Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Digital Diaries : What We Say and What We Mean

Purvi Shah sends us news for this week's edition of Digital Diaries (with a little help from Yamini) ...

With StoryWeaver's launch just around the corner, our team's collective voice has gotten louder (it's the excitement, you see) and we often catch our colleagues look at us with a mixture of amusement and confusion. Catch a bit of what has been overheard in the Pratham Books office. 

What we say: “I could publish a child without the root!”
What we mean: For StoryWeaver, we have something in the back-end that allows Pratham Books to bulk upload (many files at once) its content. One windy afternoon, we heard one of the team members yell “I could publish a child without the root!” What this euphoric yell meant was that we could publish a translation of a story even while the original story was under editing! Too complex? Just wait for the StoryWeaver launch – just a few weeks away!

What we say: “What is the expected behaviour?”
What we mean: How the system should behave, as opposed to how the system is behaving. And how do we fix the delta. Too complex? Just wait for the StoryWeaver launch – we're nearly there!

What we say: “Let's just get this baby out!”
What we mean: We'll worry about the minor problems later but for now let's just aim at launching the platform. And one we just did. Haven't looked at our newest baby? Look. Smile. Cuddle. Okay no cuddles but surely you will feel your heart warmer once you engage here: – www.donate-a-book.org.in
The other baby - StoryWeaver – is going to arrive very soon. Wish us luck.

What we say: Ramu – the pdf gulper!
What we mean: Ramu, our newest intern is officially the world's greatest pdf gulper. He has been helping us out with tons of different jobs, one of them being creating pdfs of all our 2000 books to help proofreading for StoryWeaver. And while we continue to ask him if he could make 300 pdfs (within a day), he remains unfazed. Within a few hours, we see that he's completed his task and ready to gulp 300 more!

All this and more action once StoryWeaver launches – just a few weeks away! Watch this space for more details.

Digital Diaries aims to document the ups and downs, the curves and bumps, the little mistakes and big learnings of Pratham Books' exciting journey into the world of digital books, publishing platforms and a lot more.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Journey of a Unique Crowdfunding Platform: Donate-a-Book

Less than 20 hours to go for the launch and I was still making banners and editing the emailers. Time was less and the to-do list wasn't getting any shorter. Will I finish on time? Will we get a good response? Will the website function well? Will we get those promises fulfilled? Have I done enough?

As much as the mind was clouded with these questions, inside there was this dizzy excitement of finally seeing a dream taking a physical shape and that kept me going (along with bottomless cups of Green Tea!).

I started working on Donate-a-Book platform since the day I joined Pratham Books. It was one of the two big digital projects Pratham Books had in the pipeline.The project was really close to the organisation's mission, that of building a Reading India by making books accessible to thousands of Indian children who love to read in their language.

In the long decade that Pratham Books has invested in creating exciting, engaging stories for children, in Indian languages, and building a system that creates access to them, we came to realise that nonprofits and schools working with children are always willing to start and expand reading programs and libraries but either don't have the funds, or need to utilise the existing funds for more pressing needs such as infrastructure or security. Similarly, we also realised that there are thousands of people who would love to help children read, but are unaware of how they can help. 

This led to the idea of a crowdfunding initiative, a common place where organisations/schools/individuals needing books can post their requirements and individuals/organisations who can help fulfill these requirement come together and contribute and thus Donate-a-Book was conceived - a platform where we connect those who need children's books across India, with those who can help get these books to them.

From Pune to J.P nagar to finally settling in at Whitefield in Bangalore, the platform passed a few hands. With our new technology partner on board around 6 months back, Donate-a-Book was on a fast track and finally ready to launch in June. For the first round of beneficiaries, we wrote to a few organisations and individuals who we thought will be interested in setting up campaigns and got them on board. Alongside were happening endless rounds of testing the website, logging bugs, suggesting feature enhancements. The idea was (and is) to make the website as easy and intuitive as possible for the user, whether you are setting up a campaign or donating to a campaign.

