Proceed to play

Jumpstart is back with lots of fun plans up its sleeve

This fortnight, if you find your city invaded by a host of writers, storytellers, artists and illustrators, all of them in a seri­ously playful mood, it’s because of Jumpstart, an annual congress of children’s content creators organ­ised by the German Book Office. This year’s edition of Jumpstart is back with a new theme of “Let’s play” and has expanded to include Bangalore as a venue.

“Through experts from the field of writing, illustrations, pedagogy, theatre, games, animation, storytelling and publishing, we wish to talk and experience the ways in which creators in general can play in the process of creating con­tent for children,” said Prashasti Rastogi, director of the GBO, New Delhi, over email. “Whether it be writing a book, illustrating, animat­ing or creating a game, we hope to explore play in all its polysemy – the gaming of play – domestic, public and virtual spaces of sport and leisure and the embodiment and practice of play.”

In Delhi, the programme will be held across two days, with the second day being a master class by the Jumpstart programme team – Anita Roy, director at Young Zubaan; Manasi Subramaniam, commissioning editor at Harper­Collins India; and Samina Mishra, writer and former Time Out Delhi kids editor. “We look at play as any activity that engages, stimulates and motivates,” said Subrama­niam. “Even the act of reading and imagining is a way of playing. We are simply bringing the focus back to good old-fashioned fun.”

The first day will see a series of talks and discussions in collabo­ration with partners Scholastic, Goethe Institut and Embassy of France. Authors Nury Vittachi, Asha Nehemiah and Sophie Benini Pietromarchi will talk about the idea of playing with books in a conversa­tion moderated by Roy. The discus­sion will focus on play and its con­nection to creative work for writers and illustrators. Hong Kong-based journalist Vittachi, who wrote the richly imaginative children’s book The Day it Rained Letters, pointed out, “It is often said that playing is how children learn. That’s certainly true, but I also think playing is how adults learn.”

Benini Pietromarchi is the author of The Book Book and The Colour Book, beautifully illustrated books that get children to explore the world of stories and colours. “My position in my books is not in front of them as a teacher but rather I try to stay side by side to the children,” said the Franco-Italian artist and teacher. “It is as if we were playing a game together where everyone follows the same rules before starting to play. At Jumpstart, I will also explore the different games that you can find in my books. The element that fascinates me in the exploration of play is the ‘new’. Every time you play you are in front of a space and a time that are new, all the possibilities are open. I will also explore the concept that writing for children is not at all to make things simpler to them, but to under­stand deeply the situation or the theme and go to the essential.”

Mishra will moderate a discus­sion on play in pedagogy with educators Amukta Mahapatra, EK Shaji and Sujata Noronha, who runs Bookworm, a Goa-based organisa­tion that offers opportunities for kids to love books. “We’re looking at play and pedagogy where experts tell us how critical it is to keep the element of play in a learning envi­ronment and show us how they do it,” said Mishra. Mahapatra, who was the founder and principal of Abacus School, Chennai, and is currently a member of a commit­tee that is reviewing activity based learning in seven states, including Karnataka, shared her plans for Jumpstart. “Often the word ‘play’ is used patronisingly by adults to describe children’s activity. Children play seriously, even if it is with a bit of a twig or a piece of paper or a math material. There is no clear demarcation of play and work as they learn and live. Work is described as ‘when an effort is put in to produce something’ or when our faculties are being used. Don’t children use all of themselves when they play? Don’t they put in an effort? Don’t they produce some­thing, even if it is intangible? Can we observe, listen and take them forward in their quest to learn and play with the world and the universe that they inhabit?”

Appadurai A from Hewlett-Packard India, one of the festival sponsors along with the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, will talk about augmented reality and innovations in print, while author and game designer Anshumani Ruddra will focus on the nuances of developing a game book. The day will wrap up with a session on transmedia storytelling across books, movies, games and apps with Rastogi; Jiggy George, CEO of Dream Theatre, a brand man­agement and licensing agency that creates and manages iconic brands such as Angry Birds and Warner Bros in India and South Asia; Ralph Möllers, who runs a book and software house, Sys­thema, in Germany; and Shilpa Ranade, who teaches animation at the Industrial Design Centre at IIT Bombay.

In Bangalore, the festival will be held for one day. “Since 2009, Jumpstart has been a platform for authors, illustrators, publish­ers, editors, translators, librarians, educationists to ideate and col­laborate on a relevant theme,” said Rastogi. “All year round we receive mails from people asking us to bring Jumpstart to other cities and we chose Bangalore as the most buzzing creative base with a highly receptive and energetic audience.”

By Bijal Vachharajani on August 15 2014

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