with us if you want to use our content for this project (or any other awesome project) you are creating.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Learning Gap

Tina Rosenberg talks about the education system, the ASER report and children getting left behind in India.

School attendance is rising nearly everywhere. In India, for example, 96 percent of school-age children are enrolled — in part due to a 2009 law making education free and compulsory for children ages 6 to 14. India is winning the battle to get children into school.

But it is losing the war: Only some of these children are getting an education.

We know this mainly because of the tests done by the volunteers. Their report is called ASER, the Annual Status of Education Report (“aser” also means “impact” in Hindi), which is now in its 10th year. 

ASER is more than a survey. By making children’s learning visible to parents, teachers and policymakers, it has become a mobilizing force for better-quality education. It has helped to turn the government’s focus beyond enrollment, toward learning. 

Rukmini Banerji, who leads the ASER, says Pratham’s evidence shows that the most important reason is something else: By law in India, the teacher must cover the entire year’s formal curriculum. 

“When the fourth-grade teacher uses the fourth-grade textbook, you’re eliminating 80 percent of the class,” Banerji said. 

Someone sitting in a fourth-grade classroom who can’t read a simple sentence will be lost on the first day — and never catch up. “The learning curve is flat.”

Testing children at home not only catches a more representative sample, it creates ASER’s impact. When children don’t go to school, it’s visible. When they go to school but don’t learn, it’s invisible. “That children are in school but not learning is a very new realization for parents as well as policymakers,” Banerji said. “Parents don’t know about this — even those who can read themselves. They assume that in school means O.K.”

Read the entire article.

Image Source : Pratham Books (from the book 'Going Home', Illustrated by Santosh Pujari and Ketan Raut).

Vayu, the Wind - Now in French!

Earlier this month, we were pleasantly surprised to find a Dutch and Marathi animated version of our book 'The Moon and the Cap'. The team at Book Box has added another book of ours to the gang of 'Little Bookboxers' - and this time in French!

Au revoir! Nous partons pour apprendre une nouvelle langue*

More animated books are waiting for you at :
The Moon and the Cap (English)
Bunty and Bubbly (English)
Vayu, the Wind (English)
Too Much Noise (English)
The Moon and the Cap (Marathi)

 (*Google translate tells us that this is the way to say ' Good bye.! We are off to learn a new language)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stop the Analysing!

magnifying glass
Does excessive analysis of books put kids off reading? Author Frank Cottrell Boyce thinks it may just do that.

Cottrell Boyce recounts one experience when he read aloud in a school. “There’s a humbling, Homeric magic in the sight of a crowd of children sitting down waiting to listen to your story.”

After he read his story, he recalls, a young, newly qualified teacher addressed the children. “She said: ‘We’re going to use our listening skills to try and spot his wow words and his connectives so that we can appreciate how he builds the story.’

“Time and time again I come across teachers reading a story and then asking immediately for some kind of feedback. A piece of ‘creative writing’ ‘inspired by’ the story. Some opinions about character and wow words. Something to show the parents or the school inspectors.

“It pollutes the reading experience by bringing something transactional in to play. It destroys pleasure.”

Pleasure in reading, Cottrell Boyce will say, is deeply important. “Pleasure is a profound and potent form of attention, a kind of slow thinking.”

He continues: “When I offer you a story I don’t want you to come back to me with a description of how I did it. I don’t think of my reader as a trainee writer. I’m hoping that it stays in your mind and comes out in different ways I could never have predicted – as an engineering idea, as a cake, as a hug that you give your dad.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Getting Kids to Read

Sayoi Basu shares a list of things to do (and not to do) to encourage the little reader in your house.

Via The Petticoat Journal

First of all, I think the most damaging thing about getting kids to read is that parents encourage it. We read since our families discouraged it—I remember an aunt complaining vociferously to my mum that I was reading romantic novels at age ten—and kids like to do what families disapprove of. So if parents and teachers stop talking about how essential it is to read, more kids might want to pick up a book.

Of course the thing about picking up a book is that kids need to pick it up themselves. Maybe I am just an inept parent, but I find that my son will read the books he wants to read (found in bookshops, recommended by friends) and not usually what I recommend. (There are a few exceptions to this!) So if you want your kids to read, let them pick what they are reading—comics, fiction, motorcycle magazines. 

