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Children's literature is not just entertainment. It's a vital tool

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  • Thiagarajan
    Children s literature is not just entertainment. It s a vital tool Posted by: Sheetal - Karmayog info@karmayog.org Fri Apr 1, 2011 3:25 am (PDT) Q&A
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      Children's literature is not just entertainment. It's a vital tool
      Posted by: "Sheetal - Karmayog" info@...
      Fri Apr 1, 2011 3:25 am (PDT)

      Children's literature is not just entertainment. It's a vital tool

      The Nambook festival in South Korea described Manorama Jafa as a living treasure of children's literature in India. Having worked 36 years in the field, she speaks about the role of children's literature in shaping society with Rudroneel Ghosh :

      What is your opinion about children's literature in India and where would you like to see it go?

      Given our 22 official languages and 1,652 dialects, we have a rich oral tradition in story telling as exemplified by the Panchatantra. However, production of children's books here leaves a lot to be desired. This is primarily because of small profit margins on children's books. So quality suffers. Hardly anybody takes children's literature seriously in India. I wanted to do research in children's literature because nobody in the country had done any serious research. The aim was to lay the theoretical foundation for children's writing in India. This continues to motivate Writer and Illustrator, the quarterly journal on children's literature I edit. My book, Writing For Children, is the only book in South Asia that deals with the subject of technical writing for children.

      What are the differences in approaches to children's literature in India and in the West?

      In the West children's literature is a serious discipline. The US has the oldest prize for children's literature, the Newbery award, and for picture book literature for small children they have the Caldecott award. The Swedish government sponsors the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. We don't have anything like this. Also, there is an absence of refinement. We must understand that children's literature caters to different age groups. It is important for an author to understand the psychology of children. For example, small children want to hold big books whereas older children want to hold small books. Then the subjects need to be tailored according to age groups. But most authors and publishers here don't have a clue.

      How important is it to mainstream children's literature and make it a key component of elementary education?

      I'd say very important. Through children's literature a child learns to use imaginative powers to make sense of the world. Emotional development is another key facet. It's not just about learning and passing on moral values but also about helping children get in touch with their feelings, making them inquisitive and giving them the confidence to question the world. If the 21st century is about new ideas, children's literature is the spark for the process. This is why it is very important to fund research in children's literature and have dedicated study in universities.

      You pioneered 'book therapy'. How did this concept come about? And how do you plan to take it forward?

      It all began when I saw a picture of Moshe, the small Jewish boy orphaned by the horrific Mumbai terror attacks. He was holding a ball. I asked myself what if he was holding a book instead. That got me intrigued about the possibility of using books as a healing tool, an emotional balm. Children can suffer different kinds of trauma. It can be as mundane as eating chillis for the first time or something as grave as being orphaned due to war, as is the case with children in Afghanistan, for whom I have produced books in Dari and Pashto. The story 'I am Sona' is inspired by one of my trips to South Africa and deals with the sensitive issue of children with HIV-AIDS. 'Toru Nanu and Hipu' speaks to children who were orphaned during the Asian Tsunami of 2004. We need to understand that children's literature is not just entertainment. It's a vital tool for shaping the future of the society.

      URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Childrens-literature-is-not-just-entertainment-Its-a-vital-tool/articleshow/7835273.cms
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