Once when my Dad and I were shopping, my eyes stumbled upon a white hardcover book of animal stories. And there at that moment the five year old self of mine wanted that. And that day my Dad bought me my first ever story book, not knowing that this was just a start. That book took me to another world, a world of animals. I was excited about what I read and saw, and that excitement turned to love. My first love. Love for books.
A reader lives a thousand lives while a man who never reads lives only one” – George R.R Martin. Books contain worlds some have never even believed of imagining. Books take to another world, a world where you can be whatever character you want.
A beautiful book with lots of colors and pictures is every child’s dream. Even if he didn't turn out into a avid reader, holding a book close to heart is moment of joy of childhood. But can every child in India get that privilege? Does every child get a chance to read at least some books to decide whether they like to read again? Is every child as fortunate as us so they could curl up into their bed clutching their favorite book? Definitely No! In a country like India where education itself is huge issue in some places, getting a story book is like a far fetched dream. Every child has their right to enjoy their childhood Almost all of us are here in this blogosphere is because of their love of books and words. Can you imagine a childhood without fairy tales, Noddy, Enid Blyton and comics?
When a child learns to read but never gets a chance to practice, he will not learn to read fluently. And that affects his performance in his academics and gradually that creates a dropout. This realization initiated Pratham Books- a not-for-profit publisher. Been a nation with 300 million children, 400 languages and almost 2000 dialects and with only 25000 books published annually and that too mainly in English and Hindi (Figures are approximate), getting a book in every child’s hand is not so easy task. Pratham made books accessible to children at a very low price. Till date, they published over 215 titles in English and 10 other Indian languages. That’s over 1500 books, most of which are priced below Rs 25. They have printed over 8.5 million books, over 10 million story cards and have a readership of 25 million. Their vision is to reach 200 million children in India, and they hope to someday put ‘A book in every child’s hand’.
Pratham books have put almost 300 of their books in Creative Commons. This allows any individual to read online, download, print and share, distribute without any copyrights. This allows more books to reach more children.
When I heard about Rohini Nilekani, Founder of Pratham books, the first thought that came to mind was, What can I do for this or about this issue? I have a group of friends in Trivandrum, Kerala, who takes classes twice a month for kids in rural area and they have decided to include a half an hour story telling session in their teaching schedule. And they will be given a book that day which should be returned on the next class to get another one and this repeats. For that we are going to use the Creative Commons license advantage of Pratham books. I too believe that, if we can share the privilege of what we enjoy, then that’s something we can do for others.
Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.
– Vera Nazarian
Check out this speech by Rohini Nilekani delivered at the event where Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDexGateway Mumbai in December 2012.