ON THE BOOK TRAIL IN DELHIthe habitat childrens book forum DEEPA AGARWAL & DEVIKA RANGACHARI
Why the HCBF was needed City parents have little time to introduce children to books. Delhi has barely two well-functioning children’s libraries. No ongoing networking structure between children, authors and books The book distribution network remains woefully inadequate Children’s bookshops are few and far between Children’s books hardly ever receive publicity Budding and enthusiastic readers are left with very little book- related information Consequently, many likely readers turn away from books to easily available distractions like TV or computer games. It was important to emphasize the pleasure aspect of reading. Many Indian children believe books are only meant to impart knowledge.
Why the India Habitat Centre Among the aims and objectives of this Centre is to: “Inculcate better awareness and sensitivity in regard to all aspects of creative human activity including the significance of art in habitat.” IHC provides space for talks, discussions as well as music and theatre. Thus a centrally located venue in this crowded city, provided free of cost, was assured to us. Habitat Programmes would feature our sessions in their monthly calendar . Offer other support in the way of mailing and the equipment needed for our sessions.
How we began• The Habitat Children’s Book Forum (HCBF) was launched in October 2003 at the India Habitat Centre, a cultural centre in New Delhi, India, by children’s writers Deepa Agarwal and Paro Anand.• It was a voluntary endeavour, with the aim of nurturing the reading habit by showing children that books can be fun.• Another objective was to promote the work of Indian authors and provide children with a platform to express their views about books.• For the past five years the forum has been organized by Deepa Agarwal and Devika Rangachari.
Then and now…Our rather formal launchin October 2003 Making a story scroll
It took us some time to find a dedicated space Poetry with eminent poetStorytelling in the sun Keki Daruwala
How the HCBF works The Forum meets on a selected Saturday morning at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, and is open to all children free of charge. We introduce children to various genres of books and authors, illustrators and storytellers. Information is circulated through our e-mail list, letters to schools, the IHC calendar and event listings in the media. Children attend the sessions either as part of a school group or individually. Each two hour session caters to a specific age group and books are chosen accordingly. The broad age group is 5-14 years. Readings, audio-visual presentations, interactions with the author, writing activities and discussions are some of the methods we use. Since children’s books are often not readily available at bookstores, we make the featured book available for sale. We have developed this format after years of experimentation and discovered that it works best/well.
Celebrating classic writers like Nobel Laureate Rabindranath TagoreEnacting the poem “Bir The great man himselfPurush” (Brave Man) telling us about his life!
The HCBF Annual Event The annual day of the HCBF, usually planned around Children’s Day (November 14th) is a huge draw. We organize activities for both the 5-8 and 9-12 age group. Some of the activities for the younger age group include story building, role play and enactment of popular stories. For the older age group we conduct a literary quiz based on a list of 20 Indian and foreign titles distributed beforehand. The idea behind the quiz that each child gets to read and enjoy an eclectic range of books. The quiz was conceptualized merely as an impetus towards reading. We also sum up the year’s activities in the form of a Book Parade. Supportive school librarians, teachers and parents are also lauded and acknowledged for their enthusiasm. We are the only public forum that recognizes such efforts. We also organize a panel discussion among adult stakeholders to discuss important issues that concern children’s literature in India.
From our photo album Making a Browsing at the book stall newspaper
The Literary Quiz…We know the answers too! Sagnik got it!
What they have to say… Children, parents, teachers and librarians are vocal in their praise and reiterate that the HCBF has enormously benefited them in various ways.
Sagnik Anupam, Class V, Delhi Public School Sagnik with his Quiz prizes I remember my first HCBF session, in 2009, when I was seven years old. There for the first time in my life, I saw real writers who wrote for children. I’ve discovered that the books selected by HCBF have always turned out to be marvellous, improving my taste buds particular to the exotic flavour of spices in outstanding books. Also, I get to buy many books recommended by experts in the field of literature. I get to read books of different types and get familiar with the writing styles of many authors. But most of all, it helps hone my own styles of writing. I enthusiastically await the Literary Quiz Book List 2012. After all, it makes me read!
Authors…Ranjit Lal, Children’sAuthor:Ive enjoyed my HCBF experiencessince its always wonderful to be face-to-face with your readers and get anidea about how they think and feel.Whats really encouraging is how theyopen up after an initial spell ofholding back (as if theyre sizing youup!) from which point on its openhouse.
Librarians…Chhabi Ghosh, Librarian, Cambridge School, Noida Shikha Gulati, Junior Librarian, Bluebells School International, New Delhi:The prime objective of school librarians is to motivatechildren to read. The HCBF helps in achieving this The HCBF has given a platform to students to meet variousobjective; its contribution is praiseworthy. Its various authors from across the country. The book-relatedactivities develop the students’ thinking skills, listening activities are well-designed and give a lot of confidence tocapacity and confidence levels. Librarians are also able to the students. The annual Literary Quiz has also helpedupdate their knowledge and learn about new children’s students to read more books.books through these sessions. There is no other forum ofits kind. The HCBF coordinators, Deepa and Devika, have done a wonderful job of bringing books and children together.
Publishing house editors… Sohini Mitra, Senior Commissioning Editor, Puffin Books, India: HBFC is all about making books fun for children. It has been an absolute pleasure partnering with them on this mission. It’s a wonderful initiative, and kids totally love the sessions and activities. The twinkle in their eyes and skip in their steps is testimony to the fact that the forum has reached out to the target readers in a big way! Moreover, the forum is a great platform for publishers like us to connect with younger readers
The Impact The HCBF is a unique initiative that directly addresses children and their book-related needs, advocating as it does reading for pleasure, and its impact is growing enormously. It is the only children’s book forum of its kind in Delhi. The HCBF has been functioning successfully for almost nine years and participation is constantly on the rise. Numerous participants have not only enhanced their reading skills but also discovered their writing or artistic talents. Plans for improving this forum and enhancing its reach are constantly afoot. The Habitat Children’s Book Forum also has a Facebook page.