Children’s literature in India is blossoming. Parents and teachers are starting to appreciate the importance of books and reading for pleasure in their children’s lives. Festivals like Bookaroo are a testament to this growing understanding. Bookaroo’s mission is to bring children and books together in a borderless world and we need to celebrate the passionate founders: Jo Williams, Swati Roy and Venkatesh! It’s the first children’s literature festival held in India and has now expanded to over four cities – Delhi, Srinagar, Pune and Goa! I was incredibly lucky to participate at my second Bookaroo Festival, this time held in Pune.
The main festival is preceded by Bookaroo in the City, an outreach programme where authors/illustrators were taken into local schools. Visiting local schools is always a highlight for me, but going to a NGO (non-government school) and working with underprivileged kids is like mainlining to the core of my heart.
There is nothing in the entire world more gratifying then to give time and support to these children. Getting an education in India is not taken for granted, especially for girls. When you see their eagerness to learn and how precious the opportunity to go to school is to each and every child from the earliest age, there is nowhere in world you’d rather be. To find out more, please check out the Peepal Foundation.
Then it was onto the main Festival where I conducted five sessions over two days. On the Doodle Wall, the children drew themselves and pasted their portraits onto a gigantic train. Within minutes the train was full of happy faces, ready to chug off on travels through India.
It’s easy to feel like a celebrity with so many journalists keen to interview authors and illustrators for the numerous daily print newspapers. The best rock star moment (and 15 minutes of fame) was when we needed the help of security to make our way through a crowd of eager children wanting autographs. Bring it on!
My participation at the Bookaroo Pune Festival was made possible by a Market Development Grant through the Australia Council for the Arts.