Children's tales for children's sake | Daily News

Children's tales for children's sake

SLBC’s Ananda Samarakone Auditorium was bright on July 2, as Sarasavi Bookshop Chief H D Premasiri, Kumudini Haputhanthri, Dr Edwin Ariyadasa, Prof Praneeth Abeysundera, S H Sarath and Colvin Settinayaka graced a book launch of an extraordinary nature.

The compiler is Suneetha Wickramage, a retired employee of the SLBC. She has translated a series of books originally published in India. The series has been translated into 21 languages, and Wickramage is the 22nd translator. The series includes eight books covering themes of happiness. It teaches the children to observe the value of water, the colours of trees and types of animals and how friendly they are.

The ceremony kicked off with three child singers singing a song on the beauty of animal life. They sang to the instrumental music of the SLBC band. It was announced that children’s songs are becoming a thing of the past. The three songs we were treated to at the launch were composed by Suneetha Wickramage.

The most touching event was yet to happen. Wickramage’s publisher, H D Premasiri, requested her to distribute the copies among the children present at the occasion. This, Wickramage happily did and later presented copies freely to the special guests.z_p30-Children-02.jpg

In his speech, the veteran artist S H Sarath was quite careful with words. His speech was aimed at the children. The earliest form of Sri Lankan art, according to Sarath, was confined to temples. As centuries lapsed, parents made use of temple paintings to narrate Jathaka tales to their little ones. Sarath noted the valuable contribution of Sybil Wettasinghe who did wonders to rejuvenate the child’s mind with paintings.

Sarath, on a more serious advisory note, asked the little painters to make their own colours by mixing green and yellow, blue and red to watch the outcome of new colours.

He asked the parents to make their children move more with the nature and make them write essays - and the essay into a picture. Sarath emphasized that discipline could not be maintained by blasting a child or teaching. Only nature could enlighten a little brain.

Suneetha Wickramage recalled her heydays at the SLBC.

“I was simply an announcer at the ‘Lama Pitiya and gradually climbed the ladder to become a presentation officer. Today, when a child needs a certain meaning, they first try to google and probably facebook. But finally they approach mother for the correct meaning. I must thank my husband Piyasena Wickramage and son Nipuna Wickramage for supporting me throughout this endeavor.”

Professor Praneeth Abhaysundara noted that the Indian Books are translated in such a way that they easily touch the little minds more easily.

“Colours have a history. Purple is spirituality. All these books show all the colours well placed to the little ones. In Japan they relate stories and poems to improve the knowledge of children. In France, the children are made to draw. Parents expect their children to learn discipline. Unfortunately there is no such thing happening in Sri Lanka. Some people do not have peace of mind to draw or sing. But parents must see that children learn the value of the nature. Martin Wickremasinghe was no graduate. But he wrote all those books which are mostly used as textbooks in schools, with an admiring sense of the nature,” Prof Abhayasundara noted.

Dr Edwin Ariyadasa mentioned that storytelling has a long history.

“We had no electricity in the ancient times. So the mother used to narrate a story to lull her child to sleep. But a mother would keep a watch on the child’s responses. If the response gets weak, that is a sure sign that the child is asleep.

Once Robert Howe of Harvard University offered a paper and a pencil to a Negro child to draw something. The little child has drawn two pictures of a human. One very nicely dressed and the other half dressed, with one arm, one eye and one leg. So Howe inquired the child about the painting. The well dressed one was an American child, while the other one is the Negro child himself. Now that speaks a lot about the child mentality.

On another occasion, a psychologist offered a pen and a paper to a child. The little one had drawn a smiling face and a head of a fish. The child explained his painting: that is me after eating a baked fish. That too is a mental satisfaction of a child by art.” 

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