For a lot of us who grew up in the 90s, being read to by our parents out of tiny colourful books at bedtime or bursting out of joy upon opening a book and finding our favourite nursery rhymes in there, or even being told bedtime stories by our grandparents as we were coddled to sleep, still remain some of the most cherished childhood memories. Over the years, reading, in general, has taken a backseat as we are constantly exposed to screens and bombarded with lucrative content. However, in what seems to be difficult times for hardcovers and brightly coloured pages, publishers, illustrators and children’s books’ writers are still keeping up the hope. In fact, they are trying to identify the pressing issues in the world and are trying to educate children about it without overwhelming them.
Sanya Podar who runs a homegrown children’s publication house called Daffodil Lane Books is one such publisher. A London School of Economics graduate, Sanya named her publication after her father’s nickname ‘little daffodil’ for her. She tells Homegrown that it happened to be the first memory that came to her mind upon thinking of her childhood.
After returning from London, she would spend hours rummaging through bookshops and she noticed that very few children’s books addressed important issues like climate change, sustainability, and the need for caring for the environment and animals, amongst others. A lover of books, she always found herself re-reading her favourite children’s books to stay inspired. She always knew that she wanted to create them but only found the courage to do so when she met her husband in 2017. She was clear that she didn’t just want to write a book and get it published but also wanted to set up a think-tank in order to bring about a shift in the paradigm and encourage writers and little readers to think differently and to approach contemporary issues with a nuanced, layered thinking.
What followed was plenty of research, attending seminars, literature festivals and industry events and thus, the idea for Daffodil Lane Books was born. Small and supportive, Sanya’s publication is all about producing books to critically engage children. She says, “because I love reading so much, the idea was to spread that love to the world through children–to create and encourage the use of picture-books for enjoyment and as a springboard for discussion and animation rather than to create ‘hurry along’ books to keep kids occupied for the sake of keeping them quiet.” Run by an all-girls team of four, Daffodil Lane is a small publication with very big dreams. It is often said that as a society, we don’t know how to raise children. We often forget that children learn not from preaching but from seeing and experiencing. This is why, Daffodil Lane wants to make its work deliberative and to this end, Sanya and her team try their best to address contemporary issues like low self-esteem, deforestation, and empathy towards animals without sounding burdensome or overwhelming in order to create future adults who are thoughtful, caring, and sensitive. They aim to provide a range of picturebooks with various ideologies that parents can select based on what resonates with their child the most. Together, they believe, the parents and children can then explore these issues. Parents can also encourage their children to think and talk about the subjects.
The same ideology reflects in Sanya’s choice of stories for children. This April, she plans to launch four titles, each of which is supposed to have its own theme and message. About the content that she has chosen for her books, Sanya says, “one book Cat’s Diwali is a story told through a house pet’s perspective. It takes us through what our furry four-legged friends’ experience during our human celebrations of festivals. Told in verse, it highlights the importance of altruism and empathy and serves as a reminder that we inhabit this planet with other creatures too. Try Your Best, Patrick is about a little chicken who is worried about his ‘averageness’ and wonders if he will ever be good at anything. Laugh out Loud’s illustrations remind us that it takes a little willingness and some help from loved ones to be the best version of ourselves.”
In today’s day and age, if there’s anything that we need to hold on to is our books. Nothing develops a child’s imagination as words prompting her to create and recreate scenes and people in her head. Books also introduce children to vocabulary, comprehension, and give them the power to think–something screen-based education seldom provides. To this end, Sanya believes, “Call me old- fashioned, but I think there’s nothing in the world that has more cognitive and emotional benefits than sitting down with a book and turning pages with your child, and it shouldn’t be swapped for holding a screen and pushing buttons.”
Find more about Daffodil Lane Books and Sanya here.
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