Wednesday, September 30, 2015

'துப்பறியும் துரை', the 4th story under the 'Weave-a-Story' campaign is ready to travel far and wide

We're excited to share the fourth story that has just been published under StoryWeaver's 'Weave-a-Story' campaign.

'துப்பறியும் துரை' is the first Tamil story that we are releasing under the campaign. Written by N. Chokkan and illustrated by Megha Vishwanath, the story is about Kaushik, who stumbles upon a mysterious girl in the forest. The story has also been translated into English by N. Chokkan so that a wider audience can access it. The English version is available here.



Typically, while creating a story, the author writes a story first and the illustrator builds on it through visuals. In the case of this story, N. Chokkan has very cleverly woven a story around Megha's vivid illustrations which were created by her as part of the #6FrameStoryChallenge. Oh, and not to mention his daughters N. Nangai & N. Mangai who have contributed hugely to his writing process.

The Weave-a-Story campaign has given birth to 4 amazing stories so far and with language diversity being key to StoryWeaver, we're hoping for these stories to be translated into as many languages as possible. For this, we're looking for support from you, our active community. The first three stories that were published earlier this month have inspired 37 versions in total.

For this fun story to reach more and more children, we need your help. Could you translate this story into languages in which you're fluent, or even share it with others who may be interested? Here are some tips that will make translation super easy for you and not to forget our short video tutorial. Together, let's make sure that this story travel far and wide!

Translators' Baithaks

This year, we've been holding translator and author workshops across the country. Here are some notes and pictures from two translator baithaks we held in Pune and Delhi.

Sandhya Taksale shares pictures from the first workshop we held in Pune. Varsha Gajendragadkar, Sai Keskar, Mrunal Vanarase, Rupali Bhave, Shruti Panse, Ashlesha Mahajan, Meera Joshi, Sushrut Kulkarni, Siddharth Kelkar were participants and Madhuri Purandare was our additional resource person.


Sandhya says, "The objective of the workshop was to share views about good translation practices for our books. It was more than successful and the discussion was meaningful. It gave a different dimension to  the otherwise individual effort of translating books."
Madhuri Purandare
Some serious discussions...
...and some hilarious moments.
Smile please :)
**********


The Delhi Translators' Baithaks took place in August where we invited our Urdu and Hindi translators for an exchange of ideas and experiences. All the invitees have been working with Pratham Books since some time and are seriously invested in the mission. It was an extremely vibrant and enriching session. Big thank you to all the participants - Anis Azmi, Naghma Zafeerul Hassan, Shoaib Raza Fatmi, Rishi Mathur, Reyazuddin, Arti Smit, Faiyaz Ahmed, Rajesh Khar and Manisha Chaudhry.




Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Meet Rukmini Banerji, the Inspiring Author of 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना'

When we first read Rukmini Banerji's 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना', we were smitten! It felt great to publish a story that managed to capture the magic of reading in such an enchanting way, and all this as part of StoryWeaver's 'Weave-a-Story' campaign. Rukmini's manuscript also contained tiny visual cues (flowing red dupatta) for the illustrator, and we're happy to say how beautifully this turned out, also thanks to Kaveri Gopalakrishnan's illustrations.


Rukmini - the CEO of Pratham - has written many amazing stories for Pratham Books in the past. In this short conversation with the StoryWeaver team, she talks about how this story was born, on making reading a more inclusive experience and reading James Bond in Bangla.

It seems that 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना' was inspired from your own experiences of working with children. How did the story take shape and form?
​When Pratham first started in Mumbai, we worked a lot in near the dumping ground area in Deonar. There are a lot of slums arou​nd the dumping ground where there were a lot of out of school children.

You have been working closely with children from diverse backgrounds for several years now. Do you think this has influenced the stories you write? 
​I think there are some things that all children seem to like. ​

What do you think we could do - as a large community of people who care about reading - to ensure that reading becomes a more inclusive experience for children in India and around the world?
​I think reading needs to be in the air - when everyone reads and every​one likes stories then children like them too. I think our lives are always full of stories but we are often not sure how to make what happens into a story.

What do you d​​o and where do you go when you desperately need inspiration to write? Yes, we're asking you to spill your secrets.
​I only write when I feel like writing so I don't get desperate or need inspiration. Every now and then there are things that h​appen that turn themselves very easily into stories.

What sort of books did you read as a child?
​I was a voracious reader and read whatever I could find. My aunt used to translate popular English books into Bangla. So I read my first James Bond books in Bangla translation. ​

You can read the English version ('Didi and the Colourful Treasure') of Rukmini Banerji's story here. 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना' has already been translated by the StoryWeaver community into Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Odia and Spanish. To see the different versions, all you need to do is click on 'View Other Versions of the Story' (on the right side of the 'Re-level' icon).

We are looking for this story to be translated into AS MANY LANGUAGES as possible. So if you like this story, you can make it available on StoryWeaver by translating it into a language that you're fluent in. Click here for a video tutorial that will make the process of translation super easy for you. Happy Weaving!

Pratham Books is Looking for a Graphic Designer

Pratham Books is looking for an experienced Graphic Designer. The candidate will be responsible for designing effective marketing campaigns.

Skills Required

  • Designer with an eye towards details, out-of-the box thinking and a strong sense of visualization.
  • Passionate about designing and proficient in Indesign creative suite, Photoshop, Illustrator, CorelDraw, MS Office, Windows.
  • Capable of working within a team and tight deadlines.
  • Familiar with Acrobat and PDF.
Other Criteria

  • Minimum of 3-5 years of relevant experience in a design agency, advertising agency etc.
  • Be a team player, quick learner.
  • Good English communication skills.
Desirable Skills
Excellent visual communication skill as well as a deep understanding of typography, layout, medium and colour sense.

Location
Full-time position based out of Bangalore

Salary - As per experience

If interested, please email your resume to info(at)prathambooks(dot)org along with following details:
1. Current take home salary
2. Expected take home salary
3. Notice period

Read more about what we do and why we do what we do:

Research reveals that 1 in 3 school-going children cannot read fluently. Children who are unable to read are unable to learn, as they can’t understand what is being taught to them. And that contributes to the high dropout rates in schools. Fortunately many non-profit organizations are aware of this problem, and are working towards getting children to read. However, once children do learn to read, it is critical to nurture that habit, so that they begin to enjoy it, and continue to read. To cultivate a reading habit, it is essential for children to have access to books and libraries.

