Finding illustrated Telugu story books for kids interesting enough to hold their attention and relevant for their age is a tough task. Instead what one ends up with are poorly translated copies of contemporary English stories.
When Uma Gayathri Challa searched Telugu books for her daughter, she couldn’t find one. The doting mother then took to writing a few children’s books on her own and thus her project Naa Telugu Pusthakaalu was born.
Launched in January this year, Uma has self-published 10 illustrated Telugu story books under the banner till date. Although a first time author and illustrator, the quality of her work is being appreciated by her readers.
“I started writing sometime at the end of January 2013, but I soon realised I could not afford well-known children’s illustrators. I had no option but to try my hand at illustrating my own books,” says the 37-year-old.
Once the illustrations were done, Uma says her husband helped her with the final output and in gathering information on media (paper) and printing.
Keeping it native
In general, telling and listening to stories is crucial for oral language development among children, which in turn forms the foundation for strong reading, writing and comprehension skills, explains Uma who is a post graduate in Anthropology.
“Proficiency in one’s mother tongue is crucial for the learning of all other languages. I wanted my daughter to learn Telugu while having fun and get a grasp on her mother tongue early on. When I failed to find a story book in Telugu that did the job, it occurred to me that there might be other parents who felt the same,” says Uma speaking about what motivated her to start Naa Telugu Pusthakaalu.
Her series consists of local folk tales, stories about science, environment and ecology, a book with a song on numbers, and another one on Telugu vowels (acchulu) written only with words beginning with acchulu - an experiment that has never been done before in Telugu literature.
Uma’s next series of story books will continue to focus equally on science, mythology, folk tales and culture.
After the success of her books, Uma conceptualised storytelling sessions at the cultural space, Our Sacred Space in the city.
Called ‘Kathaa KaalakShEpaM,’ these sessions are aimed at introducing her books to children and also at helping parents to discover the fun of reading in Telugu.
“Since the first time I displayed my books, a few parents were hesitant to buy them because they had forgotten how to read Telugu, or they had lost their language proficiency over the years,” explained Uma, detailing another reason behind why she started her project.
“In addition to my own books, I narrate other stories. No matter what stories I narrate, I focus on messages relating to social, environmental and personal responsibility rather than black and white morals,” she says.
Uma has almost completed her series on Ramayana which took place on four consecutive Sundays. The last session of this series is on ‘Lava-Kusha’ and will be held on April 6.
Uma’s books aren’t widely available. However, you can buy them from her Facebook page and blog, or at the weekends Good Seeds Bazaar at Saptaparini and Adivaram Angadi at Our Sacred Space.
Details: naatelugupustakaalu.wordpress.com; facebook.com/naatelugu.pustakaalu