Last week, while I was at a government office on some personal work, I got a call from my colleague Zeba, also an editor at Pratham Books.
“Listen, I wanted to ask about the Oviraptor’s eggs,” she began.
And while I waited, got my photo taken and submitted heaps of documents to government officials, Zeba and I spoke softly and grimly about the finer details of the oviraptor, the T-rex and the mammoth. It was a strange experience, talking about extinct creatures in the middle of a dusty office where people were hanging around, trying to get all sorts of practical things done.
“Have you brought your Aadhaar card? Do you have 3 passport-size photos? Where are your bank statements?”
“Is the mammooth looking too tall?”
Around February every year, we’re in a great state of excitement and nervousness because the books we’ve spent months and months creating are finally being released to the world (that should explain our conversations about dinosaurs and mammoths). At Pratham Books, this is our third year of creating STEM picture books in a focussed manner. In three years, we have created over 50 STEM titles (more than 250 books!) for early readers in English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Tamil. And we’re delighted that these are part of 300 STEM libraries that we have helped set up around the country.
So what do we have for you this year?
Our aim for this year was to continue creating simple and engaging picture books that explore STEM topics creatively. The idea, in essence, remains the same: to nurture curiosity in children.
We strongly feel that it's important to highlight the more playful aspects of math and science. So we’re very pleased with this amazing book on different kinds of animal tongues. We are also excited about these upcoming books: a book of patterns by Aditi Dilip in which the reader has to spot the odd one out, and a book on the concept of heavy and light by physicist Sukanya Sinha and Hari Kumar Nair.
We do refer to the school curriculum as well though, and pick topics that have picture-book potential. This year, after sifting through a bunch of textbooks, we decided to make books on friction, magnets, bones, blood, time, division and electricity.
Have you noticed that children have a natural affinity for books about animals, birds and insects? Goby’s Noisy Best Friend explores the idea of symbiosis through the friendship between a goby fish and a pistol shrimp. This year, we have also made books on crabs, spiders and blue whales – all written by accomplished subject-matter experts and illustrated by artists who are incredible with getting all the intricate details right. And not to miss --- an enchanting island adventure by marine biologist Shreya Yadav and illustrator Sunaina Coelho which features flying fish, angler fish, firefly squid, plankton, and the moon – who makes a last-minute appearance!
We’ve been told by our wise outreach team that children enjoy stories inspired by real life. So we are mighty pleased to have two short biographies based on the lives of two inspiring people: Anna Mani, a meteorologist who invented nearly a hundred weather gadgets (by Nandita Jayaraj and Priya Kuriyan), and Zakhuma, a forest guard and wildlife photographer (by Sejal Mehta and Barkha Lohia).
This year, we also wanted a couple of stories that demonstrate the importance of building and creating. Upcoming titles to look out for are: ‘The Grand Patch Up’ in which a girl uses her building-skills to make up with her friend, and ‘A Whistling Good Idea’ which is centred around the concept of a Rube-Goldberg machine.
Then there are the books that introduce children to interesting STEM careers. Shalini Srinivasan and Upamanyu Bhattacharyya’s book on water conservation features a spunky girl who aspires to be a sanitary engineer. Aashima Dogra and Fahad Faizal’s story on 'animals in space' features a woman who is always dreaming about exploring space. And, we finally have a book on paleontology (this has been on our wishlist) and all the marvellous things you get to do as a paleontologist.
Stories around technology are always tricky because of how rapidly technology evolves. Don't forget to read Lazy Mama -- a story by Vidya Pradhan and Rohit Kelkar on Virtual Reality.
All these stories will be available on StoryWeaver in at least 5 languages. You can read, download and print them for free! You can also translate it to any language that you are fluent in.
Below are the titles we have already published this year. We’ll continue to update this last as we publish more books so that you can see all the titles in a single place.
5. Unni's Wish
7. Lazy Mama
(Yamini is an editor at Pratham Books. The development of these books has been supported by Oracle.)Be the first to comment.
Since February 2009, the United Nations has observed the 21st of February as International Mother Language Day to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
This year’s International Mother Language Day theme has been beautifully summarised on the United Nation's website:
“To foster sustainable development, learners must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages. It is through the mastery of the first language or mother tongue that the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Local languages, especially minority and indigenous, transmit cultures, values and traditional knowledge, thus play an important role in promoting sustainable futures.”
Celebrating the Freedom to Read
Last year, we celebrated linguistic diversity with the Freedom to Read campaign, where our amazing community of co-creators helped us add stories in 13 new languages on StoryWeaver, for children to read and enjoy. Many of the languages added represented underserved and endangered linguistic minorities.
“When a language dies, with it a wealth of knowledge is lost forever. It is a death of a culture. Having rigorous discourse on this issue, and implementing mindful efforts to preserve endangered languages and its cultural capital is a requisite of every publisher and language warrior.” shares Suzanne Singh, Chairperson Pratham Books. “Through StoryWeaver, weaving stories of communities in their own languages, and increasing access to quality reading resources for children has been made possible like none other. We are also grateful to collaborate with our passionate partners whose primary mission, just like ours, is to nurture multilingual languages and take it to every child in the country.”
This year, we carry forward the spirit of our first Freedom to Read campaign, in a more focussed manner by seeding hyperlocal (both print and digital) libraries in three minority languages: Konkani, Bhoti and Haryanvi.
Konkani books for all
The Konkani Bhasha Mandal is Goa’s pioneering non-governmental institution striving for the cause of Konkani in social, educational, literary and cultural spheres. Since the launch of StoryWeaver, The Konkani Bhasha Mandal has been a steadfast supporter and collaborator. Passionate about strengthening the pool of children’s literature in Konkani, the organisation has translated over 100 books to the language on StoryWeaver and shared these stories digitally with children in schools who have enjoyed them tremendously. On the occasion of International Mother Language Day 2018, Pratham Books and the Konkani Bhasha Mandal have further strengthened their partnership and commitment to spreading the joy of reading by printing 25,000 copies of 50 Pratham Books titles in Konkani and distributing them freely to 250 schools in the region, impacting 25,000 primary school students.
