Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sleepless, And Full of Stories

A candid telephonic interview with Yasaswini Sampathkumar, author of 'Kottavi Raja and his Sleepy Kingdom' (published by Pratham Books), reveals the woman behind the story that is spreading its wings across the country today. The story was chosen for this year's 'One Day, One Story' campaign and will be read by 5700+ #PBChamps across India and the world. Chetana Divya Vasudev shares more...

A couple of years ago, Yasaswini Sampathkumar was coping with sleeplessness -- her six-month-old refused to sleep through the night.

Suggestions poured in from all quarters. Feed him a certain concoction, rock him to sleep at a particular angle. You, a storyteller, are having trouble? Tsk, tsk, try soft music. Or a walk?

She hasn't found a sure-shot solution yet. But a year ago she gave in to wishful thinking, and the nocturnal protagonist of her Kottavi Raja and His Sleepy Kingdom, inspired by her son, found relief in the end. (Oops, belated spoiler alert!)

"I'm still waiting for that day," says the former molecular biologist.

The book has been chosen for our annual storytelling campaign -- Season Six of One Day, One Story. On September 9, volunteers, or #PBChamps as we call them, will bring Kottavi Raja alive for children across the country and overseas. Through storytelling, read-aloud sessions or other activities and games.

This campaign strives to make children fall in love with reading. Yasaswini participated in this initiative in 2015, when she took Umesh P N's The Boy and the Drum to children in and around IIT Guwahati, where she lives.

She has loved writing for as long as she can remember. Once her son was born, she had less time to call her own. But, unexpectedly, she made time to write more.

"Earlier, when inspiration struck, I'd put off writing. But once he was around, taking up nearly all my time, if I thought of something while rocking him to sleep, I knew I'd have to write when he was napping," she recounts. "If I didn't, it would never happen."

But she missed telling stories; she used to teach English to children from neighbouring areas and stories were a big part of her classes. But with the baby, she didn't get to go out much.

So when she heard of the #PBChamps programme, she was in two minds. ‘What if my son needs me,’ was her first thought.

She signed up anyway. "I told myself those two hours of storytelling, whatever happens, would be mine," she recalls.

She found it was very rewarding. “I told the story in English, after which a parent took the Marathi translation home to read to her children.”

How does it feel, now that her book has been chosen for this year's campaign? Truly unreal, she says. Yasaswini is ecstatic, almost incredulous, about how many people have signed up to be champs. "I'm really, really, really thrilled that a story I wrote in a moment of frustration with my son's sleeping habits has been translated into so many regional languages," she adds.

"When I sent out my manuscript (Kottavi Raja...), there was some initial interest. Then I thought it had died down. For so long, I thought my book wouldn’t see the light of day," she reflects.

Hearing that she'd see it in print was a dream come true, and that it has been chosen for the campaign has only made her happier. September 9 is special to her on two counts: the fact that her story will be told and retold across the country and beyond its borders, and because her son turns three. Her family is planning to celebrate the occasion with children in IIT Guwahati, where she lives, with stories -- including Kottavi Raja... -- in several languages.

"It's so great to even talk about children's books, I rarely get to do that," she confides. "It's such a wonderful world."

David Shannon's No David and Rani's First Day of School by Cheryl Rao feature among her favourites.

She wishes more adults would read children’s books because "they cut the crap and are very clever in a way books for adults are not". And read them to remember what it's like to be a child. Her stories try to do that.

"A lot of my ideas come from children, including the the one on the weight of air (a Pratham Books title in the works). That came from a class discussion where the children wanted to know why a balloon full of air doesn't fall faster to the ground than a balloon that hasn't been blown."

This is a STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) book. How do such books work in class?

"I don't think the stories and the lessons (that follow) have to be strongly connected," she offers.

When you begin a class with a story, no matter how unrelated, you have the children's attention, Yasaswini believes. "It's like telling them even though you're an adult, you can be fun."

