Books are our best friends but do our kids believe in the adage? Read on
Oral tradition is the origin of children’s literature. The only challenge then was to tell a story in an interesting way. Problems cropped up when literature assumed written form. With few hand written copies, readership was limited. The question then came how to take the written works to more people.
The advent of printing offered a solution. But it brought many problems of distribution, copyright, relations between writers and publishers etc. In spite of all these problems, children’s literature developed in all languages and got its own independent identity.
But then electronic media crept in and has almost taken over the reading habit. This is the biggest challenge for children’s literature in all languages.
Electronic media presents colourful material, but its contents are not always conducive to inculcate good human values. Yet children are addicted to it.
How then do we get children back to books? One way is to produce programmes and softwares based on good books to appeal to children. Writers and illustrators will have to adapt themselves to this new media.
The second big challenge is how to face the pre-dominance of the English language.
To motivate children to read in their local and national languages, writers have to come up with interesting reading material. In a multilingual country like India, it becomes necessary that we keep our languages alive and vibrant. Writers, illustrators and publishers, school teachers, story tellers will have to make efforts to develop interesting literature in local languages.
Children are not reluctant to read. What is required is to provide books on a variety of subjects. Surely at early age children would like fairy tales or traditional stories. As they grow up their interests change. They opt for more realistic and informative reading like historical narrations, biographies of heroic persons, adventures, mystery stories and science fiction. These can be in different forms, including drama, poetry, letters and narration suitable for the media that is used.
Is this variety available in our Indian languages? Are our publishers ready to experiment? We talk about popularity of Harry Potter series. Will Indian publishers take such risk to publish books on unusual topics?
International publishers are out to grab the Indian market. They are undertaking promotional activities in schools and book stores. What about our Indian publishers? Why do they just print books and do not vigorously promote them?
It is not enough to publish good books. Books should reach the children. Publishers can come together to open cooperative books shops. Mobile book shops or ‘pustak gadi should be used to reach the remotest villages during weekly haat or bazaar.
Schools and teachers in rural areas do not have access to children’s books as there are no bookshops. If children’s books are made available in these areas, teachers will certainly buy these books since they can be the best educational tool.
To make a child a reader for life, it is necessary to change our mental attitude. Parents must realise that reading books is an essential ingredient of intellectual and emotional development. Apart from text books, teachers should use library books as educational tool. They should use stories, poems, dramas to make drab lessons interesting. Having just one library period in a week is not enough.
In primary and middle level schools, story telling will make teachers popular as subjects are made interesting. History, languages, science even maths, can be made interesting by relating them with stories.
Similarly, it is not easy to write for children. Writers must cater to modern child’s imagination, needs and curiosities, write about new subjects and novel ideas, bring variety. They have to equip themselves first.