Bal Sahitya Mahotsav Blog
Visit the BSM blog for information about festival activities!
Irisa Shrestha and Samata Bhattarai were two student participants in a podcast-making workshop held in February and March. They produced this podcast interviewing students about their expectation vs. reality at BSM 2017.
Congratulations to Samata and Irisa on their wonderful podcast!
Anisha Joshi, a Grade 11 student, produced this podcast during a three week audio documentary production workshop at Rato Bangala School. Anisha, an artist and writer herself, interviewed two other student artists to learn more about the world of online publishing.
Student Paribesh Sitoula produced this podcast during a three week audio documentary production workshop at Rato Bangala School. In the podcast, Paribesh interviews Rato Bangala ninth graders about their experiences volunteering for BSM 2017.
The #BalSahityaMahotsav 2017 newsletter is complete! The newsletter features work from #RatoBangalaSchool students Priya Pradhan, Aryan Pandey, Avani Adhikani, Prakriti Kandel, Anubhav Sharma, Aayusha Shrestha, Ranjan Pudaisani, and Biratal Wagle. Click here or on the photo above to access the newsletter.
You can also download it here.
by Aayusha Shrestha and Avani Adhikari
Though Bal Sahitya Mahotsav is a very talked about event at Rato Bangala, many students do not know about the background of the festival. Therefore, to learn more about the significance of BSM and to get an idea of this year’s evet, we sat down with Rato Bangala School Principal Ms. Milan and Rato Bangala Foundation Director Ms. Shanta, the founders of the festival, and asked them some questions.
What is the significance of BSM?
Reading is a very important skill to develop in children. If they become good readers, they becomes good writers, they become good people and most importantly, their emotional intelligence improves because through books they are brought to someone else’s world and they understand someone else’s point of view. Therefore to inculcate good reading habits, the BSM plays a huge role. Through BSM, we want to develop and spread this reading habit throughout the world.
The main purpose of BSM is to make reading fun. Generally, reading is done is a cut and dry way. Our intention is to remove this anxiety about reading, by making it fun, interactive and most importantly, creative.
What lead to the inception of BSM?
We started the festival three years ago, but the importance of reading and the need to develop reading habits has always been with us. Rato Bangala Kitab can be seen as a predecessor of BSM because we started it for the same reason—to develop reading habits. When we first started the school, the children used to never touch Nepali books because they looked so boring. The books were all printed in black and white and were very moralistic. The concept of getting children to read what they liked was not there. That is why we decided to run workshops and publish books, to do something to give the children what they liked. We started publishing things like Mangale ko Changa, which ended up being a classic for children’s literature in Nepal. BSM is only an extension of this sentiment, a celebration of the ideals we have always had with us.
How is this year’s BSM going to be different?
For the students and the school it is going to be similar with more exciting activities. We are very excited about bringing somebody like Marcus Pfister to the festival. We believe that his presence makes writing accessible for these children. Because of the fact that he is here and he is so enthusiastic about promoting literature among children, they too feel like they can be him. We also have started the Early Grade Reading (EGRA),where we have a set of handpicked books for grades 1-3 in a package which sort of acts like a crash course into reading for these children. We are also going to bring in government schools and put them through workshops, both of the students and the teachers to bring the culture of reading to their school.
One thing you are most excited about?
We’re really excited about the braille books. We have two students coming in, who’ll be doing read aloud sessions with the Braille books. We also have the chairperson of the Blind association coming in for the Mahotsav. We’re also looking forward to Dada Ji’s timeline, which will make people realize his contribution to the BSM and to the Nepali language itself. We’ll have Chhanda recitations and Ms. Milan will be reading the book she wrote about Dada Ji’s life. It’s an opportunity to really study somebody who has brought the Nepali language to the level it is in right now. He also inspired the Nepali Unicode, and it is due to his contributions that Nepali is no longer a dying language.
Furthermore, we’re thrilled to have Mr. Marcus Pfister as our guest for the event, and we’ll be going through his timeline, as well as engaging ourselves and especially the kids with illustration workshops and an interview session with him.
What are your plans for future BSMs?
