A fun way for kids to learn all about ‘Rupaiya Paisa’

When should
children start learning about money? Should children get pocket money?
Is it okay to pay a child for doing a simple chore? Does that amount to
child labour. Journalist, author and Pratham Books editor Mala Kumar
says she thinks so much about all these things that she finally decided
to learn about these things – and hence, wrote the four books in the
Rupaiya Paisa Series. Manisha Chaudhry caught up with the author who
confesses she used to find writing out a bank slip stressful!

The author, Mala Kumar reading the ‘Rupaiya Paisa’ series  to children in Hoskote, Bangalore


1) How did the idea of a series on financial literacy for children germinate?


As Pratham Books evolved and saw more of
its readers, one of the areas that we wanted to touch was financial
literacy. We were very keen to
create books to engage children in understanding the world of
finance. Schools do touch upon this, but finance is such an intrinsic
part of the child’s life that we felt they needed to be empowered with
knowledge as early as possible. There are more than 200 million
children in the country who need good and joyful books to get them
reading more, and to empower them as future citizens. The ‘Rupaiya
Paisa’ series is a small, and hopefully, a  significant attempt in that
2) Share the process of developing these books. How long did it take you to write them? What changed along the way?

The first thing we decided was to involve the experts. Vijay Mahajan of
BASIX, an organization involved with microfinance and training at the
grassroots readily agreed to work
with us, and to the credit of Basix, a senior team engaged with us in
a two day write-shop.Since I attended the workshop, it seemed
appropriate that I write the books – as an editor and Pratham Books I
knew the audience well. And as a freelance journalist, I could compile
the large chunks of information generated at the workshop and through my
research into easily digestible books.

We started planning the books as fictional stories with
characters and a plot. After just one chapter my team and I knew that
this was not working. The fiction was coming in the way of the facts and
concepts. Hence we decided to do it in the non-fiction mode, with many
little stories and situations to explain the concepts. The writing took
two years, since I did this after working hours. We went through several
drafts and worked on suggestions from many people.

Once the illustrations started, there was a constant back
and forth on the text too. If a part had been illustrated and was thus
self-explanatory, I would cut or edit the text. These changes continued
almost till the end. 

We are very proud of the four books that have
come out of that, and hope to use this model to create much more
gap-filling content for children. There are more than 200 million
children in the country who need good and joyful books to get them
reading more, and to empower them as future citizens. The ‘Rupaiya
Paisa’ series is a small, but we hope significant attempt in that

3) What role did the illustrators play?
Balsavar, the illustrator, and Priti Rajwade the designer, were in
constant touch with me. We had several rounds of phone calls where we
decided what needed to be illustrated. Since the subject is tough we
relied heavily on the illustrations to lighten the matter.

4) Was it difficult to choose what to keep and what to leave out?


it was quite a challenge. Like in most subjects, there is always more
information that an author wants to share with her readers. But in this
case, the challenge was to make the books easy to read, and we had to
keep our own finances in mind….it would have been counter productive
to write longer books and price them higher! At the same time, the greed
was to pack in as much value into the series as possible so that the
children –  and through them, their families – could be better informed
about finance.

5) What did you learn from writing these books?

honestly I can now say I am finally financially literate! You see,
finance is not my subject, nor has it interested me till I started
writing these books. As a daughter of an accounts officer, and the wife
of a banking professional, I’ve never had to make financial decisions!
The other thing I learnt is that we need such books for children, rooted
in their reality.

6) Something funny that happened while you were working on them…?

time – till we all moved to Internet banking, writing out a challan in
my friendly neighbourhood bank used to be a  stressful thing for me – I
always felt I would make mistakes that would somehow make banks crash,
and that my incompetency in all things financial was evident to all the
people at the bank. Words like Payee used to confuse me. And then recently, an old bank officer met me and said, “Nice
to hear that you have written books on finance!”

The other thing that made us all laugh was when we started
suggesting names for the series. I can’t share the names now, but we
came up with some awful ones and some great ones!

The set of four books in this series cost Rs. 160 only. They can be bought from the Pratham Books eStore.


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