Can you envisage a childhood barren of storybooks? All those radiantly colored pictures of animals, fun sketches of homes, flowers, baby rabbits, trucks and buses and all the sweet tiny stories. They really do summon a smile, don’t they? These books mould our first and most vital years of knowledge. And yet, a whole segment of children develop without ever reading a story in their lives. For a visually impaired child, the first book that they wave a Hi to is their first-grade textbooks. But Chetana Trust has been trying to bring a change in this scenario of these picture fewer stories. The trust designs books for differently – abled children and run a library to make these book available to them.
Namita Jacob, the Director of Chetana Trust, perceived how her co-worker’s child, who was only a few months old was so captivated by a picture book. “That’s when it hit me that children begin to comprehend colours and words at such a young age. By not having access to storybooks, differently – abled children are behind such a significant and persuasive facet of their lives” she says. Chetana created their first book in the early 2000s that were made for toddlers with visual impairment or intellectual disabilities. “Bizarrely though, a 12 – year old student of mine called me up and gave me a reprimand about why I hadn’t told her about the book release. I couldn’t understand why she required a book created for toddlers,” Namita recalls. That’s when the child told her “My amma tells me stories from her childhood and her childhood books. Now, I myself have a book that I can read to my children, whenever I have them”.
Namita received an alike response from a visually impaired reviewer to whom she had given the book for opinion, “The reviewer did not want to give me back the book as it was the first time they could, in fact, read a children’s book, and despite the fact they were adults now. A lot of differently – abled adults relish these books as much as children”, she says.
So how are these books designed? For children with complete visual impairment, the storybooks are shaped in braille. For children with fractional eyesight, the pictures are larger and the font is also bigger. For the children with cerebral disabilities, the linguistic style used in the story is abridged, using smaller words and based on actual objects that the child can classify. For children with cerebral palsy, even turning a page of a book is an unmanageable job. To tackle this situation, the storybooks are created like how old Yellow pages are were once made. The books are also designed with the board so that it is easy to flip. Moreover, Chetana has also taken into concern that the children with more than one type of disability. Differently – abled children are commonly inert consumers of stories, but with these books, they also became lively creators of stories.
Chetana has tied up with Tulika Publishers, which give an upper hand for the differently – abled characters and relating themselves to these books, gives these kids an actual delight. “It’s not that the children recognize with the disability, but they look for resemblances in the way that other characters respond or what actions the disabled characters coddle in. Once a child told me how she was excited to discover the character in the book which had alike parents who went on telling her what to do. Another kid was bemused to find a child in a wheelchair roving around the city, stalking for a missing cat,” Namita recalls.
But the most unforeseen concern of this trial has been the influence it has had on parents, she says, adding, “The disability is not the major hindrance for a child; it’s the absence of confidence, stimulus and dreaming abilities in adults who surround them. Adult doesn’t seem to see their normal life for their child. So, when they see characters in books ascending trees or going to the beach or laughing, they are pleasurably astonished”.
Since the team hasn’t come up with a way out to mass produce the book, children utilize the library for now. “The library is a year old. When we first ask these children what their preferred pastimes are, they say colouring, dancing and playing, but now for the first time, the kids say that they love reading. That by itself is a great attainment,” she explains. The query of how to take this initiative forward initiative is a frequent thought for Namita, who is now increasing the initiative to Delhi and Bengaluru. “We can of course work on manufacturing machines that can produce these books. We can mass produce these books with machines, but let’s try it without the involvement of machines by reaching out to the prisons, hospitals and ill patients who can help us create these books.