As a run up to the launch we did a couple of teasers on Facebook - stories which were inspired by the beneficiary partners we had on board. On the day of the launch, we went full throttle on social media and e-mailers and many kind souls joined us in spreading the word about the wonderful campaigns and the admirable work of the organisations. In office, along with a samosa-chai party to welcome the newest member in the Pratham Books family, we also had a little fun thing going with everyone predicting how many books we will raise by end of the day. We have two offices, one in Bangalore and the other in Delhi, but everyone's name appeared on that one white board with their predictions against it. The atmosphere in office was electrifying and our energies soared every time we updated our whiteboard with a new hourly figure (and a silly doodle against it, courtesy yours truly!)

Our hourly update board. Look closely and one can see all the predictions right at the bottom of the board.
Thanks to good Samaritans, many of whom chose to be anonymous, we had four campaigns who met 100% of their funding target in less than 50 hours of the launch! Kind words, feedback, suggestions kept pouring in and continue. As I write this blog, the books-pledged figure has crossed the 3500 mark and we couldn't be more thankful to our community for once again, showing us the power of coming together for a good cause.

But this is just the start, with your love and support, we will go miles together. Collectively, we will 'put a book in every child's hand'!

A big thank you to Alok Kuchlous from Mirafra Technologies, Vishal & Rashmi from ActivElement and Noufal Ibrahim for helping us make this dream come true and to Rajeshwari Jayaraman for helping us take the first baby steps into this big project.A special word for all the beneficiary organisations who placed their trust in us, even before the website was in a presentable shape and joined us in our mission. A round of applause for all the donors who are supporting the campaigns and helping build a nation of readers.

Visit www.donateabook.org.in to help India's children read.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Help India's Children Read with Donate-a-Book

We are finally happy to share a project we've been working on for more than a year. 

Presenting *drum roll please* ...

Donate-a-Book : A Crowdfunding Platform for Books

'Donate-a-Book' is a unique crowdfunding platform that enables non profits, schools and storytellers to raise funds for books to help India’s children read. 

The platform connects those who need books and those who want to help bridge the gap. From a school for children with special needs to a Reading Champion who wants to start a library in her hometown, Donate-a-Book will create awareness about these campaigns and help raise funds to supply books from Pratham Books in multiple Indian languages.

If you are an organization/individual who wants to get books to the children you work with, get started on the Donate-a-Book platform.

Join us, as we start a Donate-a-thon to get 50,000 books in the hands of thousands of children by 14th November 2015, Children's Day. Currently, there are 30 campaigns that you can donate* to - from schools, non-profits, learning centres and champions. Find a campaign that resonates with you and help them build a book bank!

A little help from you can help India’s children read

*Update : We can accept foreign currency donations now. If you want to make a donation from outside India, please mail donateabook@prathambooks.org with details of the campaign you want to donate to.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

50 new books in 50 days!

Right, so we like cinematic headlines, but we only use them when the news we're reporting is worthy of the drama. And since we've really found 50 ways to get into children's worlds in fifty days, this headline is justified! In April this year, we heard from Pratham, that they were interested in getting 50 books in Hindi for their libraries by July when schools reopen. Fifty new books - developed, translated, printed and dispatched - within months? But, ever ready for a challenge, we said yes.

Pratham was looking at distributing books in Hindi for all the projects in the states where they work such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan. They wanted some storycards too but were looking at more books for this project. These books would be for ages 4-8. In May, Pratham confirmed the order for 50 books – a mix of storycards, wordless stories, and storybooks in May. We started work in earnest immediately. Over several quick meetings with them, and many long planning session in-house, we had a list of books that we needed to get ready.

The zero-to-fifty race began. First, we accelerated some titles that we were already working on. Next, we converted some work-in-progress manuscripts into storycards. Some recently published bi-linguals, we tweaked. The wordless books would generally have taken the longest time to develop, as the illustration process is one of the longest stages in the life-cycle of a book. Fortunately for us, our #6Frame Story Challenge had just concluded, giving us access to the work of 76 illustrators. We showed the entries to Pratham, and they made their selection. 