What is important is that they realize that pleasure can be found between the pages of a book, or that the iBooks app is as cool as the other apps on the iPad.

If you want to persuade your child to read, you suggest books to him or her which might fit in with what he or she is interested in. Do not attempt to foist books that you might have read as a child, or—even worse—books that attempt to teach things (unless of course your child likes non-fiction!). In the best books, the message or lesson, if any, is so deeply woven into the fabric of the book that it is hard to articulate. But messages do not need to be articulated—they are absorbed any way! And children have far more subtlety of comprehension than we tend to give them credit for.

Read the entire article.

Image Source : Pratham Books (from the book 'Going to Buy a Book', Illustrated by Santosh Pujari)

"70% Children Couldn’t Read a Story"

Children Reading Pratham Books and Akshara
Uma Vishnu accompanies an ASER team to a village in Rampur, a district in UP with some of the worst learning levels in the country, to see what it is to read. 

Maurya is with a team of volunteers that is conducting a household survey for NGO Pratham’s Annual Survey of Education Report or ASER, one of the most definitive barometers of learning levels among children between 3 and 16. This is the survey that has been telling us, year after year since 2005, that much of India can’t read and do basic math, that schooling is not the same as learning, and that the country needs to get its basics right. 

“Only two of the children we have surveyed so far have managed to read the paragraph,” says Dubey, leaving Radha Devi’s house. 

The Right to Education Act, 2009, managed to get children to school, pushing up enrolment levels and making sure schools were held accountable for their infrastructure — playgrounds, toilets, kitchens — but it had no way of ensuring learning levels improved. As ASER first found out in 2011, levels of reading and math had, in fact, dropped in many states since the RTE came into effect. In 2008, the proportion of children in Class III who could read a Class I text was 50.4 per cent, but that dipped to nearly 40.2 per cent in 2013. “Kusum must have been in Class V when the RTE came into effect. Since the Act did away with exams and assessments and said children can’t be held back, she must have gone all the way up to Class IX, without ever being tested,” says Sunil.

“Our reports are not a way to say the government doesn’t do its job. It’s more important that the government sees there is a problem. Once you do that, solutions are not hard to come by,” says ASER Director Rukmini Banerji. Over the years, ASER has proposed simple solutions such as grouping children across grades based on their learning levels. “For instance, if there are children who can’t identify alphabets in Classes I, II and III, bring them all together and teach them. That’s how Bihar’s Mission Gunvatta, for instance, works,” says Ranajit Bhattacharyya of the ASER Centre. 

On the way out of the village, Maurya does a quick, back-of the-envelope calculation. “Of the 39 children we surveyed yesterday, only 12 could read a story, 2 could read paragraphs, 3 could read words, 10 only identified letters and 11 were at the beginners’ stage. That means, 70 per cent children couldn’t read a story,” he says. 

That’s where this story begins.

Image Source : Pratham Books

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Story Time or Screen Time?

the tech kid's version of a book and a flashlight. #iPad #iBooks #booknerd #techie #babyluv
Douglas Quenqua asks if ' e-reading to your toddler story time, or simply screen time?'

At a time when reading increasingly means swiping pages on a device, and app stores are bursting with reading programs and learning games aimed at infants and preschoolers, which bit of guidance should parents heed? The answer, researchers say, is not yet entirely clear. “We know how children learn to read,” said Kyle Snow, the applied research director at the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “But we don’t know how that process will be affected by digital technology.” Part of the problem is the newness of the devices. Tablets and e-readers have not been in widespread use long enough for the sorts of extended studies that will reveal their effects on learning.

“There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child,” High said. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”

In a 2013 study, researchers found that children aged three to five years whose parents read to them from an electronic book had lower reading comprehension than children whose parents used traditional books. Part of the reason, they said, was that parents and children using an electronic device spent more time focusing on the device itself than on the story (a conclusion shared by at least two other studies).

“What we’re really after in reading to our children is behaviour that sparks a conversation,” said Dr Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple and co-author of the 2013 study. “But if that book has things that disrupt the conversation, like a game plopped right in the middle of the story, then it’s not offering you the same advantages as an old-fashioned book.” 

Of course, e-book publishers and app developers point to interactivity as an educational advantage, not a distraction.

A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin in 2013 found that two-year-olds learned words faster when using an interactive app as opposed to one that required no action. But when it comes to learning language, researchers say, no piece of technology can substitute for a live instructor - even if the child appears to be paying close attention.

