Friday, November 14, 2014

Inclusion in Children's Literature

Storytelling at Akshara Foundation
Photo by Akshara Foundation

For Children's Day, we are sharing Usha Mukunda's lovely article on the element of inclusion in children's literature

The benefits and advantages of reading cannot be reiterated often enough. Against this reality, it is imperative that all children of all persuasions and abilities have access to reading material. However mere access is not enough. There must be access to books of good content, facilitators who can ensure access and who will also provide an open space for children to talk about their observations and responses to books.  
Inclusion must be on an equal footing. It is not the inclusion of a lesser with a greater. It is to do with being on par. So it is absolutely essential for all children to read and know about each others’ lives, situations and particularities.
When a child reads a book, she relates to it in various ways. The theme and plot catch her fancy, there is strong identification with a character or two, the illustrations strike a chord in her mind and the language seems to mirror her thoughts. At the end of the reading it is highly probable that an unconscious reflective process has begun.
On the topic of equalising elements in children's literature, Usha lists out several elements - multiplicity of languages, settings, characters, art; avoiding stereotyping; leaving things unsaid at times; access and affordability, etc.
1. Multiplicity of languages is essential.With the number of languages thrumming through the states of India, it is laudable that Eklavya has taken the bold step of publishing books, not only in mainstream languages like Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Urdu and Chattisgarhi but also in Malwi (spoken in Malwa region of MP), Bundelkhandi (spoken in Bundelkhand region of MP), Gondi, Korku (both tribal languages with huge populations in MP), and very recently in Kunkna. (a tribal language spoken in southern Gujarat) Other publishers like Pratham and Tulika also cover a large number of languages. 
6. Different themes.So far authors and publishers have taken on relatively ‘safe’ themes. Ponni the flower seller and Babu the hotel waiter by Tara Publishers are a good start, no doubt, but how about A day in the life of Lakshmi the Hijra or of a disabled child ? Anveshihas tackled a tough theme in The Sackclothman where a young girl going through the trauma of a family tragedy reaches out to a mentally disturbed adult. It begs the question of what we would have done in a similar situation. ’ 
‘9. Ease of access and affordability.NBT and Pratham Books have made a significant contribution in this area with their book fairs in remote places and their low cost books.

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