Frankfurt Book Fair launches training campaigns in India


New Delhi : The prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair is reaching out to new segment of Indian readers at the grassroots to enhance literacy and reading competence.

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‘Jumpstart’, a programme under the ‘Litcam – Competence for Life’ programme, is part of the fair’s three-pronged outreach programme to tap into the exploding readers’ and publishing market, bring the marginalised sections of readership to the mainstream and combat functional illiteracy.

At the core of the campaign is promotion of education in India and media literacy. Children in urban slums and villages are under spotlight.

The campaign, which will fan out to smaller towns and cities, has been put together by the Frankfurt Book Fair and its partners, the German Federal Association of Literacy and Basic Education and the German Book Office with the support of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

For the last two days, the campaign which drew more than 350 delegates from publishing industry, writers, illustrators and non-profit organisations addressed issues like “inter-linkages between literacy and publishing”, “literacy and media” and “mass literacy” at the India International Centre (IIC) here.

The statistics of functional illiteracy in India are grim. India has nearly 300 million non-literates (2001 Census), literacy campaigner Brij Kothari said.

Kothari’s project “Let A Billion Readers Bloom: Same Language Sun-titling on Television for Mass Literacy” educates children and young adults in the fringe areas “by enabling them to read sub-titles on television”,

Quoting studies at a session on mass literacy and media at Jumpstart Friday, Kothari said, “roughly 337 million people who are categorised as literate cannot read and of the 581 million literate people, only 222 million read magazines and newspapers”.

Centre for Knowledge Society’s Aditya Dev Sood, who has researched the coping strategies of illiterates, put the figure of illiterates around the world at 793 million.

India figured high on the list of illiterate nations, experts said.

In the light of the literacy scenario, Jumpstart is an important outreach initiative for the Frankfurt Book Fair, Akshay Pathak, director of the German Book Office, said.

“You can’t be in India and talk of India without talking about its illiteracy. Jumpstart, in its second year, is not yet a full-fledged campaign. We are trying to develop it as a comprehensive literacy project,” Pathak told IANS.

“We set up our office in 2008 to facilitate industry and content exchange. India is a big market and foreign publishers are keen to come here,” Pathak said.

He said “in the last three years the Frankfurt Book Fair with its partners has launched three major initiatives in India”.

“One of them is a publishers’ training programme in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. In India, publishing is not considered an industry. Some are born into publishing families and others join the trade after college. The training is a enhancement course for publishers,” he said.

The two other initiatives are “Jumpstart”, the literacy campaign and “Global-Local”, a large format conference “to help Indian publishers think of ways to tide over problems arising out of the growth in digital and e-books publishing”, Pathak said.

The participation of India in the Frankfurt Book Fair has been growing.

“Last year, 160 publishers from India participated in the exhibitions section. Germans are interested in vernacular and language literature from India,” he said.

The German Book Office this year took eight India publishers of Mind/Body/Spirit Books for a week to Germany to meet their German counterparts for buying and selling of book rights.

Last year, eight non-fiction publishers took part in a similar week-long exchange.

The Frankfurt Book Fair this year begins Oct 12-16.