Even if screen time is here to stay as a part of American childhood, good old-fashioned books seem unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Parents note that there is an emotional component to paper-and-ink storybooks that, so far, does not seem to extend to their electronic counterparts, however engaging.

Image Source : rashida s. mar b.

Book Review: The Elephant Bird

Seema Khinnavar reviews our book 'The Elephant Bird' on the Between the Lines website. This book has been written by Arefa Tehsin and illustrated by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja.

‘The Elephant Bird’ is an appealing story about Munia, a village girl who walks with a slight limp, and her adventures with The Elephant Bird. 

The book’s vibrant illustrations are an instant draw. The artists have paid close attention to detail. Upon looking closely, you will be pleasantly surprised to spot little mice, spiders, bees and birds following little Munia’s adventure through the colourful landscape.

The book has been recommended for children who can read independently. Although the story line is simple, the tale has been told in a complicated manner, due to which, the illustrations rob the child’s attention from the main story. However, once the story has been explained the child reads the book again with renewed enthusiasm.

The beauty of the book lies in the underlining reference to the fact that the human race would not hesitate to get rid of natural heritage for the sake of personal gain.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Make Diwali Special with Pratham Books

Diwali is almost here. The festival of lights, togetherness, prosperity and celebrations! Diwali is also about making others feel loved by gifting them something they will cherish.

Gift the little ones around you one of our special festive packs. Our books will take them to new places, introduce them to new characters and cultures and fuel their imagination. Offered at an attractive discounted price, these packs are available in 8 languages (including bilinguals). 

Gift children a box of experience this Diwali. 

Click here to buy our festive packs.

Illustration by Priya Kuriyan.

We've Been Nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

This week, we've been sharing a lot of exciting news with our readers. From being content for Worldreader's “E-Books For All” Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to having our work selected for inclusion in the 2014 Library of Congress Literacy Awards ‘Best Practices’ publication - we've had many reasons to celebrate.  Earlier this week, we heard that we've also been nominated for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA).

197 candidates from 61 countries are nominated to the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2015. ALMA is considered the largest prize for children's and young adult literature and is given to outstanding authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters in the memory of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, most known for her children's book Pippi Longstocking.

We are also happy to announce that the other Indian organizations nominated this time are Tara Katha, Tara Books, Tulika Books and A & A Book Trust. It feels great to be recognized as promoters of reading among children. You can see the entire list of candidates here

The 2015 laureate will be announced on 31 March 2015. Thank you friends, for being with us while we get our kids reading in every part of India!

Sahitya Akademi Books To Be Available at Two Metro stations

Great to hear that books Sahitya Akademi Books will soon be available at two metro stations in Delhi.

Via Business Standard

Book lovers will soon be able to buy books published by the Sahitya Akademi at two Metro stations, following inking of an MoU Wednesday.

The stations will be Kashmere Gate and Vishwa Vidyalaya.

As part of the agreement, Delhi Metro will allot space of suitable size at the two stations to the Sahitya Akademi, an organisation committed to promoting Indian literature, for opening bookshops for a period of three years.

"Sahitya Akademi will offer a discount of 15 percent on sale price of books to all genuine Metro commuters on display of Delhi Metro smart cards at the proposed book shops," the statement said.

Additionally, the bookshops will allow the display and sale of Delhi Metro publications.

"Similarly, Delhi Metro will be provided space for setting up stalls for the promotion of smart cards during book fairs/exhibitions organised by Sahitya Akademi."

Hoping that more pop-up bookstores offering a wide range of books by multiple publishers also start popping up across other metro stations.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mala Kumar on the Rupaiya Paisa Series

Found a video of our author and editor Mala Kumar talking about the Rupaiya-Paisa series.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Book With No Pictures

Here's a little video that had my colleague Mala and me giggling this afternoon

At once perfectly simple and ingeniously imaginative, The Book With No Pictures inspires laughter every time it is opened, creating a warm and joyous experience to share—and introducing young children to the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief and delight.

Pratham Books' Work Included in 'Best Practices' Publication by 2014 Library of Congress Literacy Awards

We are thrilled to share that Pratham Books has been selected for inclusion in the 2014 Library of Congress Literacy Awards ‘Best Practices’ publication. Though we did not win the award, it is an honour to find a mention amongst other awesome organizations.  Submission for the awards arrived from organizations in 23 U.S. states and 30 countries. 