While 16 entries got made into wordless book, we wove stories around six entries, writing them almost simultaneously in English and Hindi. Thanks to the lovely work of these illustrators, writing stories around them was a pleasure. Our design team settled down to a feverish pace of doing the layouts. Soon, dummies were printed, colour corrections done, proofs read, and ...phew!

When school begins for thousands of children in July, they will have many colourful, lovingly-made books in their hands. The entire project is a testimony to what teamwork, focus and goodwill from the community around us can achieve. We do hope this will result in '50 ways to enter the joyful world of books'.

PS:  Thanks to all the authors and illustrators and translators of the books that have gone into this 50. And to the new entrants to our family who've come in through the #6FrameStoryChallenge, take a bow Delwyn Remedios, Isha S Valentine, Jithin Jacob, Kavita Singh Kale, Ninoshka Dias, Nishith Mehta, Paneendra Suresh, Sweta Roy Choudhury, Megha Vishwanath, Niloufer Wadia, Preeti Lata, Rajiv Eipe, Shikha Nambiar, Soumya Menon, Vedavathi Narasimha Murthy, Krishna Prakash K, Sangeeta Das.

Indie Booksellers in India

We are enjoying the posts that Duckbill Books is sharing for ‪#‎IndependentBooksellersWeek‬. Sayoni Basu mentions all their favourite stores in this article about indie booksellers in India who are bucking the trend of chain stores.

Via Scroll.in

Atta Galatta, Bangalore

PBChamps session at Atta Galatta. Picture Courtesy: PixMyWall Studios
Atta Galatta in Koramangala is a bookstore and event space. (There is also fantastic coffee!) Subodh Shankar and Lakshmi Subodh started the shop in April 2012. Lakshmi, who was earlier a copywriter and insurance consultant, says one of their aims is to promote Indian writing in English and other languages such as Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi, a place where we think a mature, thinking audience would come for a cup of filter coffee and some good reading.

Atta Galatta offers the experience of books through plays, music, storytelling, workshops and movies, a place where artistes from various literary and creative backgrounds can come together to share their work, and bring together an audience of like minded people. “The fun part and the challenging part are one and the same. Since we hold a number of events and workshops, we get an opportunity to work with different people. New ideas, new ways of doing things and different styles are what makes it fun. But at the same time we have to cater to people according to very specific requirements, which makes it a challenge for us.”

Lightroom Bookhouse, Bangalore

In a quiet neighbourhood in Bangalore, among lots of trees and old houses, lurks the Lightroom Bookstore, which specialises in picture books. It just celebrated its second birthday.

Says Aashti Mudnani, who runs it, “Opening a bookstore for children was in the dreaming and thinking phase for over seven years before we started the store in 2013, when our oldest child was born and we were unable to find the kind of books we would have liked for our children. My husband and I have always enjoyed reading children’s books and used to go hunting for them at Strand book sales and through the stacks of used books at second-hand bookstores. Of course, finding the books we liked was always based on chance! Lightroom started on a shoestring budget – we took all the help offered by friends and family, monetary and otherwise!”

Everything about running a bookstore is fun, says Aashti, so it is hard for her to identify one particular element. Pressed for an answer, she says, “My super colleagues who are willing to do anything that is asked of them!”

“Earlier I used to naively think that our biggest hurdle was the difficulty in getting the kinds of books that we really wanted to get. Now, the realistic and massive challenge we are all facing are online booksellers. Even though people say they like bookstores, they do buy online! We have people call us to ask for a price of a particular book and are aware that they are comparing it with an online seller, but have no choice but to give it!”

