A sunny stage for storytellers

It’s called the Big Little Book Award (BLBA) and the big and the little of the name complement each other. Launched in 2016 to recognise and reward writers and illustrators of children’s books in different Indian languages, BLBA is a first-of-its-kind accolade for storytellers creating outstanding literature for kids and young adults (and the not-so-young too).

BLBA was instituted by the Parag Initiative, which is part of the education portfolio of the Tata Trusts. Parag’s focus is children’s literature and it has a three-pronged model — sourcing, publishing and dissemination — to enable and encourage the reading habit among those in the 3-to-16 age group. Towards this end, the Initiative has supported the publishing of books in multiple Indian languages, promoted talented authors and illustrators and set up school and community libraries, some of them mobile, in underserved regions across India.

The BLBA effort is an important component of the work that Parag does and its greatest value lies in the boost it has given to children’s literature in the country and to storytellers with remarkable talent. S Sivadas and Deepa Balsavar, both BLBA winners in 2021, are standout examples. Prof Sivadas is an octogenarian writer from Kottayam, Kerala, who pioneered children’s science writing in Malayalam, while the Mumbai-based Ms Balsavar is a writer, illustrator and educationist.