The Big Book Box For Kids
Deepa Agarwal, Laurence Faron, Manisha Chaudhry and Richa Jha in conversation with Naveen Kishore
Selling books to children is no cakewalk. It requires thinking out of the box and a great marketing strategy. The story, cover, blurb and category should be compelling enough to grab the attention of young readers. How difficult is this task? A panel of publishers and authors discussed the key challenges of writing books for children and creating engaging content for them.
French publisher, Laurence Faron, opined that publishing was an important responsibility as children were the “adults of tomorrow”. She highlighted that content read by children plays an influential role in shaping children's personalities and instilling values in them. Hence, Faron began the practice of organising meetings with writers, illustrators and children for making appealing content for children. As they work with a small budget, publishers "use diversity to advertise books".
Politics of language and the impactful role of schools were some of the topics touched upon by Manisha Chaudhry, a bilingual editor and writer. She emphasised that there is a need to make books of all languages easily accessible to children. Valuing content from different backgrounds can be achieved if we "flood classrooms with diversity of content".
Author and translator Deepa Agarwal highlighted the power of audiobooks to reach out to visually impaired and dyslexic children. She also talked about her struggles with writing stories that can be enjoyed by children all over the country, making them universally relatable. According to the translator, the content, structure and language of the story has to be taken into consideration.
As a publisher, Richa Jha, considers herself luckier to be out of the mainstream publishing industry. She can also take the risk of publishing unconventional content that address taboos, which is a liberty that big-pocketed publishers cannot enjoy. Recalling a story about a ‘tyrant king who restricted the freedom of expression of the masses’, Jha expressed her desire to publish content that reflects the political reality of society.
Richa also complained about parents' preference for foreign publishers over Indian publishers. She elaborated on her competition with foreign writers in the process of "promoting Indian talent". Using the Jaipur BookMark platform to issue a joint statement, she said that "Children's books matter," which shall help them decide when to stand up and fight for the society at large.
Translating stories for children is a good way to display harsh truths of the contemporary world, as discussed by the panelists. Manisha spoke about the need to "preserve knowledge of all languages" through translated works. Adding on to the writer's point, Deepa stressed the importance of "bridging divides" by publishing for both the mainstream and marginalized audience. She opined that "true content is what comes out of our own experience." Government initiatives such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan were instrumental in ensuring revenue generation, as mentioned by Deepa.
All the publishers and writers spoke about accessibility, visibility and engagement with content creation for children in order to penetrate various cultures and locations. An organised effort to expand the market for children's publishing shall go a long way in encouraging reading habits among little minds.