In India there is a large gap for good quality affordable books in languages that our children read and learn in. Pratham Books was set up to fill this gap. As a not-for-profit publisher, our dream is to see a country where every child wants to read, is able to read, and has something good to read.

Our vision is to get 'a book in every child's hand'. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Have You Discovered StoryWeaver Yet?

It's been 3 weeks since we launched - StoryWeaver, Pratham Books' open source platform for multilingual children's content. We are completely blown away by the response. The platform has got over 30,000 reads and community members are already translating stories and creating a pool of new content. The success of crowdsourcing platforms such as StoryWeaver depends on YOU. Whether you are an author, an illustrator, a parent, a reading volunteer, an educator, a librarian, or an aunt with a niece – StoryWeaver will have something for you. If you haven't already taken StoryWeaver for a ride, read the following ways you can engage with StoryWeaver


WHAT is StoryWeaver:  StoryWeaver is a platform that hosts stories in languages from all across India and beyond. So that every child can have an endless stream of stories in her mother tongue to read and enjoy. StoryWeaver is an open platform designed to be innovative and interactive. It invites both, the weaver of stories and the reader to connect and share the fascinating world of words and illustrations.


READ on StoryWeaver: StoryWeaver is an absolutely free gateway to a collection of stories. From maths to science, from the environment to history. Stories for the early readers and the more fluent ones - in multiple languages. Filtering content by languages and levels has proven to be an easy way for users to find relevant content for their classes (tip: filter for content by looking at the left column on the READ page) . Once you have used the above filters and if the number of books displayed is still large you can always 'sort' books by the various sort criterias such as New Arrivals, Most Read, Recommended etc. In our crusade to liberate stories so that they can be read everywhere StoryWeaver can be accessed on desktop computers, laptops, tablets and even mobile phones.


DOWNLOAD on StoryWeaver: StoryWeaver has seen over 25,000 downloads since launch. Downloaded copies can be used easily for offline reading in library and school environments. You can download a low resolution version for offline viewing or a print-ready download which is optimized for A4 size printing. For the users that would like to re-purpose the content after downloading, there is the e-pub version as well.

CREATE on StoryWeaver: Weaving a story can bring immense joy. One which we would like you to experience with StoryWeaver . Bring your story to life with compelling artwork of over 2000 openly licensed images. So, while publishing has always sounded complex, and daunting, StoryWeaver now makes it super-easy to write your words, pick your illustrations, choose templates, and publish your very own story – in minutes! StoryWeaver’s dashboard for content creators allows you to track how many people have read your story and see the derivative versions of your published stories too. 
Here is a quick tutorial that will help unleash the story tell in you and help you publish your story in just minutes! Click here to start  creating a story.


RE-LEVEL on StoryWeaver:  Ever read a story that you loved but wished it could be made a little easier so that the younger children could follow the plot? Or a story that was too cute for the younger ones but had a great storyline which you wished the older ones could read? StoryWeaver's “re-level” feature lets you do just that. Keeping the story-line intact, you can increase or decrease the complexity of the story to suit the reading level of the child. When you open a story to re-level in the editor it will give you the reference text in the help box. You can copy paste the same into the text box and then easily edit it to make it to a level of your choice. Read a level 2 story here and the same story re-levelled as level 1 here.


TRANSLATE on StoryWeaver: To be able to read and hear stories in her native language is a joy no child should be devoid of. So wonderful it would be if all of us put our collective strength to translate more and more stories in many many languages. The dream to then see a story in every language is only a few clicks away! Come and volunteer some time on StoryWeaver to help translate stories.  Click here for a demo. If you can't find your language, mail to storyweaver@prathambooks.org and we will try to activate the language as soon as possible. Be part of our 'Weave-a-Story' campaign and help us reach a 100 translations by translating one of the chosen stories.

UPLOAD on StoryWeaver: Yes you can even upload your own illustrations on StoryWeaver. But make sure that what you upload is your original art. We don't encourage uploading other openly licensed content. This is because when you upload the image the system automatically gives you credit for the image. Do read the good practices here before uploading an image on StoryWeaver.

FEEDBACK on StoryWeaver: We'd love to hear what you have to say! What you love, what you don't and how we can improve. Click here to give us feedback.

Be a Tiger Champion


Our friends at Duckbill Books are running an exciting contest to win their latest book 'Tiger Boy' (psst t: also illustrated by the lovely Tanvi Bhat).

About the book :

Neel's parents want him to win a scholarship, and go to the big city to study. But Neel doesn't want to leave his beloved Sundarbans, with its beautiful trees and its magnificent tigers. 

And then a tiger cub goes missing from the reserve!

The evil Gupta wants to sell the cub and sets his people to search for it. Neel and his sister Rupa are determined to find the cub and take it to safety before Gupta and his goons find it.

Racing against time, and braving the dangers of the dark, will Neel succeed in saving the little tiger cub?

Via Duckbill Books
Be a Tiger Champion!

Design a poster for tiger conservation with a striking slogan.

Submit the poster as a jpeg or pdf file, along with name, school, address and age at www.rivokids.com/tigerboy

The author Mitali Perkins will pick the three best posters and their creators will receive a copy of her new book Tiger Boy.

Deadline: 15 October
Age group: 9 to 12 years

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Curious about the talented illustrator of 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना'? Say hello to Kaveri Gopalakrishnan

We've been following Kaveri Gopalakrishnan's brilliant artwork for a while now and have always admired her black and white sketches. So when we received Rukmini Banerji's story 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना' along with a few visual cues - that the story be largely in black and white - we immediately thought of Kaveri. And we're so, so glad she agreed to illustrate this moving story. We've been poring over her illustrations over the last couple of days, and really, there's just so much to discover in her evocative art. This is also Kaveri's first fully illustrated children's book, so it feels extra special to have it up on StoryWeaver.  You can also read this story in English, titled 'Didi and the Colourful Treasure'. 

We hope you enjoy our short interview with Kaveri, in which she talks a little about her illustration process, her journey as an artist and the most important thing of all - finding inspiration.


You've been illustrating for a long time now. But this is your first, fully illustrated children's book. How does it feel to see the story being read and translated by StoryWeaver's community?

I'm fairly used to doing either stand-alone illustration for cover design work and editorial illustration. I didn't process what it would be like to actually see a fully illustrated book out there for the whole world to read, until I read comments in the discussion panel. For me this is the most exciting part: that people are actually participating in something that I've been a part of making, and keeping it alive through translating, retelling, sharing and talking about it.

