Tag Archives: #kidsbooks

Indian Audio Books For the Global Child

In a virtual world, parents are striving to strike a balance between the need for a personal connection and the prerequisite to learn. While school learning comes with its own set of rules, extracurricular learning is an area where parents can get creative and let their own imagination and that of the child guide them in creating new and exciting means to learn.

There is no better way to learn than through stories. Many schools of education would agree with this thought. Especially Indian parents would agree because oral storytelling is such a big part of our culture. Remember your Nani’s soft hands stroking your hair, while she told you native folklore? And where are those stories now? They are in the collective memories of all who might have heard them. Author Sue Monk Kidd said, “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” So, as parents, it is our moral obligation to pass these stories on. And as Indians with a rich and complex culture to share, stories can be the creative building blocks to share this treasure of information.

In a search to limit screen time and yet not disclude the benefits of technology, I hunted for the best audio stories on the internet that share the riches of Indian culture. They are reminiscent of the soft voice of our childhoods: reading or narrating a story, very personal and very human. 

Here’s my list:

Ancient Indian Wisdom

BaalGatha

Baalgatha literally means Children’s stories. This podcast brings to you hundreds of stories with morals, ranging from Panchatantra, Jataka, and Hitopadesha stories to many more. These are stories that are not only entertaining but definitely have an educational value. 

Baalgatha is available in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, and Kannada languages. The stories are short and can hold the attention of younger kids. A perfect start to texts like Panchtantra and to introduction to Indian languages.

Audible India: The Jungle Book

Audible India has several children’s stories including Panchtantra, Akbar Birbal and many classical Indian tales. I was elated to find the Jungle Book on Audible India, this production is the Winner of the 2016 Audie Award for Best Audio Drama and the 2016 Audie Award for Excellence in Production. Magically narrated and completely transportive, while this production is more suitable for older kids, it will be a delight for parents as well. 

New Original Audio stories

Little Stories for Tiny People

Rhea Pechter’s podcast is an internet phenomenon. Little Stories for Tiny People is downloaded over 130,000 times per month and has been featured in School Library Journal, Mashable, Time Out New York, Common Sense Media, and Parents.com. While her stories are for older children, they are innovative, fun and full of animal adventure that is set in America. Divided by themes like bedtime, family, life changes, this podcast is into its ninth season! Based on the response Rhea recently published her book Little Fox Can’t Wait to Dream.

Lori 

Lori is a five-story collection by first time writer Ratna Goradia. What stands out about these stories is their simple originality, and their ability to transport listeners into the innocent times back in India. Set in India, these stories revolve around the theme of friendship and follow Hari and Shyam, two friends and their newly found friend: an adorable dog named Pintu, about their school lives. Softly read, and easily grasped even by toddlers, these stories will give kids a glimpse into the life of growing up in India. Parents will enjoy them for nostalgia’s sake! Also featured on India based Chimes Radio, we hope Lori will offer more installments. 

Classical and Original Stories

Story Weaver by Pratham Books

Story Weaver is by far the most diverse and exciting platform for children’s stories. It is a great resource for animated picture books and audio stories based on subjects, ages, genres, and lengths. Like me, you might get lost in stories from African folklore or stories about empathy and honesty, classical stories and original stories. Under their Indian stories, you will find stories of ancient wisdom and new and original stories. This is a treasure house with hundreds of stories for all ages.


Preeti Hay is a freelance writer whose writings have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Khabar Magazine, India Currents, Yoga International, and anthologies of fiction and poetry.

Rural Tales of India With a Purpose

Award-winning independent publishing house, Karadi Tales, launched a new series of chapter books under its new chapter book imprint, Minmini Reads, that targets readers from ages 10 to 15, at the Delhi Book Fair on October 31st, 2020. This series is done in collaboration with People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI): an ambitious, acclaimed living archive of reporting about rural India, founded and led by Magsaysay Award-winner and veteran journalist P. Sainath.