The Bal Sahitya Mahotsav has been quite successful in Kathmandu, and we’re planning to expand it into government schools in other districts as well. We have schools from districts around the valley coming for this year’s BSM, and we’ll be conducting workshops for the students and teachers so that they too will be conducting BSMs in their own schools. By doing so, the culture of reading will spread into their community and more and more people will enjoy reading, once they know how exciting it can be. We'll be facilitating these BSMs and the Rato Bangala Foundation will work in-depth with them, funding and supporting four of these schools. BSM is a long term plan, and we hope to spread the joy of reading with the Mahotsav.
Avani Adhikari and Aayusha Shrestha are writers and students at Rato Bangala School.
On 29 December 2016, the world lost a great man. Kamal Mani Dixit, known as Dada Ji by the Rato Bangala community, was an author and great supporter of the literary arts in Nepal. Ranjan Pudaisani writes more on Dada Ji's life and legacy below.
by Ranjan Pudaisani
by Prakriti Kandel and Priya Pradhan
The author of the world-renowned children’s book The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister, was born in Berne, Switzerland in 1960. Although he began his career as a graphic artist working in advertising, he decided to pursue writing children’s books in 1983; writing and illustrating his first book The Sleepy Owl in 1986. His book The Rainbow Fish took the world by storm, having been translated into over 80 languages and sold over 30 million copies, and has now become a series with several editions and even an animated TV show.
At this year’s Bal Sahitya Mahotsav, we were lucky to make Mr.Pfister’s acquaintance as he attended the event as our chief guest and keynote speaker. His inaugural address encompassed the importance of books and reading. He believes that “stories are the bread for our brains, the water for our souls; books are just the food for us”. We had a few moments to speak with Mr.Pfister.
PK and PP: What inspired you to be a children's literature author?
MP: Originally, I come from illustration and am a graphic artist. And I worked for publicity agency where you can only illustrate certain things. As an illustrator, I thought about what I could do for more illustration. And I also always loved telling stories so a picture book was perfect to bring these two talents together. So, I tried and finished my first book and I sent it to five editors in Switzerland.
PK and PP: Why do you value stories so much?
MP: I started to write stories before I had kids but when I having my own kids, the stories and their content started changing. Before, I always cared about the characters and illustrations and then about the story, but when I had my kids, the story became more important. The kids came home and told me stories about their day and their little problems and these are the kind of stories you read in the rainbow fish books. I loved to tell stories to the kids in the evening for 15-20 minutes to sit together and read stories and the kids asked questions about the story and we were together in a very intimate way. And I think it is a very nice. One day if you have your own kids, it would be very nice to tell them stories.
PK and PP: How do you think telling stories affects children and why is it important to tell stories to them?
MP: It's not that important what story you are telling: you may tell religious stories or stories about nature and science and even comics or a manga. I guess what is important is to know your kids in a different way; during the day maybe you won't have time to play or stay with them, but it is important to take the time to stay with your kids without any disturbance for 15-20 minutes to do something that calms you down. For me this relationship of parents and their children is important. More than the story, if a book is able to bring parents and children together, then that is a very nice thing.
PK and PP: What do you think of the Children's Literature Festival that Rato Bangala is organizing?
MP: First of all I enjoyed all the decorations on the trees and everything which brings about a feeling of joy and happiness. I guess this event is important because it opens your mind to another world and this is the aim of this festival.
PK and PP: What do you think it is about stories, especially children's stories, which make them loved and read in so many different countries and languages regardless of what language it is originally composed in, even taking your book as an example?
MP: Often people ask why a certain book is so renowned and the other one not? If we had an answer to this question, then anybody could write bestsellers and this is not possible. So it is luck but also it is about writing a certain story in the right time. Perhaps the rainbow fish published today wouldn't be a success it was twenty five years ago. I did a lot of books that I personally liked more that the rainbow fish but they were not such a success.
So, of course, for me it is also easier because I am only telling stories about animals. If you have an animal such as a fish or a penguin, then it is much more relatable. If a character is say, a Chinese kid, then kids in other parts of the world would feel that it is a Chinese kid, not me. But with the rainbow fish and the things it is doing, it could be anyone: you or me. It is not Chinese or Japanese or European so I think it is much more easier to have success with animals than with human beings. The story of the Rainbow Fish is a very simple one to touch people.
PK and PP: In your story, The Rainbow Fish, a major value the story talks about is sharing and making friends, so when writing stories how do you choose which values you want to put in the characters?