Tell us a little about your experience of illustrating 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना'.

Didi is completely drawn and illustrated digitally. I read the story a couple of times, as well as the authors' notes on how the red dupatta could be used, etc. Since the story had to start in black and white and progress to a bright, colourful ending (or new beginning, as we find out!) I planned the entire artwork to be slightly scribbly, dark pencil lines with different kinds of monotone ink washes and gradients to make it richer detailed. I added colour little by little, as the story progresses and when the children start reading: just like the books are bringing colour to their lives, as well as Didis' when she's unwell. The garbage dump as a background was a challenge: I didn't want a hundred elements to take over from the characters (which were so much fun coming up with, and giving them each different personalities, including the dog) so chose to keep them as dark, grimy mountains with a few boxes and miscellaneous pieces of trash poking out. The little black crow-looking dog was my favourite character to draw.

Do you feel that it's important for an artist to find a distinct style, or is it more important to be versatile?

It's definitely important to try out every single thing when you're starting out as an artist or illustrator: every kind of traditional medium, a few softwares and digital brush experiments, even looking through online tutorials and interviews from artists you admire. As a young animator, I had many preconceived ideas about 'how to draw' and 'what the final output should look like' which led to a huge, mixed bag of work. I didn't know how to carry this forward initially. Eventually, I got back to the style of drawing which I was most comfortable with. Those years of exploring and trying new styles and treatments have helped me adapt pretty easily with each new project I do today, and I'm grateful for all that confusion and experimentation. A distinct style is something which happens with time, the more you work and find content that appeals to you.

You have a steady (and growing) following through social media - Facebook, Instagram, etc. How has this influenced your work?

I really enjoy mini-blogging off Instagram, as a platform. The space is image-focused and feels more personal, so I think less about what I upload. It's also very on-the-go, and I've connected and made friends with lovely, talented people on it. Once I started a Facebook page (slightly reluctantly and after a year or so or being convinced) the response rate was better, with actual projects coming through. Also, the sharing capacity and reach is far greater from a single platform online. I work slightly faster and smarter now with work, to make sure it's ready to be shared online in whatever format on my Tumblr blog, Be portfolio site, Twitter and so on.

What do you do and where do you go when you desperately need inspiration to draw? Yes, we're asking you to spill your secrets.

Honestly, I travel. I make money to travel and break out of my routine whenever possible. I always have my sketchbook, basic materials kit and sometimes laptop and digital tablet on-the-go. Stories and ideas come to me when I meet new people and have conversations outside my comfort zone. I write down lines I like from songs or something someone will say during a discussion. Also, much of my personal work comes from my own life and experiences. I write and make illustrations and comics out of new thoughts, feelings and understandings I have: I call them ' New Age Wisdom Etc' and the kind of connections strangers make with this content, and how they respond, is also pretty much what keeps me inspired.

As part of StoryWeaver's 'Weave-a-Story' campaign, we're asking you, our active community, to translate 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना' into as many languages as possible. The English version - 'Didi and the Colourful Treasure' is also available on StoryWeaver. Help this story travel faaaar and wide by translating it into languages that you are fluent in. Here's how you can translate it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Read 'दीदी का रंग बिरंगा खज़ाना' and Celebrate the Joy of Reading

The third story that is part of StoryWeaver's Weave-a-Story campaign is up! We hope you've been waiting for this story, since we had already announced its arrival. Well, all we can say is that it was well worth the wait. 
"कचरे के ढ़ेर से घिरे हुए बच्चे मौज मस्ती कैसे करें? लेकिन एक दिन कहीं से दीदी आईं और बच्चों के जीवन में रंग लाई।किताबें जो उनकी दोस्त हो गईं।"
"Living close to a garbage dump, these children run around garbage all day, without going to school. But then one day, Didi walks into the dump, changing their lives forever. Meet Didi and her young friends in this wonderful story that celebrates the joy of reading."
Click here to read the original version in Hindi. You can also read the English version here.

Writtten by Rukmini Banerji and illustrated by Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, 'Didi ka Rang Biranga Khazaana' captures the joy of reading in a spectacularly imaginative way. We also loved the way this story gets progressively happier, and how it has been conveyed so enchantingly through both the text and illustrations. Rukmini is the CEO of Pratham, and Kaveri is an independent illustrator and comics-maker based in Bangalore. 

The Weave-a-Story campaign celebrates the joy of stories as well as languages. With 4 specially curated stories being released on every Tuesday of September, we hope that our community can help give them wings by translating them into many different languages. You can read more about them and StoryWeaver's 'Weave-a-Story' campaign here.

Since this story is in essence a celebration of reading, we hope it will inspire many, many more of you to translate it into languages you are fluent in. The more translations there are, the higher likelihood of children being able to read it in languages of their choice. So read, translate and have fun weaving!

The first story ('It's All the Cat's Fault') under the 'Weave-a-Story' campaign inspired 14 versions. And the second story ('Ammu's Puppy') inspired another 11 versions. If you find that these stories are not available in languages of your choice, please do translate it. And if you'd like to us to add a language that is not already available on StoryWeaver, do write to us at help@storyweaver.org.in

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Books to Help Talk About the Refugee Crisis

We spotted this article when Tanu Shree Singh shared a link to it on Reading Raccoons.

Via Institute for Human Education
The headlines are full of news about refugees – from war, climate, and other factors. And while we adults struggle with what to do and how to help, many children and young adults may also be seeking understanding and wanting some answers. 
Here are 14 books for children and young adults that can help start the conversation.
“Gleam and Glow” by Eve Bunting
2001. Grades 2-5.
The war is coming closer to where Viktor and his family live. His father has gone off to fight with the underground, and most days refugees stop at their house to share food and stories. One refugee brings a pair of fish and begs Viktor’s family to care of them until they leave. “An extra day or two of life is as important to a fish as it is to us.” Eventually Viktor’s family must walk to the refugee camp many miles away, so Viktor puts the fish in a tiny pond by their house. After many months Viktor and his family return to their burned-out home. Nearly everything is destroyed – but in the pond are the fish and their offspring who survived despite the odds. 
“The Lotus Seed” by Sherry Garland
1993. Grades 1-4.
Spare, beautiful text tells the story of how one girl’s grandmother fled civil war in Vietnam, with only a lotus seed she took from the emperor’s garden, to struggle to build a new life in the U.S. Throughout her life the lotus seed is a symbol of hope and life and a reminder of her country. When a grandson steals the seed and plants it (and then forgets where), the grandmother is inconsolable … until the seed blooms the next spring.
Find the entire list of books here

Going through the list also reminded us of three books that were situated  closer home. A few years ago, Lama Mani books brought out two children's books that talked about Tibetan refugees and were designed to introduce life in exile, and describe how people lived and worked while keeping their identity. In an interview with Aravinda Anantharaman, she told us ...