The PARI series uses real stories of rural India, disenfranchised people and communities, and the unique challenges that they overcome every day. These are tales of courage, adversity, success, and hope.

They feature children who participate cheerfully in civic issues, athletes who power past their disabilities, citizens who demand their right to be heard. The series attempts to give these voices a platform, as well as address the serious dearth of children’s books that are set in non-urban locations.

All the books are based on articles written by top journalists, and originally published by PARI.  The set features five tales from different parts of rural India.

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No Nonsense Nandhini by Aparna Karthikeyan is based on the life of Chandra Subramanian, a Sivagangai district farmer, retailer, and mother, who received a ‘homepreneur’ award.

No Ticket, Will Travel by Subuhi Jiwani is a series of short stories on migrant labourers who travel in search of work, determined to make a living although their lives are rife with uncertainty.

Coming Home by Priti David is about a group of children from Sittilingi Valley who, at one point, are forced to drop out of school and find work in far-flung factories and mills. Until one day, they decide to start their own school, and help create jobs in their own valley in the process.

A Big Splash by Nivedha Ganesh follows Dhivya, a young farmer and an ace swimmer who had previously only swum in the tank and lake in her village. From her cotton fields to the Paralympics, Dhivya manages to brave all odds.

House of Uncommons by Vishaka George takes a peek into the lives of the students at Snehagram, an institute for HIV positive children, and their struggles, triumphs, and achievements.

With 65% of India’s population living in rural areas, Karadi Tales brings these stories to the urban demographic who remain oblivious to the issues faced by their rural counterparts. Urban children grow up exposed to stories that mirror their own struggles and are unaware of the cultures, lifestyles, and problems of other children, who are of their own age group, living further away from them.

Sainath says, “[The series] is a very important addition, not only to the reading diet of children, which is completely bereft of knowledge about rural India , but adds to the spectrum of imagination of young children.”

These stories are based on true events and everyday people. Their struggles and success prove to be a source of inspiration for readers. They help children reconnect to their ancestral roots, to nature, and to understand the realities faced by many others in our vast country. Karadi Tales and PARI have taken up this mission to unearth the treasure trove of stories that rural India has to offer, while spreading awareness among the masses.

About the Authors

Aparna Karthikeyan is a storyteller, independent journalist, and volunteers for PARI. Her articles have been published in The Hindu, PARI, The Caravan, Wire, Scroll.in and other publications on culture, books, and livelihoods.

Subuhi Jiwani has worked as a journalist and editor in Mumbai, most recently with PARI. She has also edited Day’s End Stories: Life After Sundown in Small-Town India (Westland Books, 2014), an anthology of travel essays, and directed a short documentary on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus titled Terminus: Stories of CST (Sahapedia, 2017).

Priti David is the Education Editor and a rural reporter at PARI. She interacts with school and college students to encourage them to explore, engage and write on rural issues. She has been a business journalist, a book editor, and a high school teacher.

Nivedha Ganesh graduated with a degree in English literature and has been dreaming up stories since she was nine. She likes writing about monsters, magic, and characters with hearts of gold.

Vishaka George is a journalist who reports on agrarian distress and labour exploitation for PARI. She is PARI’s social media editor, working with a team of journalists who make stories from rural India more accessible to audiences across the world. She is a part of a two-member team that teaches media ethics and rural journalism to school and college students.


 

Captain Ramarao’s Adventures

There is no pleasure higher than playing with one’s grandchildren. When they play and laugh heartily, one’s heart skips with joy. The whole house comes alive, and the spirits of everyone present soar sky-high.

Unfortunately, children also fight amongst themselves. And fight they do, with the same passion they show while playing. It takes a few minutes for elders to sort out the dispute and settle the matter. The children repeatedly say sorry, forget about it, and resume playing. Unlike elders, they don’t hold grudges and settle scores later. All that is needed while dealing with such children is a little patience and gentle persuasion.

