Kids & Teens

Once upon a time...these four words take us back to our childhood days, when most of the stories started with these words. We still remember the stories that were told by our parents or grandparents. We loved the way they chuckled between the story, their lows, highs and depths in the voice, their hand movements – all made the story interesting...well that was the art of storytelling. Savi Sarin of Weave a Tale discusses the art of storytelling and its importance in the development of children. What hooks you to a book till its very last page? Ever appreciated a commercial on TV or a good movie? Why would you like a presentation in office? We like them because they are “Stories well told”. Yes, they might be good stories but the process is not storytelling.

What is story telling?

Over the ages, storytelling has become an all-encompassing term. The art of telling a story with the use of the written word, song, acting, mime, dance and other mediums come under the umbrella of Storytelling. But, at its core Storytelling is the art of using language, vocalization, and/or physical movement and gesture to reveal the elements and images of a story to a specific, live audience. It is the live, interactive, oral and physical presentation of a story to an audience. No more, no less.

Let us talk about children. Children have an innate desire to learn and are packed with abundance of positive energy inclined towards seeking knowledge. Few common traits at this age are - they want to know, observe others and try it out themselves. But a very important thing with children is that they are sensitive to the “packaging” of how learning is given to them. Children are very partial to the “fun” part of learning. Ergo, storytelling is a very powerful educational tool which can make learning fun. It can act as a catalyst and propel their creativity and imagination.

How is the medium of oral storytelling unique?

  • Storytelling allows the story to develop and mature because of the interaction between the teller and the listener. It gives the story the freedom to live and change, in the way a living organism changes, according to the circumstances and community it finds itself in.
  • Storytelling is an interactive performance art form. Direct interaction between the teller and audience is an essential element of the storytelling experience. An audience responds to the teller’s words and actions. The teller uses this generally non-verbal feedback immediately, spontaneously, and improvises to adjust the tones, wording, and pace of the story to better meet the needs of the audience.
  • It is a co-creative process. Storytelling audiences do not passively receive a story from the teller, as a viewer would receive the content of a television programme or motion picture. Both the teller and the listener have active roles to play during the process of storytelling. The teller provides no visual images, no stage set, and generally, no costumes related to story characters or historic period. The teller’s role is to prepare and present the necessary language, vocalization, and physicality to effectively and efficiently communicate the images of a story. Listeners create these vivid, multi-sensory images actions, characters and events in their mind based on the performer’s telling and on their own experiences and beliefs. The completed story happens in the mind of the listener, unique and personal for each individual.
  • Storytelling is, by its nature, personal, interpretive, and uniquely human. Storytelling passes on the essence of who we are. Stories are a prime vehicle for assessing and interpreting events, experiences, and concepts from minor moments of daily life to the grand nature of the human condition. It is an intrinsic and basic form of human communication. More than any other form of communication, the telling of stories in an integral and essential part of the human experience.
  • It is a process, a medium for sharing, interpreting, offering the content and meaning of a story to an audience. Because storytelling is spontaneous and experiential, and thus a dynamic interaction between teller and listener, it is far more difficult to describe than is the script and camera directions of a movie, or the lines and stage direction notes of a play. Storytelling emerges from the interaction and cooperative, coordinated efforts of teller and audience.

Advantages of listening to stories

How does listening to stories help, why not just watch a movie or let children enjoy a cartoon? Below are some key advantages of listening to stories:

  • Develops concentration, attentiveness and sustained, active listening skills.
  • Activates visualisation and imagination.
  • Develops an understanding of orality, and the use of spoken story language; rhyme and repetition; narrative patterns, conventions and structures, etc.
  • Extends vocabulary and models the articulate use of oral language.
  • Develops sequencing, comprehension and prediction skills.
  • Develops memory.
  • Presents an opportunity to experience, respond to and participate in live performance.
  • Develops social cohesion through shared experience.
  • Offers access to the vast range of traditional and historical narratives, from innumerable cultures, religions and points in history.

Why should I or my child tell stories?

