Periodic Table Posts

DK Books – Excellent resource material

A pile of Dorling Kindersley books that Sarah has amassed over the years. They form the core of her library. An absolutely brilliant set of books that are created by teams of experts. Each page layout is done with care to detail, facts, and matching the text with the image. Children of today are #visuallearners and are fortunate to live in an age where books exist that are profusely illustrated with photographs. So they get doses of reality, a visual mapping, while learning becomes an enjoyable experience. These encyclopaedias are so packed with information but the pictures hold prominence in every layout. An interesting methodology to book design as the child immerses themselves in the book, absorbed by the visual richness and slowly, over a period of time, familiarises herself with the text. It is important to note that the text never dumbs down the facts. It presents them as is.

Some of these books were gifted to Sarah when she was 7+ and my goodness, how they magically transformed her reading experience. She would sit for hours looking at the pictures, flipping pages and as her #literacyskills became stronger, she began to make sense of of text too and identify more about the creatures, plants, organisms, experiments, objects, geography, weather, etc presented in the books. These books snapped her out of only being absorbed by picture books and story books. There is some merit in kids being allowed their free time exactly as they please, whether it is daydreaming or flipping through books. They get lost in their own little dream worlds. These moments of daze are crucial to their growth as it is increasingly being documented that the #brain grows in such moments with the nerves connecting, synapses finding new routes. These magnificent volumes are storytelling with a difference. The child visually maps her world. She is incredible to be growing up in a world where these images are easily available. For instance, the book on Oceans has gorgeous pictures that do not make the watery world mysterious. Whereas we grew up in a world where Jacques Cousteau was still discovering the wonders of the deep. This particular volume has a preface by Fabien Cousteau, s/o Jacques Costeau.

During the pandemic, when children were confined at home and had to attend classes remotely, these DK books proved to be extremely useful resource material to have handy. Sure, the Internet exists. It is a vast ocean of readily available information but it is not the same thing as paper editions. Learning and reading in many ways is a sensual exercise. The brain needs to be tickled to come alive and absorb. Kids are surrounded by visuals and learn better if provided sensual opportunities of learning. They need to be left alone to slowly see, observe, ponder over and make connections for themselves. Large format, richly illustrated books like this permit the children to lie down on their tummies and stare into the book. Many peaceful hours can be spent like this without the parents getting frantic about excessive time spent on electronic devices or worrying about which links the children will click upon leading them to external websites etc. Books like this, developed by established brands, are good investments as they are sound on their factchecking and photographs used. It is ethicalpublishing too as every image or text used is always credited. It makes for reliable information that can be shared easily with children.

Of course these books are priced on the higher side but are an excellent addition to any home or school library. I understand the reasons for the expense and do not grudge it at all. I would rather buy one of these books than multiple volumes of different reading abilities to say explain the human body to the child. Children are incapable of grasping more than they can at any given time and slowly grow into these books. But it is incredible watching their growth as one fine day comes that magical moment when everything comes together. Now we are at a stage whereas parents we have to be very careful about identifying animals or fish as Sarah knows the exact species and names them accurately.

During remote learning I found it convenient to consult these books and explain the basic concepts of energy, periodic table, life cycle of rocks, vegetation belts, the various systems of the human body, etc. It was possible to let Sarah browse through the books and get a grasp of the concepts her teachers were introducing in their virtual classrooms. But when the teacher is reduced to a tiny box on a computer screen and valiantly attempts to draw sketches on her computer screen to explain to her class, it works but only to a limited extent. A substantial part of the heavy lifting of ensuring the child understood the concept is left upon the parents — this has been particularly evident during the pandemic. It is as if parents were assisting the schoolteachers in “minding the gap” between acquiring information and learning. Even so, once the kids begin returning to school, this kind of “blended” learning is here to stay. Schools are preferring to adopt the #hybridlearning — mix of digital and physical classes. But somewhere the balance has to be also struck between print books and online resources as well. This is were publishing brands like Dorling Kindersley India prove incredibly useful.

13 February 2021

Biographies for the new-age reader

Biographies of well-known personalities have always delighted readers for generations. Apart from being curious about how personalities reached the zenith of their profession/chosen field, life histories are always inspirational stories. What more can one ask for if they are presented in stunning layouts with rich colours and crisp text. In this audio-visual age even printed books are becoming more and more splendiferous to behold.

Of the books discussed in this article the original idea was launched by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo when they crowd sourced funds for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women. According to the Indiegogo site they used to crowdsource funds  $1,287,433 USD were the total funds raised, which was 1689% funded on May 26, 2016. It became a publishing phenomenon as it was an idea that caught the imagination of people all over the world. Apart from which the project was over subscribed. The book published lived up to expectations with its mini-biographies of over 100 women thrilling girls and boys. It is a zany collection of profiles with crisp storytelling and beautiful layouts. The second volume has also been announced.

The success of this unique publishing idea inspired many more and this time the books were readily commissioned by the firms. For instance, Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different: True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed the World Without Killing Dragons by Ben Brooks, published by Quercus. Once again an eclectic collection of mini-biographies that more or less adhered to the formula launched in the bestseller Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. Ben Brooks has profiled a diverse and inclusive set of individuals from around the world who were not all necessarily famous but “went on to make the world a better place through compassion, generosity and self-belief”. Once again it is a fabulous collection of wacky mini-biographies that are just the right mix of text and full-page illustration to spark an interest in the individual and their achievements to hopefully prompt the reader to explore further. In any case the mini-stories make for fascinating tales.

In India an equally splendid hardback compilation such as the previous two books mentioned, Like a Girl: Real Stories for Tough Kids is of women achievers and was launched by Westland/Amazon. An interesting collection of 51 biographies that spill into more than two or three pages. Nevertheless the neat experimentation of exploring art styles for illustrating the profiles with a variety of artists and different techniques is a unique way of creating a book. It was inspired by Rebel Girls but Like a Girl veered away from the formulaic presentation and developed a character of its own which is fine except that the biographies presented are of all “well-known” Indian personalities. It is not a combination of the established names as well as those equally significant women who made their mark at local and national level. Perhaps a second volume is being planned which will take into account a wider variety of names. ( Read more about the collaboration in this Hindu article, published on 17 July 2018.) 

Nevertheless these books are a delight to behold, possess and read. They tickle the mind in the right way so as to make one curious about the people and their world. Like these books there are a couple more examples that are worth listing. The Periodic Table of Feminism which is delightful in the way the “precious metals” or the initials of prominent women have been classified according to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th waves of feminism. The book is a pure delight if it were not for the spelling error of Malala Yousafzai in the end papers where “Malala has been spelt with a “y” — “Malaya”. A bit unfortunate since Malala is a figure recognised globally apart from which she is the youngest Nobel Prize winner so this spelling mistake is rather unfortunate. The second book worth mentioning is Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World and its companion volume Women in Sports.

All in all a visual and informative treat that will work splendidly as books for pleasure as well as edutainment.

30 July 2018 




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