While the children clearly enjoy most stories -- they even tell her some in return ('You know, ma'am, there's a chudail here...even though her feet touch the ground she's a chudail and she comes during the day too, so please let us go home early') -- most settings are rather alien to them.

Ask her if she thinks Kottavi Raja would have been different had a kid written it, and the line goes quiet. After a few seconds, she says, "I think he'd have been a lot more persistent." Like her son.

When she tells him it's time for bed, he responds with, 'But why Amma?', a question that has become an integral part of their lives.

"It usually goes like this: 'Come on, it's time for bed.'

'But why should I go to bed, Amma?'

'Because you've been running around all day and you must be tired.'

'But why am I tired, Amma?

'Because you've been up since six in the morning.'

'But why did I wake up that early, Amma?'"

"Sometimes, he asks about what he was before he was born!" And she’s struck dumb.

Yasaswini’s examples are endless and insightful in a way that only an empathetic observer's can be. Perhaps, each of these might become a book in it's own right. You never know.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Celebrating International Literacy Day with 5700+ Storytellers and 6300+ Sessions

Happy International Literacy Day!

This day is always very special for us. 6 years ago, we started the 'One Day, One Story'campaign. From 250+ volunteers, we have grown to a tribe of 5700+ volunteers!

Last month, when we sent out the registration form, it started filling up in no time. From an organization that asked us to send them a poster to invite more educators to the program to an organization that conducted a storytelling workshop for their teachers, from a new storyteller to one who was mobilizing a team of storytellers across Delhi, from government schools to international schools - the diversity of this year's program is exciting to see!

Champions have been preparing to share the story of  'Kottavi Raja and his Sleepy Kingdom' to children across the country. "How many champions?", you ask.

In the 6th edition, the 'One Day-One Story' campaign will see :

Sessions in 26 Languages
5700+ Champions
6300+ Storytelling Sessions
Thousands of children listening to stories

This year's chosen book is Kottavi Raja and his Sleepy Kingdom (written by Yasaswini Sampathkumar and illustrated by Henu). Kottavi Raja had trouble sleeping. Only at night. During the day, when his ministers discussed complex problems, he’d find himself nodding of f. He asked everyone for remedies. Nothing seemed to work. Until... Travel to Kottavi Raja’s land through this book and see what happened next.

Yasaswini Sampathkumar, the author, is ecstatic, almost incredulous, about how many people have signed up to be volunteers. "I'm really, really, really thrilled that a story I wrote in a moment of frustration with my son's sleeping habits has been translated into so many regional languages," she adds. September 9 is special to her on two counts: the fact that her story will be told and retold across the country and beyond its borders, and because her son turns three. Her family is planning to celebrate the occasion with children in IIT Guwahati, where she lives, with stories -- including Kottavi Raja... -- in several languages.

The story will also be narrated in 13 other countries. While the story is available in 5 languages, our sparkling community has translated the story in 13 new languages on StoryWeaver and the story is being told in around 26 languages. These translations include Indian languages like Surjapuri, Sanskrit, Konkani, Kumaoni, Urdu and international ones like Bahasa Indonesia and French.

A majority of this year's sessions are slotted to take place on 9th September (so that more people and children can participate). If you've just found out about our International Day celebrations, fret not! To conduct your own storytelling session, please register, download the book and share it with a child/children.

  • Download the book in :English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Odia. You can also access translations done by volunteer translators in  Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati, Sanskrit, Kumaoni, Surjapuri, Punjabi, Konkani, Bahasa Indonesia, French, Sinhala, Urdu.
  • If you are reading to younger children, you can use the re-levelled version in English and Marathi.. There is also an image-only version for those who may want to project the story.
  • Our friends at Radio Mirchi have recorded the books in English, Hindi, Kannada and Marathi. Click on the links to listen/download the stories. You can play the story out for an audience of children too.
  • Choose the place and time you want to conduct the session. Identify places where you can conduct this event in your city - A government school, an NGO, a library, a bookstore, a park, a train, your building...any place with regular kids footfalls. Approach the organization and explain the concept to them. Most of them will be happy to host you.
  • Prepare for your session. Read the book a few times. If you are reading to a younger age-group, see how you can tell the story without actually reading the book (to retain their attention).
  • You could also add an activity to your session. Take a look at the activity ideas we've shared this year.
  • After the session, send us a short write-up or send us some photos from the event and we will feature it on the champions blog. Mail us at champions(at)prathambooks(dot)org.
If you want to attend a session, we as well as some of our champions are conducting events that are open to the public. Check the full list here.