The process of retelling stories provides children with opportunities to:

  • Secure and consolidate memory.
  • Develop an ability to stand before peers and strangers and speak freely and with confidence.
  • Experience and self-order events, using oral language, narrative conventions and exploring rhythm, rhyme, repetition and other word-play.
  • Explore themes, settings, role play, identification, empathy and characterisation through improvisation.
  • Learn how language changes with purpose, such as in persuasion, conflict and resolution and in decision making.
  • Develop vocal and physical confidence.
  • Experiment with the use of dialogue, voice, tone, expression, characterisation and other vocal effects, etc., combined with gesture, facial expression and body language.
  • Develop spatial awareness in terms of imagined geographies and in creating relationship with audiences.
  • Consider how mood, atmosphere and tension can be created in live performance using music, and other dramatic effects.
  • Present stories to classmates and to younger, older and adult audiences, taking account of the different needs of the listeners.
  • Invite, listen and respond to suggestions from classmates to refine and develop storytelling techniques.
  • Experience intergenerational and intercultural exchange.

Storytelling/Reading vs TV

It is perturbing to know that TV viewing, video games, and net surfing outplace reading as a “fun” activity among young children. It is easier for children to flip channels than the pages of the book. How can reading be more engaging and fun? Storytelling helps in providing a tangible hook for the children to get into the world of books and reading. By exploring the world of stories, children can travel to faraway places, many of which they might not be able to visit physically. They can take endless trips to distant lands and imaginary worlds while learning about history, science, and people.

Many would argue that T.V. does the same. Well then, it is just a matter of choice!!!! Freedom as well as onus of making an informed and educated decision for children lies with parents.

It is perturbing to know that TV viewing, video games, and net surfing outplace reading as a “fun” activity among young children. It is easier for children to flip channels than the pages of the book. How can reading be more engaging and fun? Storytelling helps in providing a tangible hook for the children to get into the world of books and reading.

Will paper books remain as ‘alive’ and ‘holy’ tomorrow in the big wheel of digital media, finds out Sahil Gupta, director, V&S Publishers. Indian publishers need to realize that it is not a question of ‘Print’ vs. ‘Digital’. It is in fact a question of the survival of the ‘book’ as a concept, as a bundle of knowledge, as an expertly edited masterpiece. The Indian book publishing industry, valued at nearly Rupees 11,000 crore, is witnessing a healthy 15 percent annual growth despite the slump in the worldwide market and threat from digital media, says a recent Frankfurt Book Fair study. The India growth story presents a unique scenario much like its culture that allows both the old and the new to co-exist. Digital publishing here complements conventional publishing unlike western nations where ebooks have edged out printed ones or are close to doing it. With the widespread use of computers and computer-assisted book production, publishers have truly entered the ‘electronic age’. With print runs for each title getting smaller and fixed printing cost remaining unchanged, the cost of production goes up proportionally, making books expensive for consumers. Besides, small printing that doesn’t allow for economies of scale means higher unit prices and lower sales - thus falling into a vicious cycle.

Innovation has blurred the boundaries of books and digital media so much so that a question arises as to what constitutes a book in the digital age. Right from the time of early hand written books to Gutenberg's printing press to this day, a book continues to be a compilation of bound pages, holding content that is expertly written, correctly edited containing some valuable information or insight. That’s the concept we have grown up with. However, with the advancement of technology and its ever-increasing adoption (especially in the publishing industry), the concept of the ‘Book’ has changed completely both from the point of view of the consumer and the publisher. And as has happened with other media forms, digital technology has started altering the image of books we are used to. By facilitating navigation to digital media through CDs, even Indian publishers are trying to adjust to the shape of things to come.

Are printed books becoming a part of the whole gamut of reading sources available on different formats? With various options becoming available in the market, has the time come to debate if printed books moving to a higher degree of convenient reading? Or are losing their touch and feel charm among technology-driven reading platforms?