My six grandchildren, all bundles of joy, meet almost every weekend to come and play with me. While playing, they often get into arguments and scuffles but agree to my system of administering justice and settle their disputes.

Children love riddles and brain teasers. The expression on their faces when they successfully solve a mystery is just beyond words. I have been giving questions to them and rewarding them a buck each when they provide the right answer. This made no dent in my wallet but gave immense pleasure to the kids.

I used to tell my grandchildren several stories of my life at sea and adventures, some real and some made up, and found them listening with rapt attention. Notably, stories of monsters used to keep them spellbound.

Finally, stories of treasure and treasure hunt have been popular with children since time immemorial. Combining all these with my fertile imagination, I spun yarn, and the result is the book. Captain Riddle’s Treasure.

Riddles, popular with the kids, form the centerpiece of this novel. I took popular concepts and turned them on their heads. The ship is unique; the port side is a sailing ship of yore, and the starboard is a modern ship a cross between a warship and a freighter. The captain has some quirks and mannerisms. The kids outwit a sea monster, Godzilla, and the spaceship with their riddles. The sword fight between the girl and the pirate, an army of leprechauns, a rainbow at midnight, a knight astride a lion, a fight between the knight and the Night Fairy, the kids taking rides on a lion, putting their hand in its mouth, lion chasing the monkey in the superstructure of the ship, the computers and gizmos confusing the knight and a boy getting stuck in the timeline- all new concepts will tickle the interest of kids as well as adults.

The second book Race for Crown Jewels deals with mysterious creatures and educates children about Mars, Esperanto, expressions such as white elephant, pink panther, and has a story full of action. The fight with the flying pigs, the way Emily gets the better of a Gurkha soldier in a sword fight is a few of the many highlights of the book.

If you have kids looking for mystery and fun, this is a great way to help them spend time during the pandemic!


G.V. Ramarao served for the best part of his life in the Indian Navy as an officer and later switched to the mercantile marine. He has published many humorous short stories and a range of articles in various magazines and newspapers in India.

Environmentalism Through Kid’s Kathas

Living in the world that all of us do today, it goes without saying that children across the spectrum need to read books that create awareness surrounding the environment and its inhabitants. 

When I think of an Indian publishing house for children, the name that first comes to mind is Katha. What sets Katha’s books apart from others is that it is known for facilitating learning through the power of storytelling. Storytelling is a beautiful way to address some of the most pertinent issues related to the environment and climate change, and the 32-year-old publishing house has time and again called for attention towards our planet through this distinctive approach, in books such as Tigers Forever!, The Mysteries Of Migration, and Polar Bear

Books that Make You Fall in Love with Nature

Sonam’s Ladakh

One of the most effective ways of getting children to care about the environment is to simply help them fall in love with it. Some of Katha’s older books instill a love for nature with their stories and themes. Each of their books has a varied message: In Run Ranga! Run!, one gets to explore the grasslands with the fearless baby rhinoceros who needs a friend; Walk the Rainforest with Niwupah and Walk the Grasslands with Takuri are tours of rainforests and grasslands with a hornbill and an elephant, respectively; On the Tip of a Pin Was… uncovers the science behind wormholes; The Gift of Gold is a mythical story from South African folklore is about a little girl who saves her village from drought. 

Manish Lakhani’s Sonam’s Ladakh tells a story through exquisite photography about a girl belonging to the semi-nomadic Changpa tribe, wandering shepherds in Ladakh. Young Sonam informs readers about animals in the Ladakh region that are her closest friends and “better than boxes of money”. She mentions goats, dogs, her father’s pashmina herds of sheep, and yaks that help grow food and whose wool make their tents. She also points out other animals in the region—the rare Eurasian otters, horses, and Himalayan wolves. The story that is bound to fascinate most children with its sheer novelty and imagery. The books ends with a section that discusses Ladakh’s many glaciers that are gradually melting due to the earth’s global warming, increasing pollution levels and the cutting of trees. The questions posed are aimed at making children think of ways in which all of us in our own way can contribute to caring for the environment.