Our first stop was the old age home, or gyenso khang as it’s called, at Doeguling refugee camp, Mundgod. It’s the first old age home set up in exile, whose residentshave all journeyed from Tibet half a century ago. We were struck by the serenity and the hope of the people who had contended with so much. No one complained to us and we were met with a ready smile on every visit. From this came the story of Dorje’s Holiday at the Gyenso Khang. For our second title, we chose the most visible section of the Tibetan community, the sweater sellers. I didn’t meet Dorje, the sweater seller again but seeing the Tibetan sweater sellers dressed in their chubas and sitting in their stalls on the crowded Indian pavements, I couldn’t help but feel they must long for home sometime. And hence the story of Dolma Visits the City. Both these books are set in real places, among real people and animals even.
Read the entire interview and how you can get the books. You can also read the review of the books here.



The other book which was on our mind was one of our new books - One Day in AugustThere have been many stories about the Partition, one of the greatest dislocations of human beings in history that affected millions of people. For the children of this generation, however, it probably is just another fact to be memorized from the history textbook. 'One Day in August' is a charming tale of friendship and love set against the tumultuous backdrop of Partition. It shines a light on the innocent wisdom of children, whichever generation they may belong to. Kishen's cow goes missing one day in August, and he and his friend Shagufta get into unknown territory when they go looking for the cow. This simple plot leads to a deeper understanding of many issues that keep us divided at national borders even as we grow more globally connected as people. Sepia-tinted pencil sketch illustrations lend a timeless quality to the book. Perhaps its deeper truth is even more important in today's times of intolerance as it was during partition. 

Indian Moms Connect called this a 'book that gave us goosebumps' in their review. You can buy the book here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pratham Books Wins Two Publishing Next Industry Awards

September continues to be a magical month for us. We won...not one...but TWO Publishing Next Industry Awards

We won awards for :
Printed Children's Book of the Year (The Boy and the Drum)
Publishing Innovation of the Year (Donate-a-Book)


The Publishing Next Industry Awards were instituted in 2014 to reward the talent, initiative, entrepreneurial zeal and untiring efforts of publishers – big, small, independent – that create books. Established under the aegis of the neutral platform of the Publishing Next Conference, the awards seek to recognize innovation and leadership in the book trade.


'The Boy and the Drum' won 'for celebrating and subtly relaying the value of kindness in a child-friendly way, with charming illustrations, in a well-produced book that even educators can benefit from". Written by an active theatreperson and theatre teacher, it is an introduction to a new way of 'reading' a book. This is our first published play, and in the Indian publishing scene, there are very few published plays. This book was also the chosen book for our 'One Day, One Story' campaign and was shared by 2500+ PBChamps across India and the worldCongrats Umesh P N and Rajeev Eipe for creating this lovely award-winning book! 


Our crowdfunding platform Donate-a-Book won 'for its ability to successfully leverage crowdsourcing and social media towards achieving its goal, as well as for an innovative initiative that demonstrates a commitment to children's books, both in Indian languages and English. With 'Donate-a-book' we are creating access for critically needed reading resources that will help India’s children read. You can support our work here.

Within a few months of launching this platform and releasing this book, we've won awards. A big thank you to the folks at Publishing Next and the judges for encouraging our work. Many congratulations to all the other winners too! 

You can read more about the Publishing Next conference here and here

Saturday, September 19, 2015

कहानियों के नए बीज

भारत देश अपने विशाल ह्रदय में कई प्रकार की बहुलताएँ समेटे हुए है। भूगोल और जलवायु की विविधता ने अनेक प्रकार की जीवन शैली, खान पान व वेषभूषाओं को जन्म दिया है। इन्ही के साथ साथ कथा कहानी, नृत्य, संगीत और कलाओं में भी हमारी बड़ी समृद्ध थाती है। यही बहुलता और वैविध्य हमें भाषाओं में भी नज़र आता है। १२२ से भी अधिक भाषाएँ और १३०० से अधिक मातृ भाषाएँ २००१ की जन गणना में दर्ज की गयी थीं।

क्योंकि भाषा का सीधा सम्बन्ध हमारे व्यक्तित्व, अभिव्यक्ति तथा सामुदायिक पहचान से रहता है, यह मुद्दा हमें न सिर्फ व्यक्तिगत रूप से प्रभावित करता है बल्कि इसके सामाजिक और राजनैतिक पहलुओं से भी हम अनछुए नहीं रह सकते। आज भारत को एक स्वतंत्र राष्ट्र के रूप में जब ६९ साल हो चले हैं और समस्त जनसं

ख्या के समग्र विकास को ले कर कई प्रश्न खड़े हैं, उसमें शिक्षा और भाषा को लेकर जो विषमताएँ उभरी हैं उनका प्रभाव हम सब पर पड़ रहा है। जहाँ एक ओर मध्य वर्ग ने अपनी आजीविका के लिए अंग्रेज़ी भाषा और उसी माध्यम में शिक्षा को गले से लगाया है और अपनी भाषाओँ से कटते जाने के ह्रास को महसूस करने से इंकार कर रखा है वहीँ दूसरी ओर भारतीय भाषाओं में बोलने और शिक्षा पाने वालों को अच्छा रोज़गार मिलने में दिक्कतों के कारण हीन भावना ने ग्रसित कर लिया है और इससे इंडिया और भारत नामक राष्ट्र की दो धारणाओं ने जन्म ले लिया है।