MP: It is actually completely different. Sometimes, I start with an idea where I want to tell a story with a certain value. Other times, since I am an illustrator, I have certain ideas for colors and illustrations and how characters should be like. And then, the story comes afterwards. So I have a lot of inspirations and it is not always the story first or the value first. I also write to entertain the kids. It is not necessary that the book always has to teach something.
PK and PP: Since you have said that you are primarily an illustrator, how did you start illustration?
MP: I enjoyed doing illustrations but when you are good in drawing in Switzerland, it does not mean very much. So my first step was to give exams to the art school and to know that I now want to pursue this.
PK and PP: In your speech, you mentioned that you read all the seven Harry Potter books to your children. So how did you get the idea of reading stories to your kids?
MP: First of all, small kids cannot read on their own so you have to read aloud to them. And second, the kids enjoyed the 15 minutes I spent reading with them. After reading the first book of Harry Potter, I asked them if they then wanted to read on their own or wanted me to read to them. They insisted on me reading so I continued doing this.
PK and PP: What advice would you have for children our age who want to be authors and illustrators?
MP: I don't know how it is here, but in Switzerland it is very difficult to write a picture book and to find an editor. But the thing is you have to try and you have to do it. When I was young, there was a lot of graphic artist there were a lot of people who wanted to go into graphics and write picture books but they never actually did it. So you have to take the time and be inspired to try it and you'll find an editor but you have to try and start.
PK and PP: In writing and illustrating and publishing children's books, have you faced anything difficult?
MP: When I started I sent my book to five editors in Switzerland and the fifth one finally agreed after waiting for six to nine months. But I said to myself that if it does not work in Switzerland, I would go to search for other editors in Germany. Maybe I would have tried something else since I have a lot of interests like sculptures, photography. It worked with the first book and it was possible to go on.
Priya Pradhan and Prakriti Kandel are writers and A Level students at Rato Bangala School.
by Aryan Pandey and Avani Adhikani
“I want you to get out of your comfort zone”, Gunjan Dixit said as she prepared to take a bunch of nervous-looking kids into the world of theater and drama.
Ms. Dixit started the session by handing out a masking tape for people to write their names on and told everyone to stand in a circle and take off their shoes. “I want you to introduce yourself to the group… but with a body motion you feel comfortable with.” She then gave a demonstration, a quirky dance riddled with silly gestures, as she introduced herself to the class. Meanwhile, the twenty or so awkward children shuffled around, wondering to themselves what the appropriate response was to the comical dance they were witnessing – they chose to laugh, nervous and hesitant, unaware of what they had gotten themselves into by signing up for the hour and a half long workshop. The kids anxiously looked at each other and to not feel silly self-consciously tried to emulate Ms. Dixit. An hour and half that flew past in a flurry of fun games and songs, where we (the reporters) stood by and watched as the awkward and aloof murmurs of the kids grew louder and more confident in each passing minute. In the end, the awkwardness was nowhere to be seen and the air was filled with the self confidence of people who were comfortable with their body and its quirks.
Miss Dixit set about bringing this transformation through music and games. Arranging the kids in groups of three she told them and they would be playing Rabbit, House, Storm. Granted, on paper it seems childish and pointless but: a) they were children. b) the game had an almost magical effect on the room. As soon and Ms. Dixit showed the children the ropes, they jumped in enthusiastically into this game, screaming and dancing, without a shred of self-consciousness. Children began straying from their friends to make more friends, so much so that at the end it was near impossible to tell who knew each other from before the workshop and who had just met each other.
Instead of tiring, it felt as if the children got more energetic as time went on. These excited children huddled in masses around Ms. Dixit, eagerly awaiting her next instructions. Dance around the room and form groups when the music stops? Gladly. Singing songs in another language? Without a question. The kids no longer cared about being silly or obstructive. To them, the only thing that mattered was to have fun. Despite having just met, the kids had no qualms about working with each other. Ms. Dixit mixed up the groups, created various group activities, all designed for getting the kids more comfortable and uniting them.
After an interesting session where she asked groups of six to create an animal together and sing a Hebrew song, Gunjan Dixit announced that the time for the workshop had ended. The kids, like kids, whined and complained and went to their corners to put on their shoes. As they went out, heads high, gait confident, humming their newly learnt song, they appeared to understand what is the essence of theater truly was —be yourself before you can be someone else.
Aryan Pandey and Avani Adhikani are writers and students at RBS.