Thirteen years ago, a friend brought to my attention a series of reading cards published by Pratham. ‘You must have these in your school library,’ he had insisted and proceeded to procure them for us. I must admit that I was not greatly impressed with these cards, or I should say, the idea of reading cards. I am an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction and wrinkled my nose at the cards as a substitute for books. Over the years, I came across more cards—both fiction and non-fiction—brought out by Eklavya, Ektara, Room to Read and Kaja Kaja Maru. By now I had started taking this reading resource more seriously and last year, we at Pragat Shikshan Sanstha (PSS) also brought out a set of 40 story and poem cards.
From a publisher’s point of view, bringing out a book is so much more tedious and time and energy consuming as compared to bringing out a bunch of cards. A book needs more thought to illustrations, layout and designing, and pricing. Cards too can be designed very creatively like Kya Baat Ho Gayee by Eklavya. It is a 12-page folding card (or as Eklavya would call it, an accordion book) of a poem with 5 stanzas. The form of a card is used most innovatively here, and the line between a book and a card becomes rather hazy.
The cards can come in all sizes—from a post card to an A3 size. A card carries its own theme. I have seen story cards, poem cards—some with just four lines (a quatrain) and a big picture, cards giving geographical, historical, and scientific information and activity cards like paper folding or toy making. Cards can be graded age-, theme-, or activity-wise, colour coded or numbered depending upon their expected use. The paper used is usually thicker than that of a book. And hence, the chances of its folding or fraying are less. They are usually laminated to give more sturdiness, and their use or handling is such that its life is longer than that of a book.
Recently I came across cards containing children’s writings selected from Chakmak magazine by Eklavya. Pragat Shikshan Sanstha too brought out cards having children’s writings curated from Navneet, its annual publication entirely dedicated to children’s works—stories, poems, articles, drawings and much more. Given that the objective of this publication is to provide a platform for expression to the children studying at PSS, the task of bringing out a book, with selected writings would be both difficult (for the volume of selectable writings might not be as much as required) and contradictory to the intent of Navneet.
The very limitation of a card can be its strength. Non-fiction like an encyclopaedia of geography is costly and contains the whole panorama of geographical information. A primary school child is not likely to want or read most of it. A bunch of cards, on the other hand, has most of the information about the topics covered in a primary school syllabus.
Many young libraries have a small budget but a large number of children to cater to. Cards provide for an efficient solution in such cases—as a whole bunch of cards can be purchased in a budget that will buy only half the number of good books. With cards, each child in a class of 40 can have her/his own reading resource in hand.
Now, why did I initially feel that reading cards were a poor substitute for story books? Well, a book offers many possibilities for wondering, thinking, problem solving, predicting, and imagining. One of the reasons this happens is because of the nature of the layout. It is arranged in such a way that it asks the reader to turn to the next page for an answer. A book has much more space for elaborating a theme through pictures and can unfold different things for different readers. A book expects a deeper and longer engagement.
However, at an early stage, it is more important to make reading material available to readers, in quantities. The choice is to be left to the reader.
Manjiri Nimbkar, a medical doctor, became a teacher after 10 years of medical practice at Pragat Shikshan Sanstha’s Kamala Nimbkar
Balbhavan in Phaltan, Maharashtra. She has developed Pragat Balshikshika Abhyaskram and Pustak Maitri Abhyaskram at PSS with her team.