एक ऐसा शिक्षा तंत्र जिससे हर शिक्षित भारतीय को आर्थिक उन्नति के सामान मौके मिलें अभी एक स्वप्न सरीखा है। यह दिक्कत प्राथमिक स्तर की शिक्षा से ही बड़े पैमाने पर सामने आ रही है। राष्ट्रव्यापी सर्वेक्षणों से यह सिद्ध हो रहा है कि आर्थिक रूप से पिछड़े वर्गों के सरकारी व निजी स्कूलों में जाने वाले ५०% से अधिक बच्चों में पठन क्षमता अपनी कक्षा के स्तर के अनुरूप नहीं है। इस दुष्कर स्थिति को ले कर चिंतन में शिक्षा की गुणवत्ता से ले कर भारतीय भाषाओँ में रोचक पठन सामग्री का अभाव जैसे मुख्य कारक भी सामने आये हैं। अधिकतर बच्चों के पास अपनी पाठ्य पुस्तकों, जिनको पढ़ना उन्हें कठिन बोध होता है, के अतिरिक्त कोई अन्य पठन सामग्री नहीं है। ऐसे बच्चों के लिए धाराप्रवाह पठन एक बड़ी चुनौती बन जाता है जो धीरे धीरे उनके और पुस्तकों के बीच की खाई को इतना बढ़ा देता है कि उसे पाटना न केवल उन बच्चों अपितु शिक्षण तंत्र के लिए भी अत्यधिक कठिन हो जाता है। अनेक भारतीय भाषाओं में मनोरंजक बाल साहित्य का प्रकाशन बच्चों की संख्या को देखते हुए नगण्य ही कहा जा सकता है।

यह बात भारत में कथा कहानी की बहुलता के सन्दर्भ में देखी जाय तो काफी अचंभित करती है। हर भाषा में बच्चों के गीत कवितायेँ और कहानियाँ होने के बावजूद, प्रकाशकों ने इनका फायदा उत्कृष्ट बाल साहित्य का निर्माण करने में नहीं लिया है। जिन भाषाओं को बोली की श्रेणी में रखा गया है, उन भाषाओं का 'साहित्य' लुप्त होने की कगार पर खड़ा है। कथा कहानियों का एक व्यक्ति के भावनात्मक विकास में बहुत बड़ा योगदान होता है और यह बचपन में जीवन को समझने से ले कर भाषा से खेलने तक के आयाम खोलती हैं। अपनी भाषा में कथा कहानियाँ मिलने से बच्चा आनंद सहित पढ़ना सीख सकता है। इससे न सिर्फ उसकी पठन क्षमता का विकास होता है बल्कि उसके सांस्कृतिक व्यक्तित्व को भी मज़बूती मिलती है। अपनी मातृ भाषा में प्रवीण पाठक बन जाने पर अन्य बहसें, तर्क वितर्क सीखने के लिए भी ज़मीन तैयार हो जाती है।

इन हालात को देखते हुए प्रथम बुक्स ने कई भाषाओं में प्रकाशन शुरू किया और आज दस वर्ष की यात्रा के बाद हाल ही में इंटरनेट पर एक मुक्तस्रोत कहानियों का प्लेटफार्म शुरू किया है। इसका नाम है स्टोरीवीवर। इस पर उपलब्ध सारी सामग्री प्रकाशनाधिकार मुक्त है। सभी कहानियों के नयी नयी भाषाओँ में अनुवाद करने की सुविधा है। इस पर मौजूद कहानियों व चित्रों के प्रयोग से पुनः नयी कहानियाँ बुनने की छूट है। हमें आशा है कि यह भारतीय भाषाओं की बहुलता में से बहुत सी नयी कहानियाँ बच्चों तक पहुँचने का एक नया ज़रिया बनेगा। आनंद सहित शिक्षा ग्रहण करने में तथा स्वाधीन जिज्ञासु बनने की दिशा में बच्चों में पठन क्षमता का विकास बहुत ही ज़रूरी है। बच्चे की भाषा कोई भी हो, उसे अच्छी पठन सामग्री मिलनी ही चाहिए। इसके लिए बहुआयामी प्रयास होने ज़रूरी हैं। स्टोरीवीवर ऐसा ही एक प्रयास है। 

- मनीषा चौधरी

Friday, September 18, 2015

Meet Soumya Menon, the Illustrator Who Made Ammu Twice as Adorable

Over the past few years, Soumya Menon has created many, many endearing characters for Pratham Books. And well, we're mighty thrilled that she continues to. Just last week, StoryWeaver published 'Ammu's Puppy', a clever and entertaining story illustrated by Soumya Menon and written by Sowmya Rajendran. Ammu, her gang of friends and her puppy are certainly an adorable lot, and what also contributes to the undeniable charm of 'Ammu's Puppy' is the combined wit of the talented Sou(w)myas.

In this short but fun chat with Soumya Menon, the StoryWeaver team gets insights into Soumya's illustration process and also manages to catch a glimpse of her cozy work space (can you spot Ammu in the photo below?).



You've done plenty of work with Pratham Books and you were an Illustrator Guru, a champion of sorts, for our #6FrameStoryChallenge. What did it mean to you to be a Star Illustrator for StoryWeaver's launch?

I think that StoryWeaver is a wonderful idea with great potential to grow and I am excited to see this happen and to participate in this process. I have been glued to StoryWeaver since its launch (it is very addictive to have an entire virtual picture-book-shelf online) and it is very inspiring to see picture books translated into Assamese, into Konkani and a whole range of African languages. I also like the idea of stories by and for children, and hope this inspires children to create books of their own.

Which medium have you used for 'Ammu's Story'? How do you normally decide the treatment for a particular story?

I used pencils, pastels, inks and also coffee for Ammu's story! I wanted the illustrations to have a raw, sketchy feel, with minimal backgrounds as I felt that this story is very character driven. But I did want a bit of Kerala in the background (since this is a story set in Kerala) - laterite walls and red oxide floors and a hint of greenery outdoors and so on. Though this sounds general, I think the medium used has to give a sense of the setting, and convey the 'feel' of the story. I try and play around with colour and texture too, where I can. Sometimes it takes a few rounds of experimenting before I zero in on a particular treatment for a story.

Do you feel that it's important for an artist to find a distinct style, or is it more important to be versatile?

I think this is subjective, and depends on the working process of an artist. In my case, I love to explore as much as I can, so I like the idea of being versatile. I also think the style of an artist invariably shows in their work, irrespective of whether one consciously tries to develop it.

Is there a certain kind of book or story that you have fun illustrating?

That is a tricky question. I think more than going by a particular theme or genre, I have fun illustrating a story when I liked reading it. And I feel this is important to be able to get the pulse of the story, and to get the characters 'right'- something I tend to give precedence to. Sometimes (like in 'Ammu's Puppy') the characters leap right out of the page, and I want to start sketching as soon as I'm done reading!


