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A Book for Every Child

Mala Kumar

At an exhibition and sale of children’s books recently a young parent asked for colourful books for his one-year old, dozing on his shoulder. The fond father walked out an hour later with a heavy load of books for the lucky child. Another couple let their three-year old select books that she wanted. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, the girl picked up books at random.   A young mother who came in with her five-year old daughter ordered a set of cursive writing books while the daughter eyed a glossy imported book of fairy tales. With neither budging from her preferred choice, the two compromised and bought a copy of Malayala Manorama’s Tell me why monthly magazine. The mother was probably fed up of her daughter’s teachers complaining about the child’s handwriting, and the daughter was young enough to be curious about faraway worlds.   What is a good book? A good book in the hands of a child would do one or more of the following functions: entertain, encourage, inspire, instruct, or educate. A very good book would do all of the above. Most books that are popular perform one of the functions…Roald Dahl’s books entertain, activity books instruct, many non-fiction books educate. One of the biggest challenges a publisher faces is to bring out books that do all of the above.   Which brings us to the question: what should we publish—the books we think children SHOULD read? Or books that THEY want? Most booklovers would agree that the best thing would be to let loose children in a bookstore or library filled with books of all kinds. The law of averages would ensure that they get a happy mix of what they should read and what they want to read. Sadly, in India only a very small percentage of children have access to books. For all the millions studying in government schools, or not studying at all, books just do not exist.   It is in such a scenario that it is heartening to see several organizations coming forward to publish well-thought out books for children. There has never been a dearth of good writers. The problem in a multilingual country like ours has been that books have not been able to go beyond a certain geographical territory. So, hardly any one in Delhi or Bongaigaon would know of Dr.Shivram Karanth ...

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