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Children's Literature as Literature by Children

By Asha Nehemiah, Sampurna Chatterji, Rohini Oomman and Indrajit Hazra
Scholastic India, 2009, pp. 168, Rs. 100.00


It is an oft repeated fact that writing for children is one of the most challenging tasks for any author. The question here is whether the task of writing for children remains as challenging, or becomes more so, when done by children themselves. In most cases the urge behind writing of this kind is not to get published but creative self-expression and an attempt to negotiate and engage with the world order created and directed by adults. Hence writing by children is assumed to be a much more ‘honest’ genre since it truly reflects the world from the perspective of a child.   Some early attempts at publishing writing by children are Papur Boi (1993) by Ananda Publishers in Bangla, Mahabharata (1996) by Samhita Arni published by Tara Publications in English and books like Pyara Laddu (1989), Lomdi Aur Jameen (1989), Hamko Phir Chhutti (1997) and Azadi Ki Nukti (1997) from Eklavya in Hindi. Though several other efforts of this nature have taken place in other languages, the fact remains that this is a less trodden path and much more serious work is required to promote this specialized genre within children’s literature. Try Googling the phrase ‘Literature by Children’, and you will feel you had mistyped ‘for’ instead of ‘by’ in the first place, because all the sites that appear have everything to do with ‘Literature for Children’ and not the other way round. It is surprising that even after decades of debate on the place of literature by children as a part of mainstream children’s literature, it remains literature for children almost entirely.   * * * ‘What—is—this?’ [the Unicorn] said at last.   ‘This is a child!’ Haigha replied eagerly … ‘We only found it to-day. It’s as large as life, and twice as natural!’   ‘I always thought they were fabulous monsters!’ said the Unicorn. ‘Is it alive?’   ‘It can talk,’ said Haigha solemnly.   – Carroll, Lewis—Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)   But can children (really) speak? Are they allowed to? Children’s literature seems to be the only genre of literature the production of which has nothing to do with children themselves, except that there is this abstract entity named ‘the child’ that the author, illustrator and publisher has in mind while producing something. The question of what goes into the canon of children’s literature and if it is what children actually want, persists. What percent of the children’s reading ...

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