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‘There is a decline in book-reading culture among children due to gadgets’

Manan Bajaj, an alumnus of Apeejay, Panchsheel Park and Managing Director at Scholars Hub calls upon academia and parents to inculcate the reading habit from a young age

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Manan Bajaj runs a family business of publishing and distribution of children books. Founded in 2003, Scholars Hub has a complete range of children’s books, such as Activity Books, Colouring Books, Story Books, Parenting Books, Crosswords and Word Puzzles, Subject-based Practice Worksheets, Grammar Books, Books on Comprehension, Olympiad Books and more. Manan says they have more than 400 titles under their publication. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing management and Retail Business from The College of Vocational Studies, University of Delhi and PGDM, Marketing from Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad. In an interview, the 25-year-old talks about the qualities of a good children’s book, the reasons for decline in reading habits among students, challenges facing the publishing industry, and more. Edited excerpts:

How was your school life?

It couldn’t have been better. The school equipped me with all the right skills so that I can excel in the outside world. Till class 10, I was decent in studies, but when I opted for Commerce stream after the boards I fell in love with Accountancy and other subjects. The role of teachers to get me more interested in studies can’t be put in words. Apeejay Panchsheel awards ‘Scholar Badges’ to students who score well in exams. Till class 10, I didn’t receive any such award, so from class 11 onwards I started working really hard to get the ‘Scholar Badge’ and I finally succeeded. The habits I formed and the lessons I learned in school helped me immensely in my future studies and career. The school taught us the importance of discipline and honesty. Importantly, we were encouraged to be all-rounders, the emphasis was to shine in all activities.

According to you, what are the traits of a good children’s book?

A good children’s book has so many qualities chief among them are captivating illustrations, a simple and interesting plot, engaging language and a teachable lesson.  It should also make the world seem larger and more interesting, relatable to a wide range of children and strike a chord with adults.

Do you believe that reading habits are declining among students?

Our target audience is in the age group of 0-15 and based on my experience I can clearly see the decline in book-reading culture among children. We are in constant touch with parents and so many of them know us personally, they all lament that the culture of reading books is almost becoming non-existent in our society. It’s an open secret that the advent of online education due to the pandemic and the easy accessibility to devices has made the situation worse. Reading books, especially stories, is no longer the norm. Children prefer watching videos.

What can be done to arrest this trend?

The famous saying, “A home without books is like a body without soul,” best emphasised the roles of books in our lives. I believe parents can play a huge role in instilling reading habits among children. Research shows that parents reading with their child for as little as 10 minutes a day can make a significant difference to the child’s achievement levels. Also, schools must set up reading camps and workshops and encourage more reading sessions in classes. The emphasis should be to inculcate the practice of reading from a young age. Book fairs should also be held at regular intervals in every district to promote reading habits. Preference should also be given to paper books over e-books. Remember, reading is critical to improve your focus, memory, empathy, and communication skills.

What are the challenges facing the publishing industry?

Technological advancements like the tablets and e-readers have dramatically reshaped the reading habits. The pandemic too has affected our industry as book fairs couldn’t be organised. For instance, Scholars Hub’s 80 per cent business comes from book exhibitions held in schools and fairs. I hope with the opening of schools and the economy things get better.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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