Technology is a boon for any industry. However, it must be adapted with caution so as not to sacrifice the human touch or the human expertise from the whole process. Unfortunately, this is not what is happening in the Indian publishing industry. They are adopting the latest technology in their publishing processes and have shifted the focus from publishing a ‘book’ to creation of a ‘project’. Now how to distinguish between the two? Simply, a book forms a small part of the whole project. Yes, the project, with its various multimedia and interactive elements, might prove to be a better experience to the consumer. However, the basic idea of a book and its sanctity is lost. The book has been in existence since long solely because it became a tool for delivering knowledge. Shifting the focus to delivering more of ‘junk’ and less of expert content is a controversial choice.

Would a person a few decades down the line consider the appearance, aroma, feel and weight of a book the way we do today or visualize it as one of the many options available among reading entities?

Media formats likewise are switching to other frontiers for fast, easy and improved access. Digital publishers are utilizing new tools to create a variety of formats to dazzle readers with novel outlook. They are inventing ways to enhance the utility of a traditional book, with things like hyperlinks, embedded videos, games, conversations, etc. They plan to go further to offer experience of pleasant reading unhindered by the present day limit of one shape, one font, and one size of the book on paper. The meaning of story-telling has changed drastically.

Doomsayers may wonder if books would continue to be printed on paper. Will printed books survive the multimedia onslaught? Books, as we know today will not vanish in the foreseeable future in India. It would be presumptuous to consider that books -on-the-web, e-books or other digital formats are a looming threat to paper-printed books in India. Digital media available today act as a fanciful complementary for Smartphone or Kindle owning readers and nothing more.

Indian publishers need to realize that it is not a question of ‘Print’ vs. ‘Digital’. It is in fact a question of the survival of the ‘book’ as a concept, as a bundle of knowledge, as an expertly edited masterpiece. The importance of the editorial segment should not be neglected. It’s not about how flashy or attractive the title is. What ultimately matters is content. The bottom line is that ‘The Book’ must remain as HOLY as it has always been.

asserts Navin Joshi, executive vice president, S. Chand Group in a chat with Varsha Verma from AABP.

Navin JoshiS. Chand is a reputed and trustworthy educational textbook publisher serving school textbook segment with quality content from more than seven decades. Their presence and popularity in school textbook segment, in the form of both physical books and e-learning solutions, signifies their position in the industry. “Quality contents, strong resource of well known and national award winning authors, reasonable prices, good quality printing, binding etc, are our USPs,” says Navin Joshi, executive vice president, S. Chand Group. So, how has the school textbook publishing segment evolved over the years, its challenges and strengths, shares Navin Joshi.

Varsha: How big is the school textbook market and how is it different from trade and higher-education publishing?

Navin Joshi: In India, school education market is a large segment. As per our research, this market segment is having around 12,000 schools affiliated to CBSE Board, consisting 940 Kendriya Vidyalyas, 543 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalyas, 56 Tibetan Schools and approximately 2,000 Government Schools. Rest of the schools are private independent CBSE affiliated schools and approximately 1,700 ICSE Schools. Also, there are large numbers of English medium schools which are affiliated to respective state board of different states of India. These figures itself reveals the enormous potential of this huge market segment.

Distinctions are there among school publishing, trade and higher education publishing market. One of the most important distinctions is that the number of students in school publishing is much more as compared to trade/higher academic segment, which means that readership is much higher in this segment. In higher education publishing & trade publishing, some titles are very popular all over the country, whereas, in school segment, from school to school, titles are different. Also, school education market is very competitive and tough too.

Varsha: How fast the education industry changing and how often are the textbooks upgraded to match it?

Navin Joshi: In the last five years, there have been tremendous changes in Indian education industry especially in school education market.
Some of these are:
(i) Upgradation of curriculum and syllabi
(ii) Improved and innovative methods of teaching have been introduced in the schools
(iii) New methods of assessments

Recently, The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has introduced Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) System i.e., CCE and Problem Solving Assessments i.e., (PSA). By introduction of CCE and PSA systems, the entire text matter requires thorough revision, updation along with inclusion of new formatted content. Each title of school books segment needs revision and updation at regular intervals so as to meet the requirements of this competitive market.

Varsha: Do you think the Indian education industry is at par with the foreign counterparts?