Find the full list here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Digital Diaries: Parties Come in All Shapes and Forms

Last week, this really amazing thing happened at Pratham Books. We picked a day on which the entire PB team - sitting in different parts of the country - spent a few hours proofreading the stories that have been uploaded on to StoryWeaver. Is the author's name correct? Does the synopsis read correctly? Are the reading levels mentioned accurate? Does the story itself have any missing pieces? That sort of thing.

Now we understand that a Proofreading Party doesn't sound like the kind of party you'd want to go to. But it felt so wonderful, having the entire team come together to push StoryWeaver to a better place, all in just half a day. And what's even more awesome is that we have people in our team who speak a wide, wide variety of languages: Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Urdu... we have a LOT covered. Ah, the perks of retaining diversity!

On StoryWeaver, all the proofreading happens online and we were delighted to learn that people were able to spot and make edits really easily. Here are glimpses of the Proofreading Party. While everyone looks worryingly serious ("See how hardworking we are?") in these pictures, we can assure you that it wasn't as grim as it seems.

So come join our next Proofreading Party?

Digital Diaries aims to document the ups and downs, the curves and bumps, the little mistakes and big learnings of Pratham Books' exciting journey into the world of digital books, publishing platforms and a lot more.

Our Stories Fly into a Coursebook

Towards the end of December 2013, we received a mail from the ELT Schools team of Orient BlackSwan about 2 stories they wanted to use in a coursebook designed to teach language skills to kids. We were asked if we could waive the copyright fee or quote a low fee that would allow the cost of the book to remain affordable. Our prompt answer being on the lines of - "No problem, go ahead and use it. For free!". Why, you ask? Because a lot of our content is under Creative Commons licenses that allow them to be used as long as they are attributed. People can remix it and even sell it! And no, they don't have to give us any margins from the sales. We are just happy to see our books reach more kids in different forms

Last week the coursebook landed in our office and it was an example of a remix - our stories in a new format. The story had brand new illustrations. It also had several activities to go with it - describing a scene, questions about the story, teaching grammar, linking concepts mentioned in the book to other day-to-day situations, etc. The stories 'The Seventh Sun' and 'Ritu's Letter Gets Longer' are part of this coursebook.

The book in the background is the coursebook with new illustrations
We also got to see the happiness on our editor Mala's face when she saw that her story was not only featured in the book, but that her name appeared in the 'august company of Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson' (her words!) :)

Thanks ELT Schools team and Orient BlackSwan for the wonderful attribution in the book and for taking our stories to readers in a new format (and for bringing a big smile to Mala's face).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book Review : Chuskit Goes to School

Menaka S reviews Chuskit goes to school (written by Sujataha Padmanabhan and illustrated by Madhuvanti Anantharajan ) on PlusMinus’n’More.
Chuskit Goes to School by Sujatha Padmanabhan is another of the gems published and made openly available for all on Scribd by Pratham books. 
1. A problem that doesn’t touch our lives is empathetically dealt with as the central theme of the story. Kudos to the author and publishers for bringing to light such difficulties of disabled people.
2. The use of local terms and words like Aba-ley and Julley, enhances the story giving it a local flavor. There is a glossary of these words at the end of the book.
3. The sketches and illustrations by Madhuvanti Anantharajan, particularly where Chuskit watches the world through her window, bring the setting in front of our eyes.
4. This book is available in English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Telugu, Tamil and Urdu as is the norm with Pratham books. In addition, it is also available in Ladakhi, thanks to the efforts of AvalokiteĊ›vara Trust.
5. Find Pratham books on Scribd. I downloaded this book from their Scribd channel, where they have released about 400 of their books under Creative Commons Licence.

Read the book online in : English, Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Odia.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Meet the Ilustrators: Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja

Earlier this week, we chatted with Arefa Tehsin - the author of the book 'The Elephant Bird'. And now, the magicians who breathe life into the text take the stage : our beloved illustrators! The creators of the exotic world of The Elephant Bird, the bewitching and magical nocturnal scenes of Goodnight Tinku, illustrators Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja give Pratham Books a little peek at the methods to their magic. 