This year's awards went to Room to Read, SMART, Mother Child Education Foundation - a big round of congratulations to all of them!

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards were first announced in January 2013 as a program to help support organizations working to alleviate the problems of illiteracy both in the United States and worldwide. The awards seek to reward those organizations that have been doing exemplary, innovative and easily replicable work over a sustained period of time and to encourage new groups, organizations and individuals to become involved. 
"The winning organizations, along with more than a dozen others, are contributing information about their best practices to a publication that will offer ideas for replicating aspects of their programs." 
A “Best Practices” publication was produced to highlight outstanding work of the organizations that applied for awards in 2014.

Pratham Books' work has been profiled under 'addressing social barriers to literacy'.

Please click on the image for a larger view

Please click on the image for a larger view
Read the Best Practices publication to learn about our work as well as the work done by many other organizations. Innovation Challenge: India


The Innovation Challenge in India supports’s vision of a connected world by recognizing those who are working to make the internet more relevant to women, students, farmers and migrant workers in India. Our goal with this challenge is to encourage the development of apps, websites and online services that provide real value for the members of these important communities.


One Innovation Challenge Award prize in the amount of $250,000 USD will be presented to the app, website or service that the judges determine best meets the needs of one of the four designated population categories: women, students, farmers and migrant workers (four awards total). Each of the Innovation Challenge Award winners will also be eligible to receive a package of tools and services worth up to $60,000 USD from Facebook's FbStart program.

In addition, two apps, websites or services designed for each of the four specified population categories will receive an Impact Award prize in the amount of $25,000 USD (eight awards total).


All entries must be received by January 31, 2015. Winners will be announced at Mobile World Congress, which will take place during the first week of March 2015.

Click here for more details.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review : My Two Great-Grandmothers

The Saffron Tree blog carried a review by Arthi Anand of our book  'My two great-grandmothers'

Arthi writes ...

This Pratham Books story revolves around a charming and perceptive young girl, the product of an inter-racial marriage. She has two great-grandmothers from two very different worlds. While she has never seen the paternal one who lives in Gambia, she is fortunate to meet the Norwegian great-grandmother occasionally.

The grand old ladies build and enjoy a rapport with their little great grand child. While one sings and narrates old tales, the other manages to connect over the phone, despite a language barrier.

The book works at two levels:

1. It celebrates mutli cultural differences and ageless relationships.

2. Old age and death are difficult to explain to little kids, but this story can come in useful in such discussions and that too, in a non-tragic way.

Kids over six years should find they can read the book confidently, but the poetry in the relationships shared, can be enjoyed across ages.

The art is full of soul and makes you feel you have met the characters.

Pratham Books is Part of Worldreader's “E-Books For All” Clinton Global Initiative Commitment

As we work on getting more and more of our books under Creative Commons licences to make them freely available, we are also exploring partnerships that will take our books to children in India and across the world. Worldreader, a global not-for-profit organization that aims to put a library of digital books in the hands of children and families across the world has already put many of our books on their e-readers and app.

Now, we have even more cause for celebration as Worldreader recently announced their “E-Books For All” commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative event.

With the “E-Books For All” commitment, Worldreader plans to provide more than 5 million people with access to digital books so that they can improve their lives and their communities.  
To achieve its Commitment goals, Worldreader has brought together a powerful array of partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Pratham Books, Kenya’s Longhorn Publishers, and Microsoft Mobile.  
"Pratham Books has printed over 11 million books in 10 Indian languages and in English,” said Suzanne Singh, Chairperson, Pratham Books. “Our partnership with Worldreader will further enhance people’s lives as our openly-licensed books will be available in digital format to children in India and the rest of the world.” 
"There are more cell phones on the planet than toothbrushes, and every one of them can become a library. Worldreader is bringing together publishers, device manufacturers, mobile carriers, teachers, children and communities together so that every person on the planet has access to books to improve their lives," said David Risher, CEO and Co-Founder of Worldreader. "Through our work to date and our Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action we hope to improve millions of lives and create an ecosystem of reading that lasts forever".
We are delighted to be supporting their efforts and furthering our mission of “a book in every child’s hand” by providing our openly licensed books in several Indian languages.


