Of three Tamil books for childrenWe must pique children's interest in the language by using words they are familiar with Stories can and have spread literacy, said M. Srinivasan of AID India, at the release of three Tamil storybooks by Tulika. "Eighty per cent of the children in five districts in the State, according to a government survey (done in September 2006), could not read. But after a four-month campaign of reaching story books to them, over 50 per cent today can," he added. "Even if you can't read, the illustrations in the book keeps your interest," said Vignesh, a student of Standard VI. Around 100 underprivileged children from in and around the city were present at the launch of the three books. "Vaalameenukkum vilaangameenukkum kalyanam", a book (illustrated by Amirthalingam) on the popular song from the Tamil film "Chittiram Pesudadi", by Gana Ulaganathan and "Gasa Gasa Para Para" (illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan) and "A Vilirundu Akh Varai" (illustrated by Nancy R.) by Jeeva Raghunath were released at the function. On popular demand and to claps, Ulaganathan sang the hit number, but not before slipping on a gold-rimmed coolers.
Kindling interestAt the function were also present two Swedish children's writers Helen Rundgren and Eva Swedenmark. While the two authors read excerpts from their books Helen from her book on skeletons and Eva from her book on ghosts Jeeva animatedly translated them into Tamil. Jeeva then read out extracts from her books, which aim to make learning alphabets fun for children. "We must pique children's interest in the language by using words they are familiar with, and using them creatively," she said. For example, in "A Vilirundu Akh Varai", the alphabets are used as proper nouns names of people and a bus. "This familiarises the readers with the alphabets in a fun way. And once they get interested, they will want to delve deeper and perhaps start reading more". "There is a dearth of Tamil story books for children," said Srinivasan, state coordinator of the Eureka People's Library (an AID Indian initiative) campaign to reach storybooks to children's homes. "So any new addition is more than welcome." The books were given away free to the children at the function. The launch was part of the Eureka Children's Festival organised by AID India, Tulika Publishing, Satyam Computers and the Swedish Embassy. As part of the festival, there were also classes in clay modelling, paper craft, low-cost science experiments and theatre, visits to Birla Planetarium, Children's Park and Snake Park. There was also a unique "guest-host" programme in which the children stayed at the homes of a group of volunteers from Satyam Computers.ASHA S MENON