The Big Little Book Award
The Parag initiative of Tata Trusts in partnership with LiteratureLive! The Mumbai Litfest this month launched and are inviting nominations for the Big Little Book Award that will recognize and award significant contribution to children’s literature by an author and an illustrator. The language for authors will rotate every year, beginning with Marathi for 2016. The idea is to encourage writing in Indian languages. For illustrators, the award is not language specific since the strength of a picture is to tell a story irrespective of the language.The need to institute an award to recognize significant contribution emerged from almost a decade of working in the children’s literature sector, engaging with authors, illustrators and publishers and working with likeminded people to support the publication of quality children’s books.
The award is an organic growth of the Parag portfolio, which began in 2007 with systematic support to not-for-profit publishers to print affordable, original and contextual stories for children in Indian languages including English. Despite a handful of publishers working towards quality content, 45% of content for children is in English while 25% is in Hindi. Marathi takes up 6% and Kannada 4%. The other 20% is divided among the rest of the Indian languages. Yet majority of our children attend government schools and struggle to read and write in the regional languages. In Hindi, 80% of the content is reproduced and comprises Panchatantra, Jataka tales and moral and didactic stories. Under such circumstances it becomes critical to recognize and award good stories and individuals who are consistently working to publish them.
An award can play many roles. It recognizes the author/illustrator/publisher. It brings the winner’s body of work to the forefront and generates interest and awareness around it. If the award process is transparent and jury independent and competent, it can impact the sale of the book/s. For instance, the Newberry and Caldecott Medals, instituted by the American Library Association, have significant impact on the sale of books by a winning author/illustrator. The awards also help keep the books in print, insuring cumulative sales over a longer period. The Big Little Book Award is only in its first year but Parag aims to promote the work of winners and make them accessible to children through several means including author/illustrator meets, library and reading sessions across schools and libraries and discussions. In the long run, the Big Little Book Award should successfully create a platform for young readers, parents, schools, publishers and other stakeholders to meet and read the work of winners. The goal here is to ensure every child experiences the joys of reading and reading good children’s books.