Thursday, August 27, 2009
Thumbthing to make reading fun!
Publishing and distributing books in English Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati and Bangla have opened up opportunities for us to work with groups involved in promoting reading literacy. We are, therefore, constantly aware of their concerns about the poor reading skills of children who have had little exposure to books and have always tried to address them in different ways in our books.
Being part of a committee set up by the NCERT for developing graded readers in Hindi – the Barkha series – to build the child’s reading skills was a learning experience. The committee had reading experts, government school teachers, children’s writers in Hindi, and illustrators. Their experience and inputs were very insightful. And this was the inspiration for Tulika’s beginner reading series, the Thumb Thumb Books – a series that combines the requirements of beginner readers with the creativity and vibrancy of imaginative children’s books.
The series has as its central characters Thumb Thumb Thangi and Thumb Thumb Thambi inspired by visuals using the thumbprint. As Arvind Gupta, the well-known scientist and children’s writer puts it in his book of thumbprints, “Print your thumb... you might find in it a clown, a bird, a lion, a crawling snail...a snorting whale!” It is this sense of a world of possibilities that the Thumb Thumb books convey to young readers through words and pictures.
The handy-sized, brightly produced books are designed to be inviting to children who are just beginning to read. The language and style of the texts are intentionally minimalist. It is simple but not simplistic. Short sentences, bold typography set in lots of white space and vibrant illustrations make the books friendly and accessible. A lot of care has been taken to keep the text and visuals free of class, caste, language and gender biases – always a big challenge in creating a series that can work multilingually across a multicultural country like India.
At the end of each book, the child is encouraged to make a thumbprint-based drawing inspired by the story. The idea is to help children make personal connections with Thambi and Thangi, and feel at home inside the pages of the books they read. The slogan on the last page declaring 'I Can Read this Book' affirms the young reader's freedom and independence, while at the same time acknowledging the achievement. It also underlines the fact that the series is designed for individual readers, each going at her or his own pace, with or without help.
One of our interns, Niveditha Subramaniam, who has also written and illustrated one of the books, sums it up perfectly: Tulika envisages the Thumb Thumb series as a rolling stone, something that different artists and writers can contribute to over time, each book stamped with their special creativity. We begin with Thumb Thumb Thambi and Thumb Thumb Thangi, but the thumbprint on the move takes on personalities, its lines and whorls form things not one quite like the other, leaping in and out of pages and wandering into the lives of children. Tulika hopes, through the series, to evolve a dynamic and inexhaustible creative space for children to learn to read.
- Radhika Menon, Publisher