Srinagar: “Papa koi nayi kahani sunao na? (Papa, tell me a new story?),” how many times have you heard your young one asking you this question? Pleading, clutching on, and sometimes demanding you to come up with a new story that interests them. You have repeatedly exhausted your cache of ‘tortoise and a hare’, ‘a clever crow, and ‘Cinderella’ stories. You are short of tales now.
If you have faced this recently, don’t worry. A certain mama and papa in Srinagar have decided to help you by writing their own set of stories kids can read and enjoy.
Welcome to ‘The Tale of a Day’ (TOAD), a small but interesting initiative for the kids in Kashmir and elsewhere who love reading and telling stories.
Thetoad.in is a very unique website for Kashmir at least. A first of its kind initiative to encourage a reading culture among kids in Kashmir, more so during the ongoing lockdown. Kids can go to this website and read for their own fun. A story a day will keep their boredom away.
Here kids will read about ‘a chicken that defeated a fox’, ‘a selfish rabbit’, ‘a lazy ant’, ‘a dove that couldn’t fly’, ‘a deer without friends’ and many more stories they love to read, imagining animals speaking out like humans.
The content is beautifully placed with simple hand drawings. And the stories are narrated in a nice, interesting way that most kids can understand and relate to. The best part is that the website opens easily on a slow internet connection as well.
Besides, as a parent you don’t have to worry about those pesky advertisements and inappropriate popups on websites. This one has nothing of it. It is just a digital form of your small booklet of good, old kids’ stories.
Arifa Gani, Editor-in-chief of TOAD, says she was planning it for more than a year. As a mother, she always wanted to narrate her own stories to her four-year-old daughter.
Then Article 370 abrogation happened and Arifa got all the time in the world to pursue this initiative.
Her husband Dr Danish Zargar, who teaches Mass Communication, too pitched in as a consulting editor, helping her write and edit the stories.
“There was no internet, no phone calls to divert you, I realised I could use the time to write the stories. My husband and I finished writing around 40 stories which we are now using on the website,” she told The Kashmir Monitor.
The couple had planned to launch the website last year but because of suspension of internet, they had to postpone it.
And now that COVID-19 has locked up everyone, including the kids, the timing was all the more opportune.
Arifa, who has a Masters in International Relations, from University of Birmingham and Masters in Mass Communication & Journalism from Kashmir University, she says TOAD is their small effort to encourage a reading culture among children at an early age.
While she agrees that kids are more interested in cartoon characters and moving images, she believes there is a certain section of children who always prefer reading stories.
“We are targeting such kids who love to read and write stories. While watching cartoons is just a form of entertainment, reading stories is both entertainment and an effort to hone one’s creativity,” she said.
It is not just the stories, the pictures too are very interesting.
For instance in ‘A Deer without Friends’, one sees a small deer cutely hand-drawn on a white paper along with an actual twig with green leaves placed atop. It is a nice combination of simple drawing skills and real nature that can have a positive impact on a child’s psyche.
The couple draws the sketches too. They have deliberately kept them simple so that the kids feel that they too can draw them.
With time, Arifa plans to upgrade the website to include different genres of stories.
“We are planning to introduce podcasts to the stories. If a child is able to read it, he or she can listen to a story as well,” she said.
The website has kept an option available for the children to contribute with stories too.
“We would love the children to read our stories and then write to us their own. We want them to develop a love for both these skills,” said Arifa.
The couple hopes their stories engage kids in the same manner the tales have engaged children for decades.