Children’s literature – An incredible way of storytelling – Arvind Gupta

Arvind Gupta

Children’s literature: An incredible way of storytelling

Enabling access for children to all varieties of literature is crucial. Not only is reading important in developing cognitive skills but exposing them to literature also helps them develop emotional intelligence and creativity. It fosters holistic growth and development, and shapes up the child’s personality and social skills.

However, Even though India has a large population of school going children, the power of quality literature for them hasn’t yet been realized. Most content in Indian languages is reproduced, with little or no original and contextual material being published. Furthermore, there are not a lot of libraries for children to visit, browse, read, and discuss.

Over the last two decades, a handful of authors have significantly contributed to develop and grow the Indian children’s literature scene in the country with stories that talk to young readers about who they are, and help them navigate a multicultural and multilingual environment.

Since 2019, Tata Trusts has been bringing out the Parag Honour List with a view to showcase the best children’s books published in India in that particular year. All leading publishers of children’s books are requested to submit their select titles for review. In turn the books sent to a panel of eminent educationists and bibliophiles for their comments and feedback. A broad criterion is laid for the choosing the best amongst the submitted books. Books which are intriguing, well written, which tell something unusual and unique are chosen. The jury than discusses each book threadbare and the very best find their way to the Parag Honour List.

This year there were several good picture biographies of iconic Indians – Ustad Zakir Hussain – the table maestro, Srinivasa Ramanujan – the great mathematician, Pandit Nain Singh Rawat -surveyor extraordinary, Mithali Raj – cricketer, and ace astronaut Sunita Williams. We need many more picture biographies of eminent people to inspire our young. The book Girl Power by Neha Hiranandani, with exceptional illustrations by Nilofour Wadia profiles the lives of 50 inspiring and legendary women – some still alive, some no more. This book offers many role models for our young girls to aspire, do something great and reach for the sky.

The Miracle on Sunderbaag Street by Nandita da Cunha and illustrations by Priya Kuriyan, published by the environmental NGO Kalpavriksha is truly empowering. It shows how a stinky garbage dump was transformed into a garden of paradise through community action.

Unearthed – An Environmental History of Independent India by Meghaa Gupta is an exceptional book not just for children but compulsory reading for all decision makers and politicians. The book includes a lot of case studies, and lives of inspiring environmentalists.

A Saree for Ammi is a delightful book brought out by Tulika. It’s a story of two sensitive young girls whose mother is a sari weaver but herself can’t afford one. The girls toil, earn money and add their savings to collect enough money to buy their mother a sari! Anya and her baby brother by Jerry Pinto is book about special children. Anya is distraught because her baby brother is a special child. But a butterfly tells her how children are made – each one is crafted differently. When they have a special child the fairies search really hard to find the best home where the child will receive utmost love and care! Bombay Ducks, Bombay Docks written by Fleur and beautifully illustrated pens the lives of the traditional Koli fisherman of Bombay. Who’s There? by Hansa Sowvendra Shekhar is an endearing and quirky folktale from Jharkhand about a Bhoot and his family. The Piano – Story of a Friendship by Nandita Basu is a graphic novel about a second hand piano with a great ancestral lineage. In My Daddy and the Well – Jerry Pinto reminisces about his father’s village – famous for growing red bananas. But most people migrate to cities for jobs. On seeing an unused well and rusted hand pump nostalgia surges forth and Jerry’s father jumps into the well for a good swim! In the excellent graphic novel Nadya by Debsmita Dasgupta sensitively deals with the issue of divorce and urges people to move on build on their lives. Candid Tales – India on a Motorcycle by Adithi Rao is the story of a real life hero – Candida Louis who motor cycles across India – discovering new people, places and making friends. In The Swan Car of Nabha – Mini Menon has done a commendable job of highlighting the history of the humble Khichdi, Chess, Ludo, Panchtantra etc along with and idiosyncrasies of rich Maharajas. Children will be riveted to this quirky and wonderful collection.

The curated Parag Honour List will help teachers, parents, government, NGOs and other organizations in choosing exceptionally good high quality books for their reading programs, school and home libraries, as well as bookstores.   

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About the author

Arvind Gupta did B.Tech from IIT Kanpur in 1975. He is primarily a toy maker but has an abiding interest in children’s books. He has won several awards for popularizing science including the Padma Shri. He shares his passion for books and toys through his popular website

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