What do you do and where do you go when you desperately need inspiration to draw? Yes, we're asking you to spill your secrets.

Just getting away from my desk and taking a walk helps greatly. I find that travel and travel-related places, like railway stations and bus stops are full of life and are wonderful spots to head to. When this isn't possible, reading helps too- so I dive right into a book.

Describe your work space to us.

My workspace is something that undergoes considerable metamorphosis from time to time- to accommodate an assortment of paper and paints, lightboxes, the computer- and sometimes all of these all at once! While I like to be surrounded by plenty of artwork, animal figures, masks and maps on the walls, I try and keep my work surface as uncluttered as possible. Especially while drawing - it is imperative to have plenty of room, and to be able to find things easily :)

As part of StoryWeaver's 'Weave-a-Story' campaign, we're asking our vibrant and supportive community to help us translate 'Ammu's Puppy' into as many languages as possible. Would you like to join us?

Fundraising Fridays - First edition

Help India's children read!
It’s been a little under 3 months since we launched Donate-a-Book, and what a ride it has been! In the odd 85 days or so, Donate-a-Book has helped build/strengthen around 240 libraries through 64 campaigns. The 28000+ books donated are helping us build a 'Reading India' impacting about 40,000 children. And all this has been possible thanks to YOUR support and encouragement.

To continue making dents on the inadequacy of good quality, multilingual affordable books for India’s children, campaigns by organizations and individuals across the country doing good work in the field of education and children’s welfare will continue to be hosted on Donate-a-Book.    

To keep you abreast with the latest happenings, we have decided to start this weekly series of posts called Fundraising Fridays which will be the week’s round up of campaigns that need your attention the most:  the ones closest to the target, campaigns ending soon or just launched campaigns

Here are the week’s glimpses for you:

ENDING SOON

Angel's Paradise English School run by Sahyog Trust in Ahmedabad are looking to build a school library. They require 244 books in 9 days and need our support.

Agastya International Foundation is in the process of equipping library at their campus in Kuppam to spark curiosity and creativity among economically underprivileged children of India. They have just crossed the half mile mark on their fund raising target and have just 6 days left to reach the finish line. 

Help each of these kids studying in a Government school in Bangalore have access to books which will build the foundation for their reading and comprehension capabilities.

Child Aid Foundation's Shri Vijaya Bharati High School needs books to build a school library. The Telugu books required should reach them soon. Just one day to go before the campaign ends. (Closed)

51 enthusiastic 4th graders studying in a Government school in Pune require books for their happy room project. Just one day to go to get them those books. (Closed)

Just a little help and this campaign with a mission of 350 kids will reach 100% of its funding goal. A few books left to fill this library! (Closed)

BREAD Society's 140 libraries have built many readers over the last 6 years. These libraries need new copies of books to help build many more readers. Can you help them? (Closed)

JUST LAUNCHED

Nikita Kabra's class of 24 second graders are very naughty, but equally smart whose interest in reading is spiking. By the end of this year, to make this class keen and avid readers is this teacher's aim.

Encouraging learning through story books is this teacher's motto as she runs a campaign for more books for her Chennai school library.

A class that moved from  from Kannada medium to English medium just 2 months ago and are seeking books to polish their English. Will you help them?

Community Outreach Programme (CORP) is one of Mumbai’s leading not-for-profits running various programs for orphans,street children, differently able as well as those from marginalized and vulnerable section of slum communities in Mumbai. They are looking for books to add in their community libraries.

In other happy news, all our  #FreedomToRead campaigns got fully funded thanks to our very generous community :)

All these campaigns are/were a part of our Donate-a-Thon where by Children's Day we hope to ship 50,000 books to children across India. Let's lend a hand to all the wonderful campaigns  and help build a Reading India.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

“Can You Please Send Me Home This Book. I Want to Show the Story to My Sister Also.”


In the tiny village of Kolwadi, in Pune district, runs a school which is the only English medium school serving a big area and a bigger community. St. Thomas English Medium School (STEMS) wanted to take its students' learning beyond textbooks by building a strong reading program and hence started a campaign on Donate-a-Book to get more books. Their campaign was fully funded within 3 days of going live with our generous community ensuring STEM's reading program kicks off with the bounty of books raised through Donate-a-Book.

STEM's principal,Ms Navitha Thomas writes about the campaign and the books that followed.

About:
St. Thomas English Medium School (STEMS), which is situated at Kolwadi, Kamshet in Pune district of Maharashtra is an initiative of the Mar Thoma Church for the quality education of children in this rural area of Pune. The school was started in 2012 as there is no other English medium school in a radius of 30 kms.

The children are from rural, Marathi background and they are also not financially very well off. Most parents are farmers and hence STEMS is run as a low-budget private school (monthly fees of Rupees 200 only) as it would otherwise be very difficult for parents to educate their children.

Plan for the books received:
English is a totally foreign language for the children. The only exposure to the language they get is the few hours they spend in school. Hence innovative, interesting and varied methods are needed to be used to help the children develop an interest and also learn the language.

Pratham Books are a total blessing for this cause. The stories capture the interest of children and they learn new words very fast. Since this is not followed by exam etc. kids are relaxed and learning is fun.We have started 3 reading periods per week for each class. One story is repeated thrice in a week to help kids develop vocabulary. We have thus started a reading program based on these books.

We have also opened the library to Marathi medium students of a nearby different institution also, as we have got Marathi titles from Pratham Books. (We have also been motivated by the Pratham Books’ ‘Read India‘Motto)

Arrival of Books:
The kids were really excited on seeing the new books arrive. Most of the children especially bigger kids chorused “WOW” on seeing the books.Some other reactions went like this:

“Aaj se roj yehi books padhenge”

“ Can you please send me home this book I want to show the story to my sister also”

“Can we enact this story on stage” (We usually have a practice of enacting school lessons.)

Lots of other spontaneous responses like “Wow ! what a big hen …”

“Look at this dog, my doggie also looks the same..” etc.

Experience on Donate-a-Book:
While we were very happy to be part of the campaign, we were not too clear on a few processes as this was our first crowd funding effort. Please do induct new entrants like us with more information and hand-holding so that we can participate more effectively in the future. Overall it was a good experience.


