Voices Anand Neelakantan Rajat Chaudhuri Shinie Antony Ravi Shankar Neil McCallum Mata Amritanandamayi MAGAZINE Buffet People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment NEW DELHI november 22 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Kid You Not Fresh surprises tumble out of bookshelves with writers and publishers summing up the children’s reading list during the ongoing pandemic By Neha Kirpal So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books. —Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory S ix-year-old Tisha will not allow her father to turn in for the night unless he has read her a bedtime story . Hugging her best friend—Piglet—she impatiently waits for him to snuggle into the covers and put on his The Jungle Book act. In another part of the country nine-year-old Vidhya , TK fills her free time with her new passion—reading about the adventures of Gajapati Kulapati. Like Tisha and Vidhya, many of their peers are equally busy with their , noses deep into the pages of their favourite books. Ten-yearold Abhinav’s father, Harsh Parekh, sums it up all too well, when he says, “It’s like the kids have discovered their own little world during this pandemic.” According to UNESCO, globally about 1.3 billion MYTHOLOGY children and youth are at home thanks to the pandemic. With schools and colleges shut and Zoom meetings and HouseParty replacing the playground, children are spending more time restricted to their homes. Gadgets and online classes are their only intellectual redemption. But there is only so much that such fixtures can keep up with the creativity that a growing mind needs. It was exactly this that prompted Sanya Podar to launch the children’s boutique publishing house Daffodil Lane Books. Her aim was simple: To salvage children’s reading habits and lure them towards the world of books. A new entrant into an already cluttered market, the brand is distinguishing itself by using recycled paper and creating meaningful stories by young, emerging talent. The Mumbai- based brand is out with its first four picture books, Cat’s Diwali, One More Does Matter Lana, Sticky Scapes and Try Your Best Patrick. Aimed at ages four and above, the books are based on various contemporary subjects ranging from issues like low self-esteem to deforestation and empathy towards animals. “In this age of screens, books with cognitive and emotional benefits are the need of the hour. They introduce children to vocabulary develop , comprehension and help them learn perspective,” says Podar. She believes that parents too are looking for traditional alternatives such as picture books and board games. Learning to read has always been important, but now more than ever. Kids learn while interacting with the outside world. In a situation where this is near-impossible, books have stepped in to help. While the pandemic saw a healthy rise in first-time readers among children—as per Nielsen Book’s extensive survey—respondents with children aged up to eight showed increased interest in picture books, activity books and animal stories; while those with children aged 9-17 stressed buying spy/detective/mystery stories, fantasy and classics. Sale of activity-based books and learning material for children also skyrocketed. With parents and educators grappling with an unusual time, everyone resorted to buying more educative, skill-building and activitybased books. Tina Narang, Publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, says that one of the biggest outcomes of the post-pandemic scenario has been the dramatic shift in buying behaviour. “The online space has been used very Fantasy Pandemic on the Pages Nosy Crow’s Coronavirus picture book by Axel Scheffler This book explains in very simple language why and how the virus has changed our lives A Bend in Time: Writings by Children on the Covid-19 Pandemic Written by 12 talented kid-authors, this unique and timely book puts forth the emotions and thoughts of children and young adults about the greatest global crisis in recent times “You can travel to another world completely—meet new people, go on adventures, discover strange creatures, make real or imaginary friends and even travel through time.” —Anita Roy, Author effectively to engage the young reader through author readings and activity-based sessions,” he says. Sohini Mitra, Publisher—Children’s division, Penguin Random House India, agrees. She also believes that the crisis has made people more sensitive in general, and that readers have been looking to read more uplifting and positive stories that reassure and provide hope, give strength and sustenance. The same is also reflected in the kind of submissions they have been receiving from authors. “From books with engaging content and interactive activities to great and timeless stories, all sorts of genres have continued to find readers,” she says. Penguin’s recent release— Grandparents’ Bag of Stories by Sudha Murty has stories with lockdown as the back- drop. Penguin has also been actively publishing and promoting books with learning and activity content, such as the Fun With series, the Discover India series, the Learn at Home series, and the like. With parents looking to keep their children engaged in as many indoor activities as possible, Hachette India too observed an almost two-times growth this year, as against last year, in puzzle and activity books like Brain Games for Clever Kids and Maths Games for Clever Kids. The company also noticed a general upswing in the sale of old favourites, which led them to release two Turn to page 2 Annual Hair Cut Day by Rohini Nilekani This is a story in which Sringeri Srinivas finds himself in the middle of a lockdown—with his barber shop closed and his annual haircut pending The Mystery of the Missing Soap by Geeta Dharmarajan The village of Dakshinpur is full of happy and loving faces. But when the soap mysteriously disappears, the kids hit on an ingenious plan and make soap out of locally available ingredients.
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