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Three websites for children encourage bonding with grandparents, learning with fun and writing to get published online

Raadhesh enjoys playing with the toys his mother Sukanya borrows from Photo: Nathan G/MintPremium
Raadhesh enjoys playing with the toys his mother Sukanya borrows from Photo: Nathan G/Mint

Ananthanarayanan Krishnan, 73, loved telling stories to his five-year-old granddaughter Diya during his visit in 2010 to Canada, where his son’s family lives. Back home in Sembakkam, a suburb of Chennai, a few months later, Krishnan missed his granddaughter sorely, but he continued telling her stories through a site, StoryTruck, where she could see and hear him read a story to her any time she wanted. Bedtime for her became a time when she could connect with her grandparents even though they were continents away.

An online books and toys library helped Sukanya G. spend more interactive time with her five-and-a-half-year-old son Raadhesh. “The toys they send involve the family and also help develop his creativity," says Sukanya, who lives in Chennai.

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Click-happy: P.S. Nandini writes for . Photo: Nathan G/Mint.

These three cases have something in common—they have used websites to do something different and fulfilling.



Age group: 2-8

Typically, an online library lets you read books on screen. At StoryTruck, you can not only read books page by page, and see the accompanying pictures, but also listen to pre-recorded stories, even in the voices of your grandparents. It allows grandparents to read a book, record this with the click of a button (click on the blue camera icon on the book to record) and share it with their grandchildren.“We are moving towards consuming content on digital devices such as smartphones and tablets," says Mohan Rao, CEO, StoryTruck, and a resident of Sunnyvale, California, US.

Before coming up with the site, Rao found it challenging to introduce books in Indian languages to his children and to build a relationship between his children and parents. Says Rao: “The libraries here did not have enough…the conversation (between my children and parents) never lasted more than a minute over the phone."

StoryTruck currently has 60 books—in English and in three Indian languages: Hindi, Kannada and Tamil—which can be heard/read on the site (prices range from $0.99-3.99, or 54-215). It has tie-ups with two publishers—Pratham Books and Tulika Publishers.

The site also helps those who are not savvy enough. “I needed quite a bit of help in using the application and StoryTruck guided me," says Krishnan, who has written and created a digitized book in Tamil for his grandchildren.

Other online libraries where you can find children’s books include,, and



Age group: 1-12

It is an online library that provides a platform for parents and educators to rent or buy appropriate educational products, including toys, games, science kits and books, specific to a child’s individual learning needs. There is a registration fee of 250 and a refundable deposit of 500-2,500, depending on which plan you sign up for. The monthly subscription fee for hiring toys and books, etc., is 350-800, depending on the product (customers need to sign up for a minimum of three months). It also organizes “play-learn" workshops and “game" sessions conducted with children/parents/educators to develop their own games/activities/fun learning tools.

Considering the exposure a child gets today, age-based classification of products alone isn’t sufficient; the intelligence-based classification available on this site helps parents understand the preferred learning approach of their children.“The Bambaram library is based on the theory of multiple intelligences. It allows parents to filter products based on intelligence in addition to the age range," says Santhosh Subramanian, co-founder of the site.

It has unique ideas to initiate parents into assessing their own children. “For example, if you want to teach the concept of square, some children understand when we just say square is a polygon with four equal sides and four right angles (word smartness). Others may want to see the concept drawn on a board (picture smart)," says Subramanian.

Initially, the Bambaram team recommends products. “I mostly depend on their product choice. It’s great and involves the whole family at times. Other than that, it solves the problem of the child getting bored of a toy since there is continuous replacement," says Sukanya. She adds that the borrowing part has also helped inculcate a sense of responsibility in her son. “Now he takes care of the toys he owns also," she says.

Another online toy library in India:



Age group: 11-17

YOCee, a Chennai-specific online news magazine, provides information about activities in the city, and encourages and guides children to write and get published online.

Under its “student reporter programme", launched in 2007, Revathi R., editor, YOCee, initiates children into writing. “We received around 170 applications from city students in the first year itself. The number grows every year. But we restrict to 25 students, so that we can concentrate on quality training," she says.

The site also publishes an annual Chennai Kids Directory, which is a listing of the resources and learning places for extra-curricular activities. “We take out kids on photo-walks (walking a stretch in a neighbourhood with a camera, helping them know their city and document it through their eyes) on call from schools and activity centres," says Revathi.

Introducing the genre of storytelling in writing was always Revathi’s passion. So much so that in her 17-year stint at a nationalized bank, she managed to give twists to credit appraisal and other technical reports (presenting them as narratives rather than dry reports). A mother herself, she wished children would write and share. “How often do we see children sitting down to write, apart from their school homework?" asks Revathi.

Other such online endeavours in this space for children include and Mycity4kids gives information about activities in the city and covers Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.


Visual feast

A blog that reviews picture books

The intimacy of reading a book to your child as you snuggle into each other is difficult to achieve when reading a book online or listening to an audio book.

Nigeria-based Richa Jha’s blog, Snuggle With Picture Books (https://snugglewithpicturebooks, which she started in July, helps identify such books. Though she doesn’t facilitate direct buying, she does facilitate your buying decision by reviewing Indian picture books and providing links to the publishers, authors and illustrators.

A writer and an editor, she says she is in love with picture books. Jha feels this niche subject lacks any organized platform and wants to plug that gap.

In a matter of four-five months, she has put up 48 reviews; eventually she aims to include “all" picture books on this platform, which she also wants to develop as a one-stop hub for all issues related to the industry of picture books, except buying. All the books are for children aged 2-6.

However, the blog has its limitations. “One, because it is a blog and doesn’t have the flexibility that a website has," says Jha. Then, there are a limited number of books as of now. “Since I plan to do all the reviews myself, it may take some time to build it up," she says. As of now, she has books from 20 publishers, including Children’s Book Trust, Pratham Books, Scholastic India, Katha and Wisdom Tree.

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Published: 09 Nov 2012, 04:41 PM IST
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