50 Pratham Books titles, translated on StoryWeaver, printed and ready for classrooms.
Chetan Acharya, President, Konkani Bhasha Mandal said, “It is our pleasure to join hands with Pratham Books which is working immensely in the field of children's literature. After knowing that there exists a website with a pandora of stories which can be used by teachers and parents for their children, we started translating them to Konkani. Konkani Bhasha Mandal is always in the process of producing delightful reading material in Konkani. We conducted many workshops especially for college going students on how they can translate a story from StoryWeaver. We are extremely delighted and happy that 50 storybooks created by Pratham Books and Konkani Bhasha Mandal are being released now. We will certainly have a long and fruitful partnership.”
In the run up to International Mother Language Day, we conducted our first ever translation hackathon with 25 educators from across 20 districts in Haryana. The two day, residential workshop saw the translation and inbuilt peer-to-peer review of over 60 level 1 picture books for children to Haryanvi. The workshop was organised with the support of Mr. Pramod Sharma , a senior Education Department official in the Haryana Government.
Amna Singh, Consultant Editor, Pratham Books helped organise the hackathon. "The energy of the educators translating the stories and the excitement of the students peeping in and watching the stories take shape was palpable. These children have never before seen or read a storybook in their mother tongue language, and neither have their teachers! So yes, in a way, history was created. And hopefully, the first step in the journey of documenting a predominantly oral language to safeguard it for the coming generations has been taken from Gorawar, a village in Rohtak, Haryana. And StoryWeaver is proud to be an enabler in this endeavour."
Participants are all smiles after the translation hackathon.
The seeds of a digital library in Bhoti
The Ladakhi language also called Bhoti or Bodhi, is a Tibetic language spoken in the Ladakh region of India. 17,000 Ft Foundation, is an organization that works to improve the lives of the people of remote, high altitude mountainous villages of Ladakh. In 2015, the organisation collaborated with Pratham Books to translate Pratham Books titles to Bhoti and distributed printed copies of these books to over 350 schools in the region.
We have added ten of these Bhoti stories to the StoryWeaver platform, and will add more stories to the platform over the course of the year.
"Six years ago, 17000 ft Foundation bought its first set of titles from Pratham Books for its libraries, an encounter that helped reach story books to children living in the remotest and most inaccessible corners of high altitude Ladakh. A first in a region where the only books available to children were textbooks in English, these books helped fire up the imagination of little children and helped draw them into a world of reading. Things then got even more exciting a couple years later when we translated 10 titles from Pratham Books into the local language, Bhoti, and distributed it across thousands of children in Ladakh. Today, the request for more story books in Bhoti pours into our office every day and StoryWeaver has made that process more easy, accessible and enjoyable. The privilege of making these wishes come true is all ours." shared Sujata Sahu, Founder of 17,000 feet.
How are you celebrating International Mother Language Day in 2018? Will you share a story in your mother tongue with children? Will you give your creativity a space to flourish and write or translate a story your mother tongue? However you decide to celebrate, share it on Social Media and tag us @pbstoryweaver!Be the first to comment.
In the second week of February, a three-member team from Pratham Books visited Rohtak, Haryana to conduct a translation workshop with 25 teachers from 20 districts. Little did we anticipate the warmth and love we would receive from the participants who came from all over Haryana. But what was truly inspiring was that these teachers stayed overnight at the Government Senior Secondary School in preparation for this workshop. They were so self driven that they had explored StoryWeaver and made themselves a little familiar with it even before we entered the school premises.
The main aim of the workshop was to conduct a translation hackathon. This meant working with teachers to translate Pratham Books titles to Haryanvi on our digital platform, StoryWeaver. Every teacher translated at least three Level 1 and Level 2 books. But before that, they all took turns telling us about their favorite childhood stories that have stayed with them effortlessly, emphasizing the huge retentive power of stories.
Their welcome sign for us on the blackboard
It was exciting, the idea of translating children's books to their first language. Most of us won't question the existence of books in the languages that we first spoke at home. Not so much for anyone whose mother language is Haryanvi. The teachers speak it, but are not used to reading Haryanvi in books. Also, it changes its dialect with every district and even within a district. So the challenge was to translate stories in a way that's mostly uniform and can be understood by a child who belongs to any part of the state. The discussions that ensued among the teachers reflected their expertise in the language but also the mutual respect they had for each other's opinions. They reviewed each other's work in pairs and with the final feedback incorporated, every teacher enthusiastically read out their work to the whole class.
The most important appeal for everyone involved here was that in two days, this translation hackathon yielded a proper set of 71 Haryanvi books! More and more children across India, and specifically in Haryana, can now read stories in their own language.
During the workshop, we talked about the value of translation, the concerns behind it, and the importance of translating meaning to meaning instead of word to word, and from one cultural context to another. We talked about StoryWeaver, our open repository of children's books, and the ways they can use this platform in their classrooms for free to enable joy of reading among students. The teachers agreed that the essence of their language lies in its humour, and there was plenty of that for the time we spent with them!
After a delicious meal, we were ready to leave and bid farewell to the fresh air of the town when the teachers insisted that we stay a bit longer. Some teachers performed impromptu plays for us, some sang and others made us laugh.
It was truly a memorable workshop with every teacher an eager champion of Haryanvi in their own school and in their own district. And with that, the number of languages available on StoryWeaver rose to 107. There could have been no better way to ring in the International Mother Language Day.