The Read India Movement started as a result of widespread research that showed that a large number of children in India, who are in school, cannot read. Estimates are that 1 out of 2 children in government primary schools across the country cannot read fluently and children who are unable to read are unable to learn due to lack of comprehension, a large number of school drop-outs.
In 2003, Pratham, a national initiative that seeks to ensure universal primary education, tested a large scale method that uses a child centric approach to teaching children how to read. This 45-day programme uses illustrated story cards and phonetic “Barakhadi” charts to teach children how to decode sounds and recognize words and letters. The method integrated a joyful approach to learning where children are encouraged to read and participate in activities based on each story card. This programme has been conducted across India with amazing results.
Once children learn how to read it is crucial to sustain their interest by cultivating a reading habit. Pratham responded by setting up libraries for children that would provide them the opportunity to read meaningful children’s books in regional languages. Our aim was to provide a book in every child’s hand and a library in every neighbourhood. Pratham now has around 4000 libraries across the country.
As the number of libraries increased so did the need to stock more and more books. But a quick review of the current market scenario revealed two major issues in the Indian children’s publishing industry:
- There are a number of excellent mainstream children’s books available which are written by authors from the western world. There are far fewer available that are of Indian origin. And, even fewer, in Indian languages..
- Even among the books that are available, Indian as well as foreign books were expensive and so stocking the libraries was difficult. The few books that were available at lower costs, in local languages, were produced so badly that children were not stimulated by them.
- Woven from the Indian fabric, rooted in the Indian origin
- Spoke the child’s language
- Was beautifully illustrated, written for the child, and produced in a way he would love to keep reading more
- All of the above at a cost ranging from Rs. 10 – Rs. 25. No more than Rs.25.
Picture via Happy Horizons.