Whoever thought learning Math and language could be fun? Manoj Sahu, a teacher from Pacchwada in the Hoshangabad district did. Sahu was convinced that children can enjoy math concepts if they are presented in an interesting manner and are locally and contextually relevant. A shikshamitra working in primary and middle schools since 1998, Sahu’s books have been published with Parag support since 2005. Over the years he has written ‘Nidar’—‘Akkad Bakkad’, ‘Ek Do Dus’, ‘Khelo Ganit’, and ‘Baith Ghoda Pani Pee’. These books have gone on to be printed multiple times and are best-sellers in their own right.
Sahu had not always planned to be a children’s author. Once he attended a teacher workshop organized by Eklavya Foundation as part of their ‘Basic Skills’ program. In one such meeting, he were introduced to Krishna Kumar’s classic book on children’s early language development called ‘The child’s language and the teacher’. Sahu recalls being inspired by the book and was specifically keen to work on one of the recommendations given in the book — to collect songs that children sing in the local area while playing games.
This inspiration led to the development of a collection of local children’s songs in the form of the book ‘Akkad Bakkad’. The process of illustrating ‘Akkad Bakkad’ was equally informed by the context in which the book was developed. The illustrator Preeti Saluja (who was also illustrating a children’s book for the first time) stayed in these villages and got the children to illustrate these songs that they knew very well. This contextual nature of the book ensures that children as young as two years old are able to follow along the text and get a sense of reading, even if they have not mastered the art of decoding, as these rhymes are familiar to them. This book has been used extensively for language pedagogy and occupies the position of top-5 most sold books by Eklavya publishers.
Sahu has also written children’s literature that can be used to engage with mathematical concepts. “From the very beginning, I have been decorating the walls of my school with interactive puzzles that children can solve. That turned into an activity book called Khelo Ganit,” says Sahu.
“I am a primary teacher, so I had to teach mathematics also. I thought about how to work on various concepts in mathematics through simple fun language. The book contains a lot of activities and songs, and children do not even realize they are learning mathematics. I was sure that I wanted to make a book that requires from teachers use of minimal resources, as that is a constraint in the rural area,” he adds.
In order to produce books that are directly informed by the needs and knowledge from the field, respect, risk-taking and mentorship are critical. The Parag Initiative has supported Eklavya in Bhopal to bring out such voices from the field for many years now. Sahu’s Parag supported books include Nidar, Akkad Bakkad, Ek Do Dus, Khelo Ganit and Baith Ghoda Pani Pee.
“For every book that I do with Eklavya, the editorial team calls me multiple times to discuss every single word in the text. We have long discussions about how each word will be perceived by children and they give suggestions,” says Sahu.
“These books are very popular in our libraries, especially Baith Ghoda Pani Pee and Akkad Bakkad. Such non-fiction resources are also difficult to find in Hindi and they fill a critical gap,” shares Himmat Solanki, who works as a library facilitator in Bali district, Rajasthan.