Usually November is a liberating month in Delhi. The crisp winter nip, and open-air joy.
It’s a very different November this year, but perhaps that’s no reason for parents to miss Bookaroo at the lawns of the IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts) on Janpath.
The children’s books and reading festival that started in Delhi nine years ago, returns home with a panel of speakers that include David Astle, Geeta Ramanujam, Archana Saboo, Arunava Sinha, Coralie Saudo and many other writers and translators from the world of children’s literature.
We are not the most prolific country when it comes to creating literature for children that goes beyond mythology and stories with a message. There are some outstanding exceptions, of course, like Pratham’s digital initiative Storyweaver and imprints like Tara, Tulika and Young Zubaan. This festival’s success fills a small but important gap. Millennial parents want their children to read books and love books. This year, Bookaroo made its debut in kolkata and travelled to Kuching, Malaysia, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
The festival was born in the bookstore Eureka in Delhi where small sessions with writers, illustrators and storytellers were held. In November 2008, with the aim of bringing children and books together to celebrate the joy of reading, Bookaroo went outdoors and 3,000 children and parents turned up.
Festival directors Jo Williams, Swati Roy and M. Venkatesh say it has been a rollercoaster ride. “Numbers have definitely grown not just in Delhi but also in the cities that we have added over the years. Bookaroo’s desire is to reach as many children across India as possible. Over the last nine years we have been thrilled to take Bookaroo to Srinagar, Pune, Goa, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Kuching (Borneo) and Kolkata. There have, however, been two constants. The first is the unfailing enthusiasm and unwavering support of children, parents, publishers, arts councils and speakers, and the second is the constant struggle to find sponsors every year.”
They believe children’s book publishers are coping very well in the Kindle age. Many new publishers have sprung up. Many have adapted to include digital in their print programmes, with online clubs, contests and activity sheets.