Navin Joshi: Indian education industry is definitely at par with the foreign counterparts, as Indian publishers focus on best content with good printing quality, but, price is a big constraint. Due to unfeasible economic conditions, we cannot increase prices of our products. To keep prices reasonable, sometimes we have to compromise with paper quality etc. On the other hand, foreign publishers keep prices very high which reflects in quality of their products. A considerable price hike would definitely boost the overall quality of books of Indian publishers.

Varsha: Everybody in the publishing world is coming forward and promoting their products as matching up with the standards. How do educators know which product are the real gold standards?

Navin Joshi: In school textbook segment, there are basically two parameters for comparing quality and standard of a product. These are: credentials of authors and content quality. Recently, (due to problem of content disputes), CBSE has undergone some amendments in affiliation by laws to ensure that only properly scrutinized textbooks would be used for teaching across all CBSE affiliated schools. Under this law, all CBSE affiliated schools will have to setup website informing the details of textbooks being prescribed in their curriculum. Now, the responsibility of prescribing quality content is reserved with respective CBSE School. By this process, the schools can definitely have a check on book’s content and author’s credentials. The new amendment will definitely help schools to choose products with real gold standards.

Varsha: What is the role of e-learning in this segment and how is S. Chand Group gearing up for this change?

Navin Joshi: In modern era, the role of e-learning has become very important. Now, it is mandatory for all CBSE and ICSE affiliated schools to give place to e-learning in their academic curriculum. All CBSE and ICSE affiliated schools should induct minimum two smart classes in their schools. The response of schools towards e-learning is very good and we believe that in near future, most of the schools will opt for it. At S. Chand, we have opened separate division for digital education and our e-learning product, “Destination Success” is a popular name. We are content based company whereas our competitors are technology- based companies.

Varsha: What message would you like to give to teachers/educators to choose the right books for children?

Navin Joshi: My message to schools is, while selecting books please check the name and credentials of authors, whether they are associated with good schools or just freelancers. A learned and experienced author associated with good school can write well as he/she knows the latest development in curriculum of respective board.

Secondly, credentials of publisher should also be reviewed while selecting books. Now, there has been a mushroom growth in school books publishers especially in K-8 segments. Schools should thoroughly check the reputation of publishers and their status in the industry. Also, schools should ensure whether the publisher is a member of any of three very important associations like Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP), Federation of Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association of India (FPBAI) and Federation of Educational Publishers in India (FEPI). Associations of publishers with these federations are considered as hallmark for good quality publishing in Indian publishing industry.

This is the success mantra popular illustrator Priya Kurian follows. This artist has brought smiles to numerous children through her illustrations, which form an integral part of the children books. Here, in conversation with Varsha Verma, she reveals how she became a children book illustrator and how she comes up with a perfect illustration every time. The beginning…

Priya KurianPriya Kurian is an established children artist, who is trained as an animation film maker at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. “An important aspect of conceiving animation films consists of creating 'Concept Art' which involves illustrating various scenarios for the main characters of the film by using different visual techniques, mediums and treatments that really inspire one to think freely. Not all the scenarios created during this process are always included in the film. I enjoyed this stage of the film making process immensely and my interest in illustrating books was really an outcome of this. In my final year, I wrote to the people at Tulika Books on a whim and they were kind enough to give me the chance to work on a sweet story about an elephant called Bahadur who forgets how to sleep. The book is called I'm so Sleepy and is written by Radhika Chadha. The book turned out to be quite popular and I went on to illustrate a series of books with the same character. The series was called 'The Baby Bahadur' series,” tells Priya.

Later, Priya worked as an animator in a production house in Mumbai and then Seasame Street in Delhi. “Working at an animation studio didn't leave me with much time to pursue illustration very seriously, but by the time I decided to become a freelancer, which was after a year of working with Sesame Street Preschool, I had a small body of work that I compiled into a blog which I still maintain, and sent it to various publishers in Delhi. Since the first few books that I worked on were for a children's book publisher, I think most publishers assumed I illustrated only for kids books and the kind of work I received was mostly in the same area,” she recalls.

