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In Nature's infinite book of secrecy                                                                                                                  A little I can read                           -Shakespeare     The International Year of the Child is drawing to a close, yet the mood of the people who are at the receiving end of the children's publishing trade is one of despair, A survey of a wide section of opinion on some important aspects of publishing for children in India has yielded remarkably similar results.   There are a number of basic premises which have to be questioned before the book industry for children in India can yield anything worth having. Foremost among them is the anomalous situation created by the continued existence of English in India on the one hand and the steady deterioration in its standards mainly because of political interference on the other. Shankar Pillai, doyen among children's publishers, perhaps predictably but very emphatically declares: ‘The most harmful thing politicians ­in India have done is to denigrate the English language. We need one common language as a unifying force to keep us together. It is no good thinking Hindi can take the place of English. With the world going by so fast, we will be simply left behind.’      All objective thinkers would no doubt agree with Shankar Pillai. But if we decide to keep English, then the standards have to be improved. G. Govindan of the Children's Book Trust despairingly quoted what one western publisher had to say about the quality of English obtaining in India today and this is, we write ‘unattractive’ English. And yet only twenty years ago, such was not the case. How can books for children be made ‘attractive’ when the language itself jars? Then we come to the Indian languages. With the large number of languages in this country it comes as something of a shock that little work is actually being done in them for children. As in English, so also in other languages, heavy reliance is on the myths, folk-tales and classics of India rather than on creative writing to stir the imagination of the modern child. There can be no quarrel with giving a good grounding of our past heritage to a child. But why make it the staple fare? To quote Shankar Pillai again, ‘Nothing very special is required to become a writer of children’s books. All that is essential is that you should be a normal human being, and you should not try to be ...

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