Keeping it Simple

In a world filled with an overwhelming amount of information on environmental degradation, young children are most likely to gain sensitivity about the situation most through personal experience. Katha’s books have constantly aimed at bringing out simple storylines with characters that relate to most children.

In Who Wants Green Fingers Anyway?, Geeta Dharmarajan explores a mother’s obsession with her potted plants kept in her verandah. When her plants start mysteriously wilting and drooping, her husband researches the subject of how to keep them happy, leading him to attempt re-potting them. What follows is a comical saga, however, the key message has been surreptitiously slipped in—that the roots of plants get tangled up when their pots become too small for them.  

More recently, in The Mystery of the Missing Soap, Tobakachi, the wicked Asura and GermaAsura, along with their Coronavirus Army, make soap disappear in Dakshinapur, one of the happiest villages in the country. By tricking people in this way, they ensure that no one washes their hands, which makes them all very sick. That is until the helpful elephant, Tamasha and the fearless girl, Lachmi, show everyone how to make soap in order to win the battle against the Virus Army. The story, beautifully illustrated by Suddhasattwa Basu and Charbak Dipta, is followed by a simple recipe for making soap at home using reetha berries. By explaining the importance of washing one’s hands in order to prevent coronavirus, the book then dives into Katha’s famous “TADAA” (Think, Ask questions, Discuss, Act, and Take Action for the community) section which details what coronavirus actually is and what one can do to prevent oneself from getting it.

Big Ideas with a Heart

After getting kids to fall in love with nature through simple stories—and hence, getting them to care for the environment—the next step is to focus on concepts that help them think about pressing environmental issues that are affecting the world. Every narrative in Katha’s books is filled with common themes—or what the publisher likes to call ‘big ideas’. For instance, all of Katha’s environment books have recurring themes such as empathy, affection, kindness, collective action, and cues to switch to alternative eco-friendly habits.

Ma Ganga and the Razai Box weaves environmental concerns like pollution, soil erosion, and desertification with mythology. The Magical Raindrop humanizes and gives emotions to Mother Earth, formulating her character in a way that the readers feel she’s a person who feels happiness, sadness, anxiety, and joy just like all of us. Katha’s Thinkbook Series has been designed in a way to introduce young readers to big ideas such as “climate change, gender, and kindness through stories that inspire, aspire, and engage.” 

Educating through Stories

Katha’s founder, Padma Shri Geeta Dharmarajan, is an award-winning writer, editor, and educator. Her published works alone include more than 30 children’s books, many of which are Katha publications. Needless to say, environmental issues are very close to her heart. She is credited for having created Katha’s unique concept of StoryPedagogy, which combines India’s oral traditions and the 2,000-year-old Sanskrit text on the performing arts, Natya Shastra; an idea that she has seamlessly integrated with an earth-friendly curriculum.

While the stories get children to empathize with the characters and their situation—and thus, understand and imbibe an environmental concept—Katha’s final goal is to make children think deeper and take initiatives to act and make a difference. The insightful exercises that appear at the end of each book are created using the SPICE model (Student-centred, Problem-based, Integrated, Community-based, Electives, Systematic) as well as observations, teachers’ feedback, and research among children in the Katha Lab School.

Katha Lab School is a model and a center of creativity for the slum cluster of Govindpuri in New Delhi. Thus, Katha takes the storytelling approach a step further beyond its books too. The Katha Lab School, for instance, uses no traditional textbooks or a one-size-fits-all syllabus. Instead, its system of education is based on StoryPedagogy, a technique that is delivered through Active Story-Based Learning, which helps children to learn language, science, and mathematics, while developing general awareness and critical thinking skills through various stories and activities.

Katha’s StoryPedagogy is the new age of education – one that we can all benefit from adopting.

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.