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Books for Children in Hindi

Mohini Rao

Until recently, as editor-in-charge of children's books in the National Book Trust, I handled hundreds of children's books in Hindi for the purpose of screen­ing them for display in the national ex­hibits section of the annually held Nation­al Book Fairs. This experience year after year left me depressed and sometimes angry. The array of books looked un­attractive and somewhat stereotyped when displayed. How could children be expected to be thrilled going through the pages of the unaesthetically produced volumes filled with moral overtones. It is a pity that children's first intro­duction to books is through textbooks which are dull and drab, and are forced down their throat. It is obvious that out of school books have to be exciting and a source of joy. The books for the very young should be an aesthetic experience for them. It is this element of joy and brightness that I find lacking in most of the books published for children in Hindi. Although the history of children's books can be traced back to the late nine­teenth century with the translation of Hitopadesha, children's literature has come of age only in the recent years. Quanti­tatively the position has improved a lot, but the quality leaves much to be desired. The books are better produced, compara­tively speaking, but marketing them is still not very easy. The editions are small—2000 to 3000 (in some cases it may go upto 5000) and only very selected titles run into multiple editions. Children's Book Trust and the National Book Trust have larger editions as their books are inexpensive and therefore sell fast. Pub­lishing of children's books in Hindi is still not economically viable as the price is high because of small editions. Even with such small editions most of the private publishers depend on bulk purchase by State or Central Governments. What kind of books will be published depends to some extent on the trends set by the bulk purchasing committees. This is one of the reasons publishers in Hindi fight shy of experimenting with new ideas. There is now a greater tendency to­wards specialization in writing for children although there is still a lot of sporadic writing. Some well-known authors of children's books have experimented with writing for children and sometimes with considerable success. Jingles, nursery rhymes and nonsense rhymes for the very young are not being attempted by many. ...

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