About the Clinton Global Initiative
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 180 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date, members of the CGI community have made more than 2,900 commitments, which are already improving the lives of more than 430 million people in over 180 countries.

How Technology Allowed Me to Read

Months after he was born, in 1948, Ron McCallum became blind. In this charming, moving talk, he shows how he is able to read -- and celebrates the progression of clever tools and adaptive computer technologies that make it possible. With their help, and that of generous volunteers, he's become a lawyer, an academic, and, most of all, a voracious reader. Welcome to the blind reading revolution.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What is Literature For?

In this wonderful animated essay, they extol the value of books in expanding our circle of empathy, validating and ennobling our inner life, and fortifying us against the paralyzing fear of failure.

Literature deserves its prestige for one reason above all others — because it’s a tool to help us live and die with a little bit more wisdom, goodness, and sanity.

Chhuk Chhuk Chaak... Comes the Train

At Pratham Books, we get to hear several stories of what happened when people decided to use oone of our books. This story (by Krystal) was unusual. Why? Because the whole story is in rhyme :)

The Bard is back to tell a tale;
That starts and ends with a long, long ‘rail’

To set the context before she starts,
Let her explain these few brief parts:

For KathaVana great prep was done,
A lot you can imagine was on the run!

For one of the sessions, the Bard did choose;
a book about a girl who wanted to draw ‘choo-choos’!

A book so simply done by Pratham (publishers);
Our rating for it is definitely a raised thumb!

Head over to the Bookworm Goa blog to find out what happens.

Image Courtesy : Niju Mohan for Bookworm Goa

Saturday, October 11, 2014

And the Nobel Prize Goes To ...

The 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded  to French author Patrick Modiano.

The Swedish Academy gave the 8 million kronor (USD 1.1 million) prize to Modiano "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation."  
Modiano, 69, whose novel "Missing Person" won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1978 was born in a west Paris suburb two months after World War II ended in Europe in July 1945. His father was of Jewish Italian origins and met his Belgian actress mother during the occupation of Paris.
Jewishness, the Nazi occupation and loss of identity are recurrent themes in his novels, which include 1968's "La Place de l'Etoile" later hailed in Germany as a key Post-Holocaust work.

He has published more than 40 works in French, some of which have been translated into English, including "Ring of Roads: A Novel," ''Villa Triste," ''A Trace of Malice," and "Honeymoon."
He has also written children's books and film scripts and made the 1974 feature movie "Lacombe, Lucien" with director Louis Malle.

We are also thrilled that the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was won by Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi. More power to people working for children's rights and education.

Via the guardian
In a statement, the Nobel committee said: “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. 
“This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.” 
Satyarthi, the Nobel committee said, had maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests. 
“Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the committee said. “He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fun with Fishing - at the BLF-Pratham Books Outreach Programme

Come Friday, the 26th of September '14 and it was time for some jolly good fun for the little second, third and fourth graders at the Bangalore International School. Little did they know the kind of fun that was in store for them.

It was a butterflies-in-the-stomach-but-still-very-excited morning for Soumya Menon, illustrator of "My fish!" "No, my fish!" and me. But our nervousness was all but forgotten as soon as we entered the school. Colours, colours and some more beautiful colours was all we could see as we made our way in. The school had a very soothing effect owing to the murals on the walls, pretty drawings and fun captions/quotes on the bulletin board. 

The two sessions (a part of BLF-Pratham Books Outreach Programme) comprised of a very excited young audience, quick to question and quick to laugh. The overhead projector was the magician that made the storytelling session of "My fish!" "No, my fish!" come alive. The kids were very eager and attentive to what was being shown and couldn't wait to see what happened next. Despite their eagerness, nothing escaped their sharp eyes. While some sided with the naughty boys, Choru and Kicchu, some others were with Muniya. A few others with naughty looks on their faces pitied the cat, for he had missed his treat too! 

Soumya's fish puppets had the children squealing with delight and one little boy cheekily asked how the three fish were living out of the water! :P

Too much noise was made when 'Too much noise' was projected on the screen with kids sympathising with Sringeri Srinivas and voting for the cows too wearing headphones!

Soumya rounded the session with an illustration activity leading to different versions of Choru, Kicchu, Muniya and the three fish.

Some kids promised to keep the three clever fish in mind if and when they went fishing next. They preferred a good fish-dish over being fish-tricked!