Feedback on books

Some things I have observed and really like about Pratham books are as follows:

- Bilingual series Marathi – English helps them to understand the story in their mother tongue as well as learn the English words.
- Interesting, since they are story format, children never get tired or bored and are eager to hear and learn more.
-Values imbibed in stories help in whole some development. Especially since kids want to emulate/ identify with the characters or situation in story.
-Simple and contextual stories which kids can easily relate with.
-Child centered stories, where the feelings and emotions of the child are described.
-Informative value.
-Imagination/ Creative faculties enhanced due to the story line.
-Visually appealing due to large coloured pictures.
I would like to see more bilinguals especially at levels 1 and 2.

-Ms.Navitha Thomas, Principal, STEMS

"Look at this dog, my doggie also looks the same."
"Aaj se roj yehi books padhenge..!"
Donate-a-Book is a unique crowdfunding platform for children's books. Support other campaigns like St. Thomas English Medium School's get more books in multiple Indian languages here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Meet Priya Kuriyan, the artist who drew the cat whose fault it was

Over the last week, Priya Kuriyan's guilty-looking cat has charmed many of StoryWeaver's readers. This comes as no surprise, as Priya's work is already wildly popular. But we're so glad that StoryWeaver launched with 'It's All the Cat's Fault!', which was illustrated by Priya and written by Anushka Ravishankar. If you haven't yet seen her gorgeous watercolour art and in particular, the worried cat, read this fantastic story now. We're excited that this story has had over 2000 reads in a week's time and has been translated into 11 languages.
 
Below is a short conversation between Delhi-based illustrator Priya Kuriyan and the StoryWeaver team.
 

You've done a LOT of work with Pratham Books and you were an Illustrator Guru, a champion of sorts, for our #6FrameStoryChallenge. We're SO happy that you help us create such beautiful books. What did it mean to be a Star Illustrator for StoryWeaver's launch?

I'm always happy to work for Pratham Books because they inevitably come up with the nicest ideas to make sure that every child gets to read stories. StoryWeaver is by far one of the most exciting projects in its scope and once I heard of, and understood what it could do, I had no doubt I wanted to contribute.

You've been working as an illustrator for a few years now and you have worked with multiple publishers. As an established illustrator, what are challenges you face?

Illustration can be a very time-consuming, solitary affair and sometimes this means having to pick and choose projects carefully so that one can do justice to the work one is doing. This can be tough as a freelancer, especially when one has to let go of interesting projects just because of a lack of time. Also, sometimes it's difficult to convince clients that some projects requires a certain amount of time to be developed well.

How do you decide which medium to use for a particular story?

It usually depends on the story and what genre the story belongs to. For eg: I recently worked on a book about a ghosts and decided to use charcoals for it as I thought it would work well and convey the eeriness of the story well. There are times when the medium itself becomes an integral part of the story. For eg; If it's a story about garbage, I might decide to use collage so that the possiblity of using waste material in the illustration can be explored.

Do you feel that it's important for an artist to find a distinct style, or is it more important to be versatile?  

I happen to be of the opinion that it's alright either way. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. To me, having a versatile style is more exciting as I'm often surprised by the results of trying things out a little differently.

Do you find yourself going back to certain things while illustrating children's books because they tend to work - colours, techniques, styles and so on? If yes, we'd love to know what some of these are.  

When I know that there is lesser time to do a certain project, I tend to be conservative and stick to techniques I've used before and am confident will yield decent results. I still illustrate mostly by hand and one of my favourite techniques is to use regular poster paints with a very fine brush and then use water soluble colour pencils on top of it to give it a texture. I also love mixing charcoals and watercolours for some of my drawings.

What do you do and where do you go when you desperately need inspiration to draw? Yes, we're asking you to spill your secrets. 

Step outside. Take a walk in a green spot to clear my head out and watch people pass by. Sitting in sunny spots in parks in the Delhi winters is especially nice :)


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ammu's Puppy is up on StoryWeaver, Meet its Author

We promised you amazing stories every Tuesday this September as part of StoryWeaver's 'Weave-a-Story' campaign and here we are, all set to brighten your day. This week, we have a witty and heartwarming story about little Ammu who is eager, SO eager to have a puppy. Written by Sowmya Rajendran and illustrated by Soumya Menon, 'Ammu's Puppy' makes for a perfect read-aloud book. You can read it right here.

In the past, Sowmya Rajendran's stories have been published by multiple publishers such as Pratham Books, Tulika Publishers, HarperCollins, Puffin, etc. This year, she won the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar award for 'Mayil Will Not Be Quiet' which she co-authored with Niveditha Subramaniam.
Read a short conversation between the StoryWeaver team and Sowmya Rajendran, the author of 'Ammu's Puppy'.
We're so thrilled that 'Ammu's Puppy' is up on StoryWeaver. How did this story take shape and form?
When I was in middle-school, there was a friend of mine who got a dog. But she had to give him away in a couple of days because her folks were unable to take care of him. However, she regaled us with stories about that dog for many weeks, pretending that she still had him at home! I see my four-year-old daughter now, making up similar stories, and the story flew out of me.
You've been writing children's stories for a few years now. Has there been any change in the way you think about and write children's stories over the years? We'd love to hear more about it.
I'm more confident about my voice now. I've experimented with different genres too and I work harder to see how much further I can take an idea. I also believe becoming a mother has given me greater insight into a child's perspective of things.
What do you think we could do - as a large community of people who care about reading - to ensure that reading becomes a more inclusive experience for children in India and around the world?
There are two issues here - one is the visibility of good children's books and the other is accessibility. Indian children's books, especially, are barely available in the big bookstores towards which parents and children who can afford to buy these books flock. This is the case with English books, so you can imagine how acute the problem is when it comes to books that are in regional languages. A children's book that becomes an international phenomenon like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games will find readers but there is so much more on offer of which readers are unaware. And then, of course, a lot of people simply don't have access to books that are in languages they can read or afford.

