BENGALURU: There just aren’t any serious conversations on children’s literature, which is usually a side show in India at larger adult literature festivals,” points out Kavita Gupta Sabharwal, co-founder and curator of Neev Literature Festival for Children (NLF). “This is unlike what you see in other places, the UK has some wonderful ones – the Bath festival, the Hay festival, Edinburgh, the Barnes festival, etc. But we do a grand adult lit fest that truly is unique in the world – the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). Why then must children’s literature be a side show, focussed on entertaining kids, but that has no lasting impact?,” she wonders.
This is the difference that her curation, the NLF, aims to change. “While JLF has been a life-changing experience because it is an intellectual buffet like no other, each time I went, it changed the quality and quantity of my thoughts.
But my identity as an educator and parent was disturbed by so few children in the JLF crowds, particularly because I knew that so much at JLF was relevant for children. Maybe children were intimidated or maybe they need a dedicated forum,” says Sabharwal, who, for many years has been doing author evenings at home for friends, with authors like Timeri Murari, Nirupama Rao, Sunil Khilnani, Arvind Panagariya, Srinath Raghavan and Ramchandra Guha.
This year, the focus is on authors and speakers who have unique distinctions, and in addition to 97 workshops for children, there will be workshops for parents and aspiring authors. The sessions build around four significant threads: ‘Building bridges with literature’ – bringing out the connection between reading and empathy; ‘Identity’ and the need of stories that form mirrors and windows to the lives children live; ‘The futurist’ - issues that matter to the world children experience from environment to dystopia and more; and ‘Reading’ – the impact of reading and considering the reading diet.
The challenges in putting together the fest which has 67 speakers and 90 + student workshops, six teacher/librarian workshops, and six parent workshops, have been many –time, money, and everyone appreciating the clarity of purpose. The Neev Book award has four categories this year-- Picture books, Emerging Readers, Junior Readers and Young Adult.
“This is nine months of work for us. And our book award jury has spent a similar time reading nominated books, curating first a shortlist, which this year has been shared with schools across India to hear children’s voices on,” says Sabharwal, adding that the market is nascent and needs encouragement.
The sessions build around four threads: ‘Building bridges with literature’ – bringing out the connection between reading and empathy; ‘Identity’ and the need of stories that form mirrors and windows to the lives children live; ‘The futurist’ - issues that matter to the world children experience from environment to dystopia and more; ‘Reading’ – the impact of reading and considering the reading diet.