Editor’s Note: This month, that is October 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Childhood and Relationship With Parents and Family,where we invite various articles to highlight the different experiences that we all have experienced in some form or the other in our birth or chosen families and have been negotiating with them everyday. If you’d like to share your article, email us at email@example.com.
I am yet to embrace motherhood and hence, buying a gift for a toddler continues to remain a challenge. I was recently trying to courier something for a friend’s daughter and as a personal favorite, I eventually started browsing through books on e-commerce portals and came across many that contained the same narratives that I read 30 years ago.
Moving on From Princes and Castles
Women and young girls were rescued by a prince charming, two cruel step-sisters taking their vengeance out on a dainty and innocent girl and saw frogs turning into handsome, young men. It really got me thinking as to why the narratives haven’t changed over decades, and why are we still hell bent on making young children believe in halo-decked stories, and keeping them away from the real stories of triumph, aspirations and grit of ‘real people.’
While innocent, young minds are too naïve to understand the complexities of the current circumstances, stories of inspiration of real-life heroism, guts and valor should definitely be simplified in an attempt to provide an interesting and visually appealing narrative for our children.
Storytelling has always been a great way for helping kids understand and develop a sense of respect and curiosity for other cultures, people, geographies and also stories narrated by kith and kin during a child’s developing years has always helped children develop language, listening, comprehending and many such skills.
Amidst increasing numbers of gadgets and unmissable noise from television and other digital platforms, the need to create a discreet corner that is supported by stories of inspiration, kindness, ambition and breaks the shackles of gender stereotyping has become even more imperative.
Reimaging The Fairy Tales We Tell
Narratives of guts and intellectual ambitions of a Shakuntala Devi, Kalpana Chawla, Mary Kom, Malala Yousafzai and APJ Abdul Kalam – simplified and made visually appealing will help the children of tomorrow to understand the power of hard work, education, sportsmanship and integrity. Stories describing concepts of climate change, environment sustainability, pros and cons of digital mediums—post simplifying some of the scientific jargons can be sources of edutainment and visually engaging narratives.
We have unknowingly been exposed to narratives that have positioned women to be dainty, soured the image of a stepmother/sisters and clouded our minds about flawed perceptions of beauty and vanity.
Signs of Hope, But there is More to Be Done
While fairy tales and dolls aren’t a thing of the past yet, new narratives for children are gradually also emerging thanks to new contemporary digital formats. Eshwari Stories, a podcast in Telugu language by Suno India which educates children about the environment around them – is a good example of how narratives can amalgamate new concepts with storytelling for kids. Stories of kindness, sustainability, aspirations and innovation are also wonderfully told with a certain sense of responsibility and kindness by The Better India in multiple languages.
Similarly, When I Grow Up I Want To Be, sounds like an attempt towards reforming the concept of children’s storytelling (haven’t read this one personally).
Storytelling is ingrained as a hobby and a mode of earning knowledge in our culture, but like everything else around us this too needs a facelift to suit the demands of the world we are living in. The children of today’s era need to adapt to challenges that life throws at them with strength and acute awareness of changing sensibilities and geographies around them. While emerging edtech mediums are gradually being used for academia, storytelling of the new kind still remains to be the responsibility of our families.
Sneha has been in the media professional close to eight years now and has worked in the content space as a business journalist, media investment professional and currently works with a content app. She has also volunteered as a mentor to impart mobile literacy for rural women in West Bengal. Sneha has lived in multiple states across the country through her childhood and later work life has taken her to diverse regions across the country. She strongly believes that the idea of feminism evolves from empowering other women around us with education and economic opportunities. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Disclaimer – the author has worked with Suno India and The Better India under different capacities in her previous role.