Published: 19th February 2021
How the Katha Project by a Kerala NGO is inculcating social responsibility through books at an early age
A team of 20 student volunteers from across India are working with 360 Degree on the Katha Project. The first book from the series, A Little More Green was released recently
There is no better way to empower and educate young minds than to get them reading and writing stories. And that is exactly what the Katha Project, an initiative by 360 Degree, an NGO based in Kerala is trying to do. Their aim is to collect stories on socially relevant themes from children and turn them into illustrated storybooks with the idea of promoting volunteerism and social responsibility among young readers. The stories, while being fun and light to read, will also teach young readers something valuable about the world around us.
A team of 20 student volunteers from across India are working with 360 Degree on the Katha Project. The first book from the series, A Little More Green was released recently and is based on a story by 14-year-old Malavika Manoj that reinforces the importance of conserving the environment. The central character of all Katha Project books is a character named Chikku, who is the mascot of 360 Degree's Gift A Story campaign through which they build libraries for deserving schools across India. All books from the Katha Project will be made available in the libraries built under the Gift A Story campaign. It will also be available to download online through the 360 Degree website.
The team is also working to get the books translated to various regional languages as well, to reach a larger audience. "During COVID and the subsequent lockdown, we had put out a call for volunteers from all across India to work on online projects. Katha Project is one among of the six other online projects we have been working on since the pandemic hit. We wanted to use books as a medium to promote volunteering, a sense of social responsibility from a very young age," explains Gautham Ravindran, the founder of 360 Degree.
The Katha Project had a lot of student volunteers, who are artists, designers, which the NGO decided to put to use. The story by Malavika was reworked on by Nicy Georgi and Priyatham Gaddam, both students at NID Madhya Pradesh. It was illustrated by Swanand Wagh, also a student at NID Madhya Pradesh. The book was edited by Gowri Unni, from NIFT Bangalore and Sanjay Samuel Mathew, a student at Mar Baselios Dental College, Kothamangalam. There are several other books in the pipeline, adds Gautham.
Elaborating on what the book is all about and how she went about writing it, Malavika tells us, "I wrote this book to highlight the importance of our environment and to share simple solutions for problems faced by the environment. I used to write small stories all the time, but this is my first experience seeing it being published as a book and that makes me immensely happy. It has inspired me to continue writing. Through the characters in the book, Chikku and Chinnu, I wanted to convey a message to the society that even a small child can work towards saving nature. The only thing we need is determination and dedication."
The illustrations throughout the book play a major role in conveying the message to children. "We wanted to bring in an Indianness to the characters of the book. We made them wear a very traditional South Indian attire with a bindi, a traditional face to the characters, to create a relatability factor for the kids reading the book. Illustrations are something that brings the story to life, it gives the child a direction to think. For young minds, that is what will attract them the most to read the book or a story," adds Swanand, who did the illustrations for the book.