In pursuit of the reading habit

In pursuit of the reading habit

New Delhi: Can’t get your child to change from surfing channels to turning a page? Bookaroo- India’s first interactive festival of Children’s Literature, took story telling to a different level. And the list of 30 authors and artists from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Australia, the UK and US had parents and children asking for more.

Says Niranjan Pal who took his 5-year old son to the festival, “When I looked at the author list I thought I must go. I have a five-and-a-half-year-old son and I thought it’s a good idea for him." His friend Rajesh Mehta agrees. “These kinds of events are not there in Delhi. So this was definitely one of its kinds. I would encourage all parents to come here," says Mehta.

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/Content/Videos/2008-11-24/2311_Bookarro_MINT_TV.flv74bd871a-b975-11dd-8798-000b5dabf613.flvThe festival had story-telling and workshops to make books more interesting for children. One of the major attractions was Stephen Guy’s workshop on automata — or self-operating machines.

Mehta says, “This is a very interesting project that they have done. I think it tells kids the basics of general physics of how one motion is converted into another." Mehta wonders why schools in India don’t have a similar approach of teaching science.

Parents say in a world of play stations and TV one book festival will not do the trick. To inculcate the habit of reading they really have to work at it. And some feel there is a larger purpose to children’s books than Enid Blyton and Harry potter. “I felt my daughter was feeling shy so I just picked up a book. It’s in a question and answer form," says Renu Khanna who encourages her 6-year old daughter to read.

But how does one balance between the Panchtantras, Archie’s and Asterix and Oblix? Novelists say, though improving, children’s literature has a long way to go in India. Says children’s book writer Tabish Khair, “I think its getting better. Production has improved. Illustrators have become better. But there has to be stories to maintain a balance between entertainment and knowledge. That is important for children."

Whether for entertainment, bedtime lullaby or learning lessons, most parents just hope that children remember to read even after they become adults.