How did you both start working together?
We were batch-mates at an animation course ,then worked together for a publishing house for 7-8 years and left our jobs together to set up our own studio. It was never planned and we keep it like that.

How do you manage to retain your individual styles while creating a cohesive spread?
We share our concepts and ideas and then come up with a style that suits the story.Then either of us makes the sketches whosoever feels more comfortable with the style. I am more into cartoons while Sumit enjoys working in semi-realistic/realistic styles. (Sonal)

Who and what inspired your art?
Anything and everything inspires us..from the ant crawling across the floor to the Sun shining bright..its all about observing and recollecting at the right time.

Have you noticed any particular trends among illustrators of late?
We feel there is a lot more variety in styles nowadays.

Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators, especially those of children’s books?
Think like a child when drawing for a child. That's our motto!

Are there certain characters that you’ve illustrated that are especially dear to your heart?
Very difficult to pick. We love them all!

Is there a children's book that you wish you had illustrated?
Never given it a thought.

The style used for 'The Elephant Bird' seemed rather unconventional. What triggered it?

I wanted to give it a very Indian/ethnic feel so I looked at Madhubani paintings and other folk art styles for inspiration and then came up with a few sketches for Munia and the result is for all to see. (smiles)

Why did you choose to work with Pratham Books?
I saw a few Pratham Books at a Book Fair and went straight home and wrote a mail and sent it along with a few samples. I was delighted when I got my first Pratham Books story Goodnight Tinku.

What were the three things you really liked about Pratham Books' #6FrameStoryChallenge?
The words were the take-off point to set the imagination rolling.
Got a chance to not only illustrate but create a story. Double treat!
Everybody had a chance to interpret and create their own subplots from the illustrations.
The whole concept was awesome! :)

What are yours and Sumit's favourite spreads (pages) in the books that you've illustrated for Pratham books?
Its a tie for me between 'The Giant Elephant Bird'..the one where Munia is going around with a lantern in hand and one from "Chunnu Munnu' where Munnu is running out of the bathroom and mom is trying to catch up.
For Sumit,its the discussion under the banyan tree scene from 'The Giant Elephant Bird'.
Sonal's and Sumit's illustrations for the #6FrameStoryChallenge
Visit Sonal's blog
Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators

(This interview was conducted by our intern Vedhika Anoora. Vedhika is from Coimbatore and is currently studying Media & Communication, Literature and Psychology at Christ University. She volunteers to teach children in an after-school program organized by the Centre for Social Action, Christ University. Even though she has been able to navigate her way around a basketball court, she is still unable to find her way to the Pratham Books office without getting lost at least once a week!)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Digital Diaries : How to Meet (or Move) Targets

Wow, it is already a week since we posted the first Digital Diaries update. With the launch of our digital platforms inching closer, we've been busier than usual. Purvi, Yamini and Payoshni spill the details ...

Meet Karthik from our digital team, so full of optimism carrying cups full of tea in preparation for weekend testing for StoryWeaver, our open-source story publishing platform that is to launch soon.

But see what happened to him at the end of the two-day session? He's tired (just a liiiitle) but he's also got the satisfied glow of survival. 

Researched fact: It takes 6 cups of tea to keep Karthik alive for weekend marathon testing!"

When one sets out to tame a monster as big as converting print fonts to Unicode fonts in Indian Languages or creating epub versions of 800+ books, one carries a big board around ALL the time to set targets, constantly revisit, continuously re-align, re-set them again. Rinse and Repeat.

The digital team jokingly call this process literally 'moving the targets around'.

No, the boss doesn't approve :)
Yamini moving targets :)

Digital Diaries aims to document the ups and downs, the curves and bumps, the little mistakes and big learnings of Pratham Books' exciting journey into the world of digital books, publishing platforms and a lot more.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Meet the Author: Arefa Tehsin

From flying autos to giant endangered birds! Let's catch up with the creator of the fantastic elephant bird: Arefa Tehisn. A wild-life enthusiast, traveller and author who also happens to be the honorary Wildlife Warden of Udaipur, Arefa has co-authored several other books for children like The Land of the Setting Sun and Other Nature Tales and Do Tigers drink blood and 13 other mysteries of nature, and is currently writing the fourth book of her popular Iora series for young adults.