Read about all the fun we had at the BLF-Pratham Books Outreach Programme sessions :
Sangeetha Kadur and Mala Kumar talk about seasons, wildlife, lassi and pakodas

And don't miss reading about :
Justice Seth’s Session at This Year’s Bangalore Literature Festival

Do Not Read This

My colleague Yamini shared this excellent campaign from the folks at Room to Read. Room to Read has an unusual challenge for you - go on, click on the video!

Pair with : Five Most Effective Ways to Keep Children Out of Your School Library

Contest for a Cause - Participate and Donate Books to Schools

We are thrilled that this year's Contest for a Cause is going to take our books to schools across India. If you've loved our books, want to use your talent, win a contest as well as donate your prize to a school in need, here's your opportunity.

About Contest for a Cause
C4C (Contest for a Cause) is a National Art-Technology Fest, the first of its kind, conducted by Team Everest during Daan Utsav. It is a 50 day contest that aims to provide a platform to people across the country to exhibit their artistic skills through an array of competitions to promote volunteerism.

100% of the prize money won by the volunteers goes to a social cause.

Team Everest has taken the ‘Book Bucket Challenge’ as their cause for C4C 2014 and will be setting up 100 libraries across India using the Prize money.

Ways in which you can participate:
  • Poster design
  • Drawing
  • Story Writing
  • Photography
  • Short Film
The C4C contests are conducted in 3 Categories:
  • School (All Standards) 
  • College (UG & PG) 
  • Others (All other age groups)
1st prize winners in each category win Rs.20,000; 2nd prize winners in each category win Rs.10,000, 3rd prize winners in each category win Rs.5000. The prize money will be directly spent on Education related social causes. Team Everest will provide a list of social causes across India. The winners can choose a cause of their choice from this list to sponsor their C4C prize money.

The last date for submission of entries is 21st November.

About Team Everest:
Team Everest is an NGO started in 2006 with its focus on promoting volunteerism in India. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Moon and the Cap - Now in Dutch and Marathi

Four of our books are already part of the 'Little BookBoxers' series. Today, we discovered that one of our books is also available in two new language versions - Dutch and Marathi!

Watch this playful Marathi version of the book:

And pick up some Dutch through the following video :

Click here to watch : The Moon and the Cap (English), Bunty and Bubbly (English), Vayu, the Wind (English), Too Much Noise (English)

About the Little Bookboxer'sseries : 

The series by Bookbox aims to provide simple and fun stories for toddlers (2 to 4 year olds) who have just started reading and learning languages. The Same Language Subtitling (SLS) helps improve reading and language learning subconsciously.

Visit the BookBox website to learn more about the work they do.

Constitution Can Be Fun! – Justice Seth’s Session at This Year’s BLF

It was a full house. Not the bright sun and neither the distance of the venue from the main city deterred the enthusiastic children who gathered at the Bangalore Literature Festival on the Saturday morning of 27th September. After all, it was no small deal. It was probably one of those rare chances when one could meet and listen to former Justice Leila Seth read out a part of her book.

Justice Leila Seth was the first woman judge on the Delhi High Court and the first woman to become Chief Justice of a High Court. She is also the mother of the famed author, Vikram Seth.

‘We the Children’, written by Justice Leila Seth and illustrated by the late Bindia Thapar, made the relatively dry subject of citizenship palatable. At the BLF session, Justice read out from the Hindi version of the book called ‘Hum Bharat Ke Bachhe, Hamara Savindhaan ki Uddeshika’ published by Pratham Books.

Justice Seth started the session with an ice-breaker asking kids how old they think she was. Some said, 70, some even said 100! When she told them she was born when the British were still in India, there were some gasps from the audience. The kids were extra attentive, now that the seniority of the speaker was firmly established. 

Justice Seth proceeded by talking about how the Constitution came into being and who helped in shaping it up. She told the kids how proud she felt when she touched the actual book that is the Indian Constitution, safely harboured in the Library of the Indian Parliament in Delhi. Her entire session had a splattering of stories, both funny and insightful. Children were especially in splits when she narrated how the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was in such a hurry to sign the Preamble that he didn't leave any space for the President to sign. 

She also took some questions from the young audience. The questions ranged from some innocent ones about the national Flag and our Independence day to some deep ones about the need and role of the Constitution in our country.