Schools are in a big hurry to finish the syllabus and rarely spend time encouraging students to read outside their textbooks. And parents, too, see non-textbooks as a 'waste'. Adults, who control book purchasing, should first be convinced of the value of reading. Schools, librarians, teachers, and parents should get involved if they want their children to become readers. Community libraries, affordable and well-produced books in different languages, and innovative efforts like Storyweaver are a step in the right direction.
You've written stories for early readers, teenagers and very recently, you published a novel ('The Lesson') for adults. Tell us a little about what it is like to write for all these different age groups.
I don't start any book with an audience in mind. I let the idea lead me and as I go along, I decide who the reader is going to be. This is probably why I have ended up writing for all age-groups! And exploring some taboo subjects in my writing for younger ones, too. I find it restricting to have an imaginary reader breathing down my neck all the time.
Do you think it's important for children's book authors to engage with children?
You know, I find it strange that we constantly treat children as another species altogether. I'm flummoxed when people ask me 'Do you like children?' as if a child were a dog or a parakeet! They are people, just as adults are. I like some of them and I don't like some of them. I engage with the ones I like and get away with making the right noises with the ones I don't. But just as I learn from the adults around me, irrespective of whether I like them or not, I learn from children, too.
What do you do and where do you go when you desperately need inspiration to write? Yes, we're asking you to spill your secrets.
I work from home and I write when my daughter goes to school. I don't believe in inspiration. I believe in slogging it out in front of my laptop with the mortal fear that in just two and a half hours, a four-year-old will come home and slam my laptop shut for the rest of the day. So I write as fast as I can, as much as I can. I definitely do not sit in a fancy cafe in all elegance and work every day (although I do drink green tea).

Last week, the story which we published through StoryWeaver's 'Weave-a-Story' campaign – 'It's All the Cat's Fault!' was translated into 11 languages. This week, we hope you - our super community - will continue to support us by translating 'Ammu's Puppy' into as many languages as possible. 

Next Tuesday, we have another awesome story by Rukmini Banerji and Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, so do watch this space for more exciting updates!

Monday, September 14, 2015

To Rani, With Love - Books Reach Bundelkhand

The story of Rani, from the impoverished Nari village had touched many a hearts. Our NGO partner, Paras India works with other tribal children like Rani, in the hinterlands of the Bundelkhand region. PARAS had set up a fundraising campaign on Donate-a-Book to get more books for the small libraries which form a part of their centers in these regions. After they got fully-funded with the support of many a kind donors, we sent them books that they had themselves picked up for the children there.

They wrote to us with their experience on Donate-a-Book.

About:
Paras works with marginalized and underprivileged children. We believe in equalizing power of knowledge. And what better than books. The children we work with are mostly drop-outs or never been to school. Their parents are day laborers and there is not much incentive for them to get educated. With persistent effort and passion we have been able to make them go to Paras Centre where they are helped and mentored to get into mainstream again.

Plan for the books received:
Paras has its own centers, the Books are being used to make a small reading areas in these centers. Children are motivated to spend time in these centers and to read Books apart from other activities.

Arrival of Books:
“This looks so pretty! We will be having new stories to read” the sheer joy of looking at beautifully illustrated and colorful book is amazing, and children loved the fact that they have now so many of them!

Experience on Donate-a-Book

The campaign was well designed and coordinated. We think Pratham Books has done a great job and service to leverage its strengths to help other smaller NGOs who are doing great work at grassroot level but seldom visible. 

We would have liked if PB had more books on subjects, like elementary maths, science or a book of Puzzles.


-Team PARAS India
Ohh! The joy of new books :)

Donate-a-Book is a unique crowdfunding platform for children's books. Support other campaigns like PARAS India get more books in multiple Indian languages here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Interview with Anushka Ravishankar, Star Author of 'Weave-a-Story' Campaign

Pratham Books launched StoryWeaver on International Literacy Day (September 8th) with Anushka Ravishankar's clever and delightful story 'It's All the Cat's Fault!' Naturally, we wanted to involve writers and illustrators whose work we admire and when Anushka agreed, we were thrilled to bits. Anushka is an award-winning children's author and also a co-founder of Duckbill Publishing House. Read the wonderful story she wrote for StoryWeaver.

Illustrated by popular illustrator Priya Kuriyan, 'It's All the Cat's Fault!' is almost touching 1300 reads already and was translated into Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Odia, Tamil, Sanskrit and Malayalam on StoryWeaver within just 2 days of the launch.


StoryWeaver catches up with Anushka for a little chat:

We're incredibly excited that StoryWeaver launched with your story 'It's All the Cat's Fault! How did this story take shape and form?

I struggled a bit to find a story, as you know. Then I had a sudden urge to write a story where one thing leads to another and then another ... So I started with the cat on the tree (I'm a bit obsessive on the subject of cats, ever since one came into my life) and then kept going. I did take a couple of wrong turns along the way, but finally, the idea of playing on the ''dog ate my homework' cliche amused me. Also it was fun writing it with the negatives: if this hadn't happened that wouldn't have happened ... it gave the story it's particular rhythm and quirkiness, I thought.

You are one of the co-founders of Duckbill, a well regarded children's publishing house. What would you say was the main reason for agreeing to be a Star Author for StoryWeaver's launch campaign?

The main reason is that I greatly admire what Pratham Books does to get books into the hands of children who would otherwise never get books to read. And when I heard about StoryWeaver, I felt it was a wonderful initiative. I'm happy to have been a part of its launch!

What do you think we could do - as a large community of people who care about reading - to ensure that reading becomes a more inclusive experience for children in India and around the world?

We're all - publishers, authors, parent bloggers, people interested in children and reading - working in our own different ways towards this end, and we should continue to do so. We need different kinds of books and different experiences of reading. The Creative Commons, for instance, is a fascinating idea and will go a long way in filling the gaps. Perhaps we should also involve children in the endeavour in some way. The lines in our society are drawn so clearly, that the difference of class often trumps the sameness of the experience of childhood. We need to have books - and many of them - that blur these lines.

You're known to be fantastic with humour and rhyme. Are there certain things that you find yourself going back to while writing children's books because they tend to work - words, phrases, themes, and so on? We'd love to know what some of these are.

I do tend to go back to animals. Many of my books are about animals (Tiger on a Tree, Catch That Crocodile, Elephants Never Forget ...). I think animals are amazingly entertaining. The fact that we don't know what's going on in their heads makes them interesting to write about because all fiction writing is, in a way, speculation. I also tend to go back to rhyme, partly because I'm addicted to it and also because I find that occupying my left brain with writing rhyme frees my right brain from the tyranny of its logic.

And funny seems to be my default style. Writing serious stuff bores me (and therefore my readers).

What do you do and where do you go when you desperately need inspiration to write? Yes, we're asking you to spill your secrets.

I find that lying on my bed and watching the fan go round and round usually works. But I do need a lot of time (sometimes days) of ceiling-gazing before I can start writing. There, now you know.

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Anushka's story is also part of the Weave-a-Story campaign. Find out how you can join the campaign.