If you are sharing pictures/news about your event, please use the hashtag #PBChamps on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so that we and other champions can also follow your updates. You can:

Tweet us at @prathambooks
Find us on Facebook at :
Say hi on Instagram at : @pratham.books (note : there is a dot between the two words)
Join Pratham Books and 5700+ storytellers in sharing the joy of stories.


About the campaign :
At Pratham Books we have a dream, to see “A book in every child's hand”. We understand that to reach the 200 million + children in India is going to take a while. In the meantime, we decided to take 'One Day, One Story' campaign to as many children possible on a single day throughout the country.

This initiative is part of the Pratham Books' Champions program where we encourage our community of volunteers to conduct reading sessions. These sessions are conducted free of cost and mostly with children from under-served communities. The Pratham Books' Champions program is a one-of its kind volunteer program that has scaled to a national level with more and more volunteers wanting to join us in this movement.

A day of celebrations: StoryWeaver turns two this International Literacy Day

September is a special month for us at Pratham Books, especially September 8th! International Literacy Day, not only marks our annual storytelling event One Day, One Story, but it is also the day StoryWeaver was launched.

When we launched StoryWeaver, our goal was to create a participatory framework where content creators and users could collaborate with each other to create joyful reading material in multiple languages. We believed this would have a multiplier effect to address the scarcity of multilingual reading resources that exists in India.

The last two years have been an amazing journey. When StoryWeaver was launched, we offered 800 stories in 24 languages. Today, the platform is a buzzing hub of over 4700 in 87 languages. What makes StoryWeaver a truly special place though is our community. The authors, illustrators, translators, editors, art directors, teachers, librarians, literacy organisations and parents who are helping Pratham Books strive towards our mission of 'a book in every child's hand.'

It's the stories, videos and photographs from these passionate and committed folks that keep us going. Non-profits like Suchana and the Azad India Foundation, translating stories to tribal languages and dialects for the children they work with. Organisations like Pragat Shikshan Sanstha, Tamarind Tree and Akanksha curating reading lists and creating digital libraries for teachers and students. Edtech companies like mGuru who gamify our content for mobile learning apps, and Bookshare who are creating audio and braille books for print impared students. These are just a few examples of the amazing things openly licensing content can achieve. And how can we not mention the many individuals who are creating magic on the platform every day with the stories they create and translate?

To each of you who are a part of our community, a big, big, big THANK YOU!

Here's to more stories, in more languages, reaching more children!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

One Day, One Story : Public Events You Can Attend

For the 6th edition of ‘One Day-One Story’,thousands of #PBChamps will be conducting storytelling sessions across India and the world. The story chosen for this year is ‘Kottavi Raja and his Sleepy Kingdom’, written by Yasaswini Sampathkumar and illustrated by Henu Mehtani. This is the story of a king who has trouble sleeping at night, but is sleepy throughout the day.

We invite you to attend one of the public storytelling sessions and help Kottavi Raja have a good night's sleep!

The sessions are free!

Our flagship events are spread across 14 venues in 10 cities this year.