She is the author of The Elephant Bird published by Pratham Books.

What sparked your love for wildlife?
My family and the jungles share a long standing relationship. My father, a wildlife protection crusader, brought me close to nature since I was a child. He took me to the forests and inside the cages of leopards, crocodiles, pythons, bears and so on so that I lose the fear of animals. Dad taught me not to fear the dark and the wild. And I ended up loving them both.

From where do you draw inspiration for your writing?
Who has the time for inspirations? Writing is an itch that I must scratch.

You've written books for young adults (like the Iora series) and for children (The Elephant  Bird and The land of the Setting Sun). How were the experiences different? Is it easier/harder to write for children than it is for adults?

I do not think I am writing for children or young adults or adults. I just tell a story. It may be short or long. And telling a story is always delightful.

Please share your journey as an author. Where did you start and where do you hope to go?
The journey has been more of an off-roading trip in a Maruti van. Full of adventures, fun and a lot of jolts. My writing journey started with writing the essay “The Autobiography of a Dustbin,” which was read and applauded in the parents teachers meeting, in my schooldays.Where do I hope to go? I hope to go on and on and on.

What do you love most about writing?
Being the limping Munia or Agogwe (dwarves who wrap their long beards around them in a cloth like fashion) Beetle one day, on other day being the foul-mouthed twitter boy Owlus or the half-deaf orang utan Baba. Travel the rainforests one day and the “pit of eternity” the other. Or both on the same day, though it ought to be impossible.

What, according to you, makes a good story?
Its re-readability. Its familiarity in spite of being unfamiliar.

Who/ what most influenced your career as an author?
My father, Dr. Raza H. Tehsin, introduced me to the world of words. My partner Aditya pestered me to take my writing seriously and made me discover the magic of words.

What are your hobbies?
Travelling, reading, watching movies and day dreaming.

Do you have a favorite kind of story?
The kind that leaves you chuckling or making faces, leaving an onlooker wonder about your mental state. 

If you could live in the world of a book, which would you choose?
The River of Fire (Aag ka Dariya) by Qurratulain Hyder. Be born and re-born again and live through the history.

What was your first reaction to the illustrations in the book with your story? Do you have a favourite spread/page?
The favourite spread is the one in which Munia is searching through the night jungle alone.

What made you choose the historic elephant bird to base a story on?
When we talk about extinction, dinosaurs flash in our mind. However, it is estimated that the rate of extinction has increased a thousand times since humans walked the planet. Several fascinating species have become extinct in recent times like the Barbary Lion and the Elephant Bird. I've written a series of articles on the recently extinct animals. During a writing workshop conducted by Anushka Ravishankar, I wrote this starting line for a story, "Munia knew that the giant one-feathered elephant bird had not swallowed the horse..." Anuskhka and co-participants like Paro Anand loved the hook and it made me quickly jot down this story.

Buy the book

We've also shared the book online. Read/share/download the book in English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Telugu, Urdu or Gujarati.

Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators

(This interview was conducted by our intern Vedhika Anoora. Vedhika is from Coimbatore and is currently studying Media & Communication, Literature and Psychology at Christ University. She volunteers to teach children in an after-school program organized by the Centre for Social Action, Christ University. Even though she has been able to navigate her way around a basketball court, she is still unable to find her way to the Pratham Books office without getting lost at least once a week!)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Free Comic Book Weekend Starts Today

Attention comic book lovers!

Comic Con India is hosting the Free Comic Book Weekend from 6th-8th June, 2015.

Via Business Standard

A mix of iconic and contemporary comics sourced from over 100 publishers will be available for free download all over the country this weekend beginning June 6. 

