“Children with access to good literature thrive as citizens”


By Vishnu Makhijani

New Delhi, February 10 (IANS): Stories and narratives are fundamental to being human and children with access to good quality literature become much more engaged as citizens, says Amrita Patwardhan, head of education at Tata Trusts, which administers an honor roll annual Parag (PHL) which includes a wide range of original writing in all categories to promote access to quality literature for children.

“Books help us make sense of our own experiences and help us open doors to experiences we may never have in our lifetime. Children who have access to good quality literature not only flourish in terms of their language development, but they become much more engaged as thinking citizens and that’s something that really broadens their view of the world,” Patwardhan told IANS in an interview.

“The reason children need books and adults need books is essentially the same: it’s to help us make sense of the world around us. For children, plays an additional role in supporting the development of language and literacy skills. understanding and expressing oneself are fundamental skills on which all other learning in school depends. Children’s literature can play an important role in the development of these fundamental skills in children”, she added.

The PHL is part of the Parag initiative of Tata Trusts to catalyze the ecosystem of children’s literature in India. Given the shortcomings of the ecosystem at many levels, while Parag works with publishers to develop good quality content especially in Indian languages ​​and manages libraries, it also helps librarians to develop professionally to strengthen the reading circle.

In its third edition, the Parag Honor List 2022 includes 38 English and nine Hindi books across all genres, among more than 200 entries received from 23 Indian publishers for books published between October 2020 and September 2021.

Noting that stories and narratives are “fundamental to being human,” Patwardhan said the human mind thrives on stories, and there is growing evidence from evolutionary biology, psychology and neuroscience to back that up.

“Oral and written stories develop imagination, creativity and help us make sense of the world around us. Stories are also powerful ways in which we imagine a different world. Stories help us understand ourselves as well as those we have never met. Stories have this power.

“When reading stories, illustrations in picture books open up the visual imagination to fuel several skills in children, including curiosity and creativity. This helps children find things they can relate to. identify and become curious to know more.Reading plays a dual role for children, where on the one hand it helps them to understand their surroundings, and it also opens doors to new experiences, cultures, traditions, geographies and perspectives,” Patwardhan explained.

Lately, she said, there has been a lot of work from neuroscience and psychology that sees symbols and languages ​​as something very central to being human.

“Research also dwells on the importance of ‘story’ as a format and narrative to help human beings make sense of the world around them. The first point of entry into the world of books should be in the language in which the child is most comfortable with – their mother tongue.

“Gradually, books can also be used to learn different languages ​​and master skills. For younger children, the first thing they look at in a book are the pictures. The illustrations help children anchor and deepen their understanding of stories and developing their aesthetic sense and imagination in various ways,” she added.

So, supporting and nurturing children’s love of reading as parents, educators, and caregivers can help foster their emotional growth.

“Reading aloud experiences with parents or teachers help form a positive association with reading as an enjoyable activity to look forward to. Stories have the power to help develop empathy, patience, and ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes,” Patwardhan said.

While children learn much through observation and imitation and actively construct their own meanings, “it is very well established in educational research that children who grow up in homes where parents and guardians read for pleasure are more likely to begin to associate joy and enjoyment with books, long before they can read and write themselves, so it is important for parents and guardians to help children form positive associations with reading by making enjoyable reading, not just a necessity associated with exams,” she said.

One way to start, especially when children are young, is to create a print-rich environment with easy access to a variety of meaningful reading materials. Research also shows that children who are read to bedtime stories or school reading sessions have richer vocabulary.

“However, this is not a reality for many children in India. Access to quality literature in schools is important for every child, but it is especially important for children who come from illiterate homes. C “This is where the school and the school library can play an active role. Well-organized libraries at the community and school level, and a teacher who likes to read herself become very important,” Patwardhan said.

To this end, Tata Trusts, through The Parag Honor List Book Box initiative, provides Outstanding Books of the Year to non-profit organizations, libraries, schools, home libraries and educational centers. who have done meaningful work in the library space.

“Through this initiative, we are prioritizing libraries serving children in underserved communities. Over the past two years, we have been able to send over 100 boxes of PHL books to libraries that operate in very remote areas over ten states and reach children in the remotest corners of India,” concluded Patwardhan.


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