The session ended with her reciting a poem from the book, followed by the children.She also signed all the books that the guests wanted to get signed at the author's lounge with great patience, always with a smile.

I, for one, was absolutely stumped by the energy and passion of Justice Leila Seth at the age of 84. She was at the venue before time, met and spoke with everyone who wanted to have a word, conducted the entire session standing up and refused any help or assistance of any kind. I may have finally found my role model.

The book is available for sale in 5 languages. Buy the book.

A full house
Justice Seth in action
Audience interaction

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Meet the Author and Illustrator : Madhuri Purandare

Madhuri Purandare - author and illustrator
Sandhya Taksale, editor (Pratham Books), interviewed Madhuri Purandare - the author and illustrator of 'Daddy's Mo' and 'Aunty Jui's Baby.

Our author and illustrator, Madhuri Purandare received the prestigious  Sahitya Academi award for her contribution to children's literature. 

Madhuri is quite a well-known children's author. She has written and illustrated more than 23 story 
books. She has conceived, edited 'Vaachu Aanande' –a thematic anthology of Marathi literature and Indian Art for children between 10 to 15 years of age. Because of her keen interest in language and grammar, she authored a three-volume book containing a series of Marathi language exercises for school children

Although we know her as a children's author, Madhuri has amazing dimensions to her personality. She is an accomplished singer; she has a degree from JJ school of Arts. She also studied 'Painting and Graphic Arts' in Paris for one year. She illustrates and designs her own books. She was active in Marathi theatre and had a stint with films. In Govind Nihalan's 'Ardhasatya' she played a small role and gave playback for a song in 'Aakrosh'. Madhuri has left her mark in almost all fields of art. She knows French and taught it for 18 years. She has worked on many French- Marathi translations. She edited a bi-monthly for the 'Vanasthali' Rural Development Centre. 

Currently she is Chief Art advisor to Su- Darshan Art gallery in Pune. 

You were busy doing lot of things in various fields at that time. What made you write for children?

I didn't have any plans for writing for children. Among many other things, I was also editing a bi-monthly called Vanasthali. It was for Balwadi teachers in rural areas. We thought that it is necessary to give something for children to read. I started searching. I knew French. So initially I adapted some stories from that language. Then I started thinking story as a format. It was through sheer necessity that I started writing and illustrating my stories. Till then, actually I hadn't done anything for children. 

For early readers, I make up stories from simple and every day events from Child's life. They could easily connect with their surrounding. Classics could be introduced to children after a certain age. 

Your stories are always from the child's point of view. You put yourself in their shoes and look at things around. What makes it possible? You don't even seem to mix up with kids often.

Kids are not my part of life. I am not surrounded by them or don't mix up or interact with them either. 

But I observe. 

When I watch the world cinema, I am interested in what way and how child looks at a particular situation. When I read good children's literature, I always read it from the child's angle. How the child must be looking at it, how she gets to understand things while reading and so on. 

Could you give any example?

'The Little Prince' a novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. (It was voted the best book of the 20th century in France.) In this story the world is seen through the eyes of a child. It is interesting to see the way he uses the language, the command over the technique of storytelling and an eye for the detail.

The Marathi language you use in your stories is quite remarkable. It is quite simple and has its own charm. Particularly, it doesn't have that artificial sweetness and attitude that authors often use when they are writing for children. 

I use simple words. Construct the sentence in such a way that child could read it without stumbling. You have to understand- which words they might know and when and how to introduce a new word. It is boring when child has to go back and refer earlier sentences to understand the meaning. 

But let me make it clear. Simple doesn't mean childish. Don't underestimate the kids. Many people think that if they are writing for kids they have to use childish language. 

You have also written for Young Adults. Any specific reason?

I feel that there is not enough literature for young adults in Marathi. That age is very sensitive. Many 
more authors should write for young adults. 

Your book 'Aunty Jui's Baby' is a story in a typical manner. In the sense, it has a plot – story with beginning, middle and end. On the contrary, 'Daddy's Mo' is not a story in a traditional sense. But children love it. It exercises child's fantasy and imagination. How did you select this unusual topic? 

What are the things that kids love of their father? I wanted to avoid routine activities Papa does for the kids. For example, taking them to park, bringing toys and many other things. This Papa is different. He fries Pakodas , knows origam , makes children laugh. Kids have a fascination for moustaches but it has hardly been used as a story topic. Kids love to imagine things around it. 