Publishers participating in the Third Edition of FCBW are Amar Chitra Katha, Campfire Graphic Novels, Pop Culture Publishing, Sufi Comics, Diamond Comics, Meta Desi and many more.

Users can download comics series straight on their PC, mobile phone or tablet from online digital content marketplace Readwhere.Com, which has been partnering the event from its inception.

Readwhere is set to offer over 1000 titles, from over 50 comic book publishers. Users will have the option of choosing any 5 for free. The rest will be available at a very nominal price as a bundle.

The process for FCBW 2015 is set to go live on June 6 at 8 AM and will conclude on Monday June 8 at 8 AM.

Read the entire article. Get your free comics here.

Image Source : ReadWhere

Friday, June 5, 2015

I'm Quite Boring....'Deal'ing with World Environment Day!

I am quite a boring person, I just found out-- all my stories feature a tree, what lack-of-imagination! I love to blow my trumpet and say things like, hey all my articles seem to have a leaf or a flower or a water-body in them. Hmmm...

By the way, never, never, never start a sentence with an I, is one of the earliest lessons that I got on humbleness. As you can see, I'm a bad student. Today, on World Environment Day, I'm going to be a really bad student, and start at least the next ten sentences with an I ! I want to be like a rebellious weed that grows stubbornly out of cracks and under gardeners' very feet. I want to do things that others do. I want to trek to the Western Ghats and see ugly purple frogs and tiny tree frogs. I want to be a cat that prowls stealthily in the Ghats. I want to drink pure honey from the purest hive, like a bear in the jungle. I don't mind carrying a fancy hipflask full of masala chai when I go on this trek. I'm very selfish, let me confess, and I want to live well, and I want the same for my world – my family, my friends, my city, my country, my world. 

I think if I want all of the above, I need to be sensitive to the environment around me, how boring! I really need to conserve and respect nature, how painful! I better read more and do more than I'm doing now, awww...groannn. I think, to start with,  I should order my set of books to be given away as gifts to young readers I know. I should be smart and use the 25% discount to get a set of books with environmental themes.

Thank you for reading thus far : For that, I'll be generous, and share the link so that you too can order your copies of these books at a 25%. Click here please. Happy Environment Day! 

P.S: I love the work of Ruchi Shah, whose illustration for the book The Cat in the Ghat is what is featured on this poster.

Digital Diaries : Season of Logging Bugs

Today's report was sent in to us by Yamini :

Over the past 6 months, a whole bunch of new words and terms have seeped into our daily vocabulary. Our day-to-day conversations are sprinkled with 'expected behaviour', 'log a bug', 'de-scoped', 'bulk upload', sub-optimal'... well, you get the drift. In preparation for two new digital initiatives that are launching soon, we have spent a LOT of time 'testing' and 'logging bugs', so much so that on a late evening last month, real bugs started to invade our office and pester two of our team members who were logging bugs (we're not joking), leaving them terribly disoriented. Testing alone can be a bit of a lonely affair, but testing in a group is usually fun, especially when there is something to munch on.

Below are a few photos from these 'testing times' that have certainly sharpened our observation skills, and introduced us to the quiet glee of spotting mistakes and logging bugs (well, it's an acquired taste, really). Before joining Pratham Books, many of us hadn't been exposed to so many diverse Indian languages – especially the written word – but we're slowly beginning to notice and appreciate tiny details about various Indian scripts. In the photos below, the team is playing around on StoryWeaver (Pratham Books' upcoming open-source story publishing platform), creating new stories, admiring different fonts and well, logging bugs as usual.

Digital Diaries aims to document the ups and downs, the curves and bumps, the little mistakes and big learnings of Pratham Books' exciting journey into the world of digital books, publishing platforms and a lot more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pratham Books is Looking for Proofreading Volunteers

We've spent months and months and months getting ready to share this big, beautiful, bundle of stories with you! StoryWeaver – Pratham Books' open-source story publishing platform – will be ready very, very soon. If you've been following us via social media, you've probably got a vague sense of it already. But if you haven't, here's what it is: Essentially a digital repository of openly-licensed children's stories, StoryWeaver aims to make multilingual stories available to children for free.

