1) Could you tell us when your journey as a writer started? What was your first composition about?
I was interested in reading and reading right from the time I was a child. I wrote stories when I was in school, and my first short story was published in a well-known magazine when I was sixteen. My first picture book for children (published by the Children’s Book Trust, New Delhi) was a story that I made up and narrated to my son when he was a toddler. I have written more than fifty books for children and my work has appeared in over seventy-five academic text books. My latest book for children is a picture book “The Pond that Shyam Lal Dug,” (Ukiyoto Publishing) about Shyam Lal Rajwade who dug a pond singlehandedly, working for 27 long years to help his village that had scarce water.
2) You have received fellowships for Children’s Literature from the Government of India. Tell us about your experience.
I was very glad when I got fellowships from the government of India for research projects connected to children’s literature, because the importance of children’s literature was being recognized. I learnt a lot about children’s literature in India while Iwas doing my research, and got to know many other writers who also write for children. Being awarded a fellowship for children’s literature validated the work of many imaginative and talented writers of Children’s literature in India.
3) Nowadays, we do find the youth glued to their phones. There is a large number of children who have lost interest in reading. What are your views on this topic?
It is true that children today are more interested in playing video games or watching movies on their screens rather than in reading books. This is a pity, because reading books makes children think, develops their imagination and vocabulary, opens their minds and enhances creativity. Limiting screen time to a fixed hours in a day, and encouraging children to pick out and read books that interest them is one way of encouraging the reading habit.
4) Do give our readers a brief about your recent launch, “Chotu finds a Home.”
“Chotu finds a Home,” won the first prize in the ‘Pitch Your Book,’ competition conducted by the Half Baked Beans Publishing House, 2021. It is the story of an orphaned stray puppy ‘Chotu,’ who has to grow up and survive on the streets of a busy city. Chotu attaches himself to a smart old mongrel Lallu, so that he can learn how to survive on the rough streets. I have always loved animals, especially dogs, and I wrote this book in the hope that this story, which is rooted in reality, will make children understand the harsh conditions stray animals have to live through every day, and be sympathetic and compassionate towards them.
5) Tell us about your book ‘The Anger of Apsu ’
‘The Anger of Apsu,’ won the first prize in the picture book category in the national competition for writers of children’s books, organized by Children’s Book Trust, New Delhi in 19. The story is written entirely in verse, which children enjoy listening to. Many small children are afraid of thunder, and reading, or listening to this story about a dragon roaring in the sky will hopefully help to assuage that fear. This book was recommended by the Department of Elementary Education, Early Literacy Programme, NCERT (National Council of Educational Training and Research, in their suggestive list of selected Children’s Literature, Level 2, ( Grades III- IV) 2014.
6) Do you feel that children’s books are attractive enough in our country to get children to read?
Children’s literature in India is making vast strides every year, with many new publishers and writers entering the field. Children’s books are now written on many subjects that were never touched upon before, and there are outstanding illustrated children’s books available now in India.
7) Give one advice to parents on why reading is an important habit that should be inculcated in
Parents who inculcate the reading habit in children give them a gift for life. People who like to read are always able to amuse themselves and have minds that are full of interesting thoughts and ideas. Avid readers are better and more coherent communicators too.
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