Details of flagship events by Pratham Books :

Champion : Shadab Ahmad
Venue : Focus School
Date and time : 7th September, 2.30 pm


Champion : Shefali Malhotra
Venue : Oxford BookStore, N-81, Connaught Place, New Delhi
Date and time : 8th September, 11 am - 12.30 pm

Champion : Priyanka Chatterjee from Wild Strawberry
Venue : Starmark, Quest Mall, 33 Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Upper Basement, Kolkata
Date and time : 8th September, 4pm-5pm


Champion : Aparna Athreya
Venue : Atta Galatta, 134, KHB Colony, 5th Block, Koramangala, Bengaluru
Date and time : 9th September, 11 am - 12.30 pm

Champion : Sweta Mishra
Venue : Walking BookFairs, HIG-34, First Floor, Phase -1, Housing Board colony, Khandagiri, Near AMRI Hospital, Bhubaneswar. Phone: 8598013877
Date and time : 9th September, 5 pm onwards

Champion : Mahua Maharana
Venue :  Bakul Library16, Satyanagar, Bhubaneswar. Phone : 9238404040
Date and time : 9th September, 5 pm onwards

Champion : Aparajita Mohanty
Venue :  Bakul Library, Punjab Bhawan, 151, Prachi Encave, District Centre, Chandrasekharpur, Bhubanewar. Phone : 905180800
Date and time : 9th September, 5 pm onwards

Champion : Pratham Education Foundation, Tamil Nadu
Venue : Kasi koil Kuppam Community Hall, Ennore High Road, Chennai. Landmark opp Sai Baba temple
Date and time : 9th September, 4 pm - 5 pm

Champion : Archana Dange
Venue : BookMark Library and Activity Centre, Old no.49, New No.20, KRK 2nd street layout, Krishnaswamynagar, Ramanathapuram, Coimbatore
Date and time : 9th September, 11.30 am - 12.30 pm

Champion : Sonia Ratho
Venue : Ratha Enclave, near Biju Patnaik Square, Cuttack. Phone : 7008372418
Date and time : 9th September, 4 pm onwards

Champion : Story Arts India
Venue : Saptaparni, Plot No 21, Road No 8, Next to Kalpa School, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
Date and time : 9th September, 11.30 am - 12.30 pm

MUMBAI (2 events)
Champion : Talking Turtles- Shreedevi and Deepa
Venue : Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, 91 A, Rani Baug, Veer Mata Jijbai Bhonsle Udyan, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Marg, Byculla East,  Mumbai
Date and time : 9th September, 10.30 am - 11.30 am

Champion : Sitara Susheelan & Sarita Shetty
Venue : Kahaani Tree, Vakils, Feffer & Simons Pvt Ltd.,Industry Manor, Second Floor, Above J. K. Banquet Hall, A. Marathe Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai
Date and Time : 9th September, 4 pm - 5 pm

Champion : Rupali Bhave
Venue : Aksharadhara Book Gallery, 1320,Sanas Plaza, Near Atre Hall Bajirao Road, Pune
Date and time : 9th September, 6 pm - 7 pm

Our champions are also conducting several storytelling sessions (which are open to the public) happening over the next few days. Please check the list of all the public events you can attend. Click on the links below to get more details about the event.

(This list is being updated as and when we hear of new events. Please check back to see if there are any events happening in your city)

Champion name: iloveread, event link
Venue:, No. 9, 4th Street, Venkateswara Nagar, Adyar, Chennai
Date and Time: 8 September, 5 pm - 6 pm

Champion name : Hands on Paper/ Roopika, event link
Venue : 23/2, Sreyas Apartments, Gilchrist Avenue, Chetpet, Chennai
Date and Time : 9th September, 10 am - 11 am

Champion : H.Banumathy , Fables N Tales
Venue : Ashok Nagar Circle Libray, No.16, 11th Avenue, Ashok Nagar, Chennai - 600 083
Date and Time : 10th September, 10.30 am

Champion : Jhoola Activity Centre, event link (registration required)
Venue : Jhoola Activity Centre, Nanganallur, Chennai
Date and Time : 9th September, 4 pm - 5 pm

Champion :  Tal├ęscope, event link
Venue : Hippocampus Koramangala, 16th Main Road, Koramangala 3 Block, Koramangala, Bengaluru
Date : 9th September, 10.30 am - 11.30 am

Champion :  Tal├ęscope, event link
Venue :Unnati Library & Activity Centre, Near Yamare Bus Stop, Bengaluru
Date : 9th September, 3 pm - 4 pm