“Infact, I illustrated a few books for Puffin and Scholastic, and slowly over the years, more people in publishing got familiar with my work. So far, it's been really satisfying working on different kinds of projects with so many different people and I have realised how much I like working on children's books rather than illustrations for grownups,” she adds.

Hardest part of illustrating…

“…Getting started, I think. Because, that's the point where one needs to take the most amount of decisions and face the maximum number of choices in terms of what needs to be done with the characters and the treatment of the book. Sometimes, I find that these decisions can't be made in one sitting, but can take over a period of days and sometimes weeks,” replies Priya.

“Also another challenge is to put yourself back in the shoes of the child that you were. I think adults (including me) sometimes have a poor memory of what they were as children and what they felt like as a kid; what hurt you; what made you feel insecure. It is important to be able to tap into that,” adds Priya as a matter of fact.

Factors kept in mind while illustrating for children…

“I always try avoiding clichés, especially when it comes to creating characters. I like illustrations with enough details so that a kid can come back to it again and again, and perhaps spot something new each time he or she does so. I always like adding a touch of humour wherever possible in the details; something like a side joke which might really be part of the text. Also, one has to keep in mind that your audiences' experience of the world would cover the last 8 to 10 years as opposed to the last 20 and above. So, one should always keep up with what children find fascinating and be careful to use examples from popular culture and metaphors in your work that they understand,” she explains.

Real life influences…

“I love travelling and keep a record of places I visit. However small or big the city/village /town, one always comes back with quirky stories. Sometimes, the interesting characters I meet later find their way into my illustrations. So, I like to keep memories of those people and places in my notebook so as not to forget these,” she adds nonchalantly.

Advice to aspiring artists…

“Continuously keep at what one likes doing, work earnestly and honestly and don't compare yourself to another. Also, do some projects just for the love of it without thinking too much about what it would lead to. Compile your work online as well so that people can access it easily,” she advises.

The first visitor to pavilion put up by India, the guest of honour country at Seoul International Book Fair 2013, was Park Geun-hye, president of the Republic of Korea, who was received by Jitin Prasada, minister of state for Human Resource Development, Government of India. Prasada took her around the India Pavilion, which had a huge replica of Sanchi Gate as the main entrance and also gifted her the first copy of the graphic novel 'Sriratna & Kim Suro: The Legend of an Indian Princess in Korea' published by National Book Trust, the nodal agency for the co-ordination of Guest of Honour programmes at Seoul International Book Fair. Written by N Parthasarathi and illustrated by Soumitra Dasgupta, the book tells the story of the Princess Sriratna marrying King Kim Suro of Korea in AD 48. Together they founded the Gaya Kingdom in Korea. The president showed keen interest in the Buddha sculpture, Buddhist literature and exhibition of books on Mahatma Gandhi. Among the stopovers at the huge India Pavilion spread over 1,000 sq m was a corner dedicated to the books on Indian cinema.

Later, Jitin Prasada, who led the delegation of 40 Indian publishing professionals including many CEOs and MDs of publishing houses, six authors, and senior officials, formally inaugurated the India Pavilion by releasing the above graphic novel and ten books of National Book Trust, translated in Korean language. Speaking on the occasion, Jitin Prasada stated, “I am sure Indian publishers present here will seek opportunity to have strong tie-ups in the field of publishing children literature, digital publishing, Indology and Buddhist literature.” Complimenting the efforts of National Book Trust, India for putting up a ‘magnificent India Pavilion’, he stated, “The range of books that have been put on display, alongwith the colourful posters, have spread very vibrant feelings.”

A Sethumadhavan, chairman, in his welcome speech hoped that the presence of India at SIBF would create a better perception about Indian publishing and literary scene in Korea. While, Vishnu Prakash, ambassador of India to Korea and Eric Yang, executive director, Korean Publishers’ Association also spoke on the occasion. M A Sikandar, director, NBT proposed a vote-of-thanks after a Kathak dance performance organised by Indian Cultural Centre, Embassy of India.

Later in the day, an illustrators’ workshop with 25 Korean children was organised, wherein the children illustrated the story of Geeta Dharmarajan under the supervision of the eminent artist Suddhosatwa Basu.