On StoryWeaver, our users (primarily educators, librarians, authors, illustrators, etc) will be able to read, create, translate and re-level children's stories, thereby adding to a constantly growing pool of relevant, diverse children's content. All stories on the platform will be under the CC-BY 4.0 license, it being the most open CC license.

We are aware of the power of involving the community in our work at Pratham Books. So we're reaching out to you again, in the hope that you'll be as excited as us about making joyful reading a more inclusive experience for children across India.

Currently, we're looking for volunteers to proofread our stories, mainly in these languages: Odia, Punjabi, Gujarati, Telugu.

As a proof-reader for StoryWeaver, you should:
  • be fluent in any one of the 4 languages mentioned above
  • be very comfortable using a computer since the entire proof-reading experience will be online
  • have a fair understanding of how transliteration tools work
  • be committed to agreed timelines
Please note that this is only proofreading and not translation. Needless to say, if you do face ANY challenges, the StoryWeaver team will be happy to support you in any way possible. In fact, we're holding group sessions for proofreading in both our offices (Bangalore and Delhi) between June 10-20th. You're most welcome to join us and we promise that it will be time well spent. Else, you can always do it from wherever you are, and someone from our team can get on a call with you and guide you through the process.

If you're interested in becoming a proofreading volunteer for StoryWeaver, do write to yamini(at)prathambooks(dot)org as soon as possible. While the immediate need is in Odia, Punjabi, Gujarati and Telugu, we'll be happy to connect if you are proficient in other languages that are not listed here since Pratham Books is a multilingual publisher.

Within 3 days of asking for proofreading volunteers, we got 40 people reaching out to us. How amazing is that? Thanks everyone, for being so incredibly supportive! We've got enough volunteers for all languages but Odia. However, we'd like to slowly build a network of potential proofreaders for StoryWeaver. So it'll be great if you could fill this short Google form with your details so that we know how to reach you. Also, we're really keen to let you know when StoryWeaver goes live. 

The Classroom Library

It isn't a big secret that we love the Akshara Foundation team. But we also love the important and meaningful work they do - like this idea of a classroom library.

It goes without saying that books are an integral part of developing a child’s reading, writing and communication skills. But not many kids have regular access to books. 

Every school has a library. But how often can kids take books from there? Once, maybe twice a week? Is this enough for a child in rural India, who reading and writing skills are way below the required level? 

No. In fact, the 2014 Aser Report says that ‘of all children enrolled in Std V, about half cannot read at Std II level’. 

Which is why Akshara Foundation took the school library, and put it in every classroom – so that more kids have easy and unlimited access to books.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fill Your Screen With A Dash of Whimsy

Every year, tons of people tell us about how much they are enjoying the Pratham Books Calendar. A few people start enquiring about the next year's calendar by the end of the year too. This year's calendar was illustrated by Priya Kuriyan and steps into an India of stories - where every child has a book in her hand! 

For those who couldn't get their hands on this calendar (and even for those who do have the calendar) we have a little digital surprise for you - change your desktop wallpaper to this month's calendar page which is set in Odisha.

Click on the image below and save it. Fill your screen with a dash of whimsy and art!

P.S - If you change your desktop screen, we would love to see some pictures of this travelling across screens :). Mail us at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org OR share your pictures with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Update : 
This is how it looks on our friend Payal Pruthi's screen :)

Debolina Coomar shares a picture of her screen along with some of our books. "I just love reading your books. Though my daughter is too small to read, I would surely love to introduce her to your repository when she grows up. I Iove the simplicity and the flow in the stories regarding mundane things of life. A great way to learn about life and how to enjoy the smaller things in a big way", says Debolina.