Champion : Snehadhara Foundation, event link
Venue :  Puttenahalli Lake, Near MLR Convention Hall, J P Nagar, 7th Phase, Bengaluru
Date : 9th September, 4.30 pm - 6 pm

Champion name : The Rabbit Hole, event link (registration required)
Venue : #2242, 23rd Cross, KR Road, BSK II Stage, Bangalore
Date and Time : 9th September, 6 pm - 7 pm

Champion name : Story Room/ Vitika Rastogi, event link
Venue : Renewal Bible College, BDA Layout, Lingarajapuram, BDA Layout, Lingarajapuram, Bengaluru
Date and Time : 10th September, 10.30 am

Champion name : Mud Pie Pre-School, event link
Venue : # 113, 2nd Cross, Chikka Abbaiah Reddy Layout, Balaji Road, Near St. Vincent Palloti Church, Banaswadi, Bengaluru
Date and Time : 26th September, 10.30 am - 11.30 am

Champion name: Swechha India,  event link (you can also join as a volunteer)
Venue: R-84, Khidki Extention, Malviya Nagar, Delhi
Date and Time: 9 September, 9:30 am

Champion : Leonard Fernandes /Dogears (3 sessions)
Venue : The Dogears Bookshop, Near the Asian Paints Store (Close to Menezes Nursing Home), Margao, Goa. Phone : 9850398530
Date and time : 9th September, 10 am - 11 am, 11.15 am - 12.15 pm, 5 pm - 6 pm
Additional details : Ages 7+ years

Champion name :, event link (registration required)
Venue : Chalk Tree Preschool Sector 57, Gurgaon
Date and Time: 9th September, 11 am - 12 pm

Champion name: Bhavna Bhat and Richa Ingle Deo (you can also join as a volunteer)
Venue: Nai Kiran Universal School, 002/A, Ardee City Gate number 2, Near Residency, Sector 52, Gurgaon
Date and Time: 9 September, 11 am

Champion : Rakhi Iyer, Aniruddha, Khyati, Meher, Aashna and Dhatri
Venue : Soch, 483, Sector 27, Gurgaon. Phone : 9818112646
Date and Time:  13th September, 4.30 pm

Champion : Your Story Bag, event link (registration required)
Venue : Auditorium, Rayz International Preschool, B-452A, Sector-19, Noida
Date : 9th September, 5.30 pm - 6.30 pm

Champion name: Anita Nagarajan,  event link
Venue: Waari Book Cafe, Next to Choice Swimming Pool, Near McDonalds, Karve Road, Near Karishma Chowk, Kothrud, Pune
Date and Time: 9 September , 11 am - 12 pm

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pratham Books' StoryWeaver Receives the Prestigious Library of Congress Literacy Award 2017 International Prize

We are incredibly proud to share that Pratham Books has been awarded the prestigious Library of Congress Literacy Award 2017 International Prize for StoryWeaver. The International prize is awarded to an organization based outside the United States that has made a significant and measurable contribution towards increasing literacy levels.

The award was presented to Pratham Books Chairperson Suzanne Singh and R. Sriram by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein on September 1, 2017 at the Library of Congress National Book Festival gala.

Originated by Mr. Rubenstein in 2013, the Literacy Awards honor organizations working to promote literacy and reading in the United States and worldwide. The awards recognize groups doing exemplary, innovative and replicable work, and they spotlight the need for the global community to unite in striving for universal literacy.

Suzanne Singh and R. Sriram receive the award

Through StoryWeaver, Pratham Books has scaled up the creation of multilingual content for children, so that children have access to joyful reading material in a language they are fluent in. The platform has over 4500 stories in 84 languages, all available for free. By openly licensing all the content on StoryWeaver, and with the support of a passionate and invested community of authors, illustrators, translators, educators, librarians, non profits and parents we believe that StoryWeaver can be a driving force in realising our mission of ‘a book in every child’s hand’. 

Watch this short film on the Pratham Books journey.