One Papa rang up and told me, "My daughter is fan of this book and made it compulsory for me to grow a moustache!!"

What are you working on next?

It is a story book for 5 to 8 years old. The theme is neighbors. The term neighbor has wider meaning. 
Even the Kirana shop keeper near the corner is a neighbor. Want to introduce different type of people 
including a single parent.

You can buy Madhuri's books by clicking on the following links:
'Daddy's Mo'
'Aunty Jui's Baby.

Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators

Image Source : Pratham Books

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How Books Can Open Your Mind

What happens when a dream you've held since childhood ... doesn't come true? As Lisa Bu adjusted to a new life in the United States, she turned to books to expand her mind and create a new path for herself. She shares her unique approach to reading in this lovely, personal talk about the magic of books.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Diving into a Digital Universe - Part 2

It's mostly during my commute to work that I people-watch. I'm always struck by the number of people who are engaging with their mobile phones in one way or another. Sometimes, while riding on the Metro train, I find myself bending sideways just to get a glimpse of what is keeping them glued to their phones. I know, I know, it's terrible to be so nosy, but I can't help it!

I recently read a UNESCO report that touches upon the socio-economic benefits of increased reading on mobile phones and it made me feel infinitely better about our new companions spreading like wildfire: “Although many parts of the world are book-poor, these same places are increasingly mobile-phone rich. Today, the United Nations estimates that 6 billion people have access to a working mobile phone and over 90 percent of the population is blanketed by a mobile network. Due to the ubiquity of mobile devices, UNESCO is investigating how they can be leveraged to advance literacy. The data connectivity fees required to read an open-access book on a mobile phone can be as little as 2 or 3 cents, while the cost of a comparable paper-and-ink book is often 10 USD. This means that mobile reading can be 300 to 500 times cheaper than reading books in a physical format. Mobile books are also typically easier to distribute, easier to update, and, in some instances, more convenient than paper-and-ink alternatives.”

Predictably, arguments centred around the Print versus Digital debate have been flying about in publishing circles. Last year, at the Digital Minds Conference, bestselling author Neil Gaiman said, “People ask me what my predictions are for publishing and how digital is changing things and I tell them my only real prediction is that is it's all changing. Amazon, Google and all of those things probably aren't the enemy. The enemy right now is simply refusing to understand that the world is changing." But then there are also others like Maurice Sendak (author and illustrator of popular classic 'Where the Wild Things Are' who passed away in 2012) who had intensely disliked the very idea of e-books.

All this made us at Pratham Books curious about how authors and illustrators closer home feel about the changing form of the book – from print to digital. So we asked a few of our favourite creative folk, and here's what they said:

Roopa Pai, Author
I wasn't so sure about the digital space until I was gifted (a hand-me-down) an older version of the Kindle about 8 months ago. For the first two months, I didn't even use it. But when I eventually came around to using it and downloaded my very first book, I loved it! Incidentally, I was also shifting houses around the time and ended up giving away a whole bunch of books to Blossoms. I'm not a hoarder, so this was a liberating experience! There are a lot of things I love about the Kindle. There are no distracting updates, there is no backlight - it's essentially just like a book. Also, books are much cheaper on it and so much more accessible. You can buy it instantly! I think e-books are a huge blessing for Indian children's authors because it's very rarely - and erratically - that our books get stocked in Indian bookstores. Digitizing books also makes it easier for the global reading audience to access these books. I don't think the format of the book really matters as long as children are comfortable reading it.

Archana Sreenivasan, Illustrator

Tablet and mobile devices open up whole new ways of presenting and consuming content, and personally, I’m very excited about the possibilities. I enjoy reading/experiencing content that is well designed for its medium, and that includes a good old-fashioned book. Having said that, I think that storytelling in the digital medium is still in a nascent stage of development, especially in India. These digital ‘books’ are not really books anymore. They’re new, hybrid creatures that could be a mixture of book, film and game. And the crux of creating the right experience is probably getting the balance right, because it's very easy to get lost in the possibilities, or on the other hand simply port the traditional book format onto a digital device as-is, just adding a few page swipes. I haven’t had the opportunity to fully engage in a project of this kind, but it could be a very interesting and challenging space to work in.

Click here to read Part 1 in the 'Diving into a Digital Universe' series. And find out about Pratham Books' journey into the digital universe.