It was not until I had a tete-a-tete with my six year old nephew, did I realize that the magazine culture for kids isn’t quite the same when we were kids. Summer vacations for us meant mangoes, summer camps and a pile of children’s magazines our parents had carefully selected for us.
Does one sympathize with today’s young readers or do we envy them because they have new things to keep them engaged? There are new games, playstations, learning videos and digital features that are much more informative, entertaining and interesting, than the things that we had access to in our childhood.
Two decades ago, stories for children were simply structured. Publishers suggest that there was a certain ‘divorced from living context’ that appeared in every children’s book. We either had the western influence of fantasy of past kings, queens, princesses and fairy tales or we had Indian mythology and Panchatantra. There was no experimentation, no nuances and no relatable content, resulting in only 32% kids reading 24 books annually (‘Kids and Family Reading Report, 2017’ conducted by Scholastic publishing house and research institute YouGov).
Today, there is a different generation of parents bringing up the child. In a world where technology has become fundamental to living, and there is an outpouring of unsystematic information, books appear to matter a lot as they act as a thoughtful connection of knowledge conceptualization and information in an imaginative way.
Therefore, there is a dire need to bring a paradigm change in kids story books, fiction and non-fiction. Indian authors of children’s books, as well as publishers are voicing new interests and new genres fit for all age-groups and for culturally diverse young readers.
Reading helps children evolve. It makes them creative and contributes to their overall growth. A children’s book needs to impart an universal objective whilst breaking all the language barriers, overcoming socio-economic hurdles and challenging proximal indulgence. They are naturally curious, and also have diverse tastes like an adult reader. Thus, it is important for them to see their imagination, their language, their thoughts being reflected in the books they choose.
Indian authors of children’s books, therefore, are trying to set a new trend in their writings and bring out a new objective through their books. Books like ‘The Ninja Sparrow’ and ‘Prankestein’ narrate humorous aphorisms of typical Indian families. Treating the child as a serious reader, the writers are incorporating life’s grey areas into their writings. Earlier, writers shied away from showing the true side of cultural and economic conditions. So all you could find in any children books, was pure fantasy and an imagined world. Writers are acknowledging the pluralistic Indian culture, nuclear families, urban life and are painting appropriate scenarios for their readers.
Apart from story books, publishers are concentrating equally on non-fiction books for kids. Informative and educational books find equal space in this genre. Writers of the informative and educational books have their own ways of engaging the kids with an interesting read and fun activities. The best-selling banker turned thriller writer Ravi Subramanium explains finances to children through his book ‘My First Book of Money’. Shrikant Nagvenkar also, who has written ’Science Show’ is transforming scientific activities learnt in school into a fun way of learning through his book.
It is undeniable that children are selective readers. Many of them look at reading as a chore. Only 3 out of 10 children, choose non-syllabus books. 85% of children are more devoted to books that they choose. If given a choice of reading that what connects to them, this proportion can be changed with contribution by authors and the publishers.