On a warm Sunday afternoon, the open space behind Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai’s Byculla was bustling with activity. Siddesh Tiwari, 11, was talking to a bunch of other children about his love for drones. “I want my parents to buy me a drone to play with, for my birthday,” said Tiwari, adding, “I enjoy reading about them and all sorts of objects that fly such as aeroplanes and spaceships.”
The Class VI student of Asmera Academy School, Powai, wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. He is one of the participants at a storytelling festival, titled “STEAM Ahead: A festival of science stories” at the museum, organised by Pratham Books, a publishing house for children. The event introduced the young participants to the world of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).
“Our goal is to make sure every child has a book in her hands,” says Shinibali Mitra Saigal, editor at Pratham Books. “We want to simplify the subject and encourage children to pick up science books more often so that they learn a lot more than they do from their textbooks,” she adds. The event had more than 600 participants from various schools in the city.
Author and illustrator Lavanya Karthik, present at the event, said the best feedback she gets on her books is from the kids. “I love interacting with children and they always have a lot of questions about my work,” she says, “More than the books being educational or having any takeaways, I want the kids to enjoy and be entertained by what I write.”
Karthik, known for her humorous Ninja Nani series, has so far launched 10 books, with more in the pipeline. “If children pick up books and enjoy them, it will build their interest in educational books and even their textbooks,” she says. Research, however, is a huge challenge, says the Mumbai-based author. “I try and be on the same wavelength as the kids when I am telling a story. I want it to be something that appeals universally to kids from all backgrounds,” she adds.
“Our books are copyright free and we encourage more people to translate them in other languages and also to recreate and reimagine the stories in various ways, making them accessible to children around the world,” Saigal says, adding, “We have a lot of futuristic books too, and we wanted the children to interact with authors to share their feedback.”
She feels the introduction to everyday science topics is a huge educational curve for children. “Simplifying these subjects and making children understand basic things such as the importance of trees and why we should not cut them is going to stand them in good stead in the future,” she says.