The magic storybook
By Gitanjali Chaturvedi
For five-year old Guller, bedtime is not about sleeping. This is when she wanders into a different world – a world inhabited by wise animals, clever people, a world where she learns and is entertained. Guller loves this little world. And she adores the storybook that contains the world of her dreams. Guller cannot read just yet. But she knows every story in the book by heart.
Continuation of the Fairy Tale, the storybook that Guller is so attached to, is part of a series of storybooks produced by UNICEF to encourage children to develop an interest in reading. Published to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the CRC, there is a story behind the compilation of this storybook!
In 2009, UNICEF organised a nationwide creative writing contest inviting professional and amateur writers, artists and poets to send in their contribution for children. The work had to be original; the purpose was clearly to encourage creative writing for children to enrich Turkmen literature. Stories in written in Russian language were also accepted. The response was overwhelming – about 100 people between the ages of 8 and 80 years participated in the contest. The best entries were shortlisted by the Ministry of Culture and TV & Radio Broadcasting, and UNICEF.
The resultant compilation, dedicated to the children of Turkmenistan, includes 150 stories; poems and riddles in Russian and Turkmen. There are attractive paintings illustrating the core themes of the CRC – child’s physical, cognitive and social development, concepts of childhood, quality education, access to healthcare, and the right to participation in age-appropriate ways. What is also interesting about the illustrations is the depiction of disability. Traditionally, Turkmen art concentrates on illustrating the positive, especially if the audience is children. But this time, the storybook has made an important deviation from the norm by illustrating disability in an effort to make children sensitive to the issue.
Guller’s favourite story is Hadysa – a tale about a cunning fox who rescues a camel when his head gets accidentally stuck in a jar. Guller loves stories that talk about love, loyalty and devotion. She also likes the illustrations that accompany the stories. This artwork was done by a young art student from Ashgabat. Through this fascinating collection of stories, art, and information, Guller already knows about her beautiful country and its people. She hopes that one day, she will travel and see the beauty for herself.
Continuation of the Fairy Tale is a unique way in bringing diverse creative talents together to make a better, brighter, colourful and interesting world for children while also communicating the values that we want to instil in them! For children like Guller, who revel in the stories and information in the book, one tale isn’t enough. Her mother says that rather than putting her to sleep, they make her awake and alert, and asking for more!