Cities across the world and especially in India have begun to hunker down to fight and contain the deadly coronavirus. With schools and colleges shut, and offices insisting employees work from home, families are now quarantined within their own houses. This leaves parents with a lot of time in hand to spend with their children, and ensuring they are both home-schooled and entertained.
But, parents need their ‘me time’, too. And to make sure that children are kept engaged and away from the constant influx of COVID-related information, some Indian children’s authors have come together to share the burden. A fairly recent initiative, these authors are holding daily read-aloud sessions on their respective social media platforms, which are then shared on a Facebook group, in a bid to keep kids enthralled.
Speaking about the endeavour, author Tanu Shree Singh tells indianexpress.com about how it came into being. “We wanted to do something for Indian children, like how international authors like Oliver Jeffers and Mo Willems are doing,” she says, referring to the big list of some of the most renowned international children’s authors who have come together for online read-alouds and activities. The list also includes the likes of Jeff Kinney, and Oprah Winfrey for Thelma Godin, among others. “Many children do not connect with the western accent. The idea is to not only read our own stuff, but to also let readers know that good stories exist. We want to distract kids for that time, because a lot of them are stressed, and adults busy dealing with themselves. We also wanted to emphasize on the fact that it is a good idea to do things from home and not venture out,” says Singh.
The initiative has been ingeniously named ‘Thoda Reading Corona’, and Singh is tasked with collating the videos and sharing them on her Facebook page ‘The Reading Raccoons’. “It was Bijal (Vachharajani)’s brainchild. We have a schedule till March 31. Every day at 11 am, the authors on that schedule post stories on their page, and then we share it on the group,” she says.
Author Bijal Vachharajani calls it a community effort. “We thought it would be nice to open up access to books, so that when you are bored at home, you can listen to these authors. We are also trying to put in activities that parents and guardians can do with their children… It is a great way of connecting and showing solidarity to each other, and to our readers, to remind ourselves that we will get through this together,” she says.
Vachharajani’s thoughts are echoed by fellow author Roopal Kewalya, who is a part of this initiative and also came up with its name. “I am a mother of a six-year-old myself, and I understand how difficult it is for children to be contained within the four walls of the house. At this age, especially, they want to be out all the time. This initiative works because children love to listen to stories, and it is a great way to spend some time together. I think initiatives like these bring us together as a community. And the act of recording this video itself gives me the motivation to get up and do it,” she says.
Children’s favourite comics Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, meanwhile, have decided to offer their entire catalog for free, for 30 days, to help children make better use of their time while at home.
Cooped up in the house with nothing to do? Let us help out. We’re giving everyone FREE ACCESS to both our Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha comic apps for an entire month! Get a FREE one month subscription to our entire catalogue till March 31st, 2020! (1/3)#ACKComicsApp pic.twitter.com/eWb1L7dJVD
— Amar Chitra Katha (@ACKComics) March 16, 2020
President of Amar Chitra Katha Preeti Vyas, tells indianexpress.com that children have a pretty scheduled life these days, what with after-school activities, all of which have come to a standstill. “We have an entire population of kids, who are stuck at home and are really bored. This is just our gift to them — the gift of reading. Reading is anyway the best boredom buster in the world,” she says, adding that the giveaway is for 30 days from the time of login. “There is no payment anywhere, the entire catalog is free: 400 titles on Amar Chitra Katha, and about 300 in Tinkle,” says Vyas.
There is more news for lovers of books. Much-loved author of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling has granted open licence for teachers now. Meaning, they can now post videos of them reading aloud from Harry Potter books to children who are not able to attend schools due to the outbreak. Teachers around the world can post these videos onto schools’ secure networks or closed educational platforms.
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