Children from 140 towns and cities in India and abroad send contributions in the form of written pieces, art work or photos to Bookosmia
Bookosmia (which means ‘smell of books’) is a platform that promotes creativity among children. The venture is headquartered in Bengaluru but it receives contributions from children located in 140 towns and cities across the world. It is the largest platform in India publishing content ‘for children, by children’. Around 120 digital stories written by children are published every month.
The contributions, which are published free of cost, include articles, poems, essays, short stories, reviews of books and movies, travel experiences, art work and photographs.
Bookosmia was founded in 2017 by Nidhi Mishra, an alumnus of IIM Lucknow, who quit her job as a banker to connect with children through reading and writing. Says Nidhi: “As I was moving up the corporate ladder, I felt that I wanted to do something more meaningful with my time. I was a mother by then. I realized that there was a dearth of good quality relatable content for Indian children. Initially, I thought of publishing physical books but then decided that times had changed and a digital venture would be more suitable.”
Journalist Archana Mohan joined as co-founder in 2018 and is the head of content. Soon, the duo realized that children had a lot to share. So, why shouldn’t kids be given the opportunity to create their own content?
“Any child aged 5 to 18 years can contribute to Bookosmia by sending an email or uploading on the website. We do not worry too much about spellings and grammar. We focus on the idea. Our team makes corrections when required. We believe that every child has a story to tell. In fact, ‘Every Young Voice Matters’ is our tagline. While we publish currently in English, we don’t want to leave out children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are not fluent in English. We plan to expand to vernacular Indian languages in the future,” says Archana.
Bookosmia does not receive contributions only from large metros. There are regular writers from small towns as well. The venture also publishes e-books that are collections of writings by the children. ‘Gratitude during COVID’, ‘Bapu lives within me’ (about the views of teens on the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings) and ‘It’s not ok’ (essays by teenagers against discrimination) are some of the e-books published.
What are the specific benefits of creative writing for children? “Expressing feelings and opinions through writing is good for mental health. Writing helps in developing clarity of thought and building confidence. Apart from improving communication skills, writing develops persuasive skills as well. Exploring language and looking for the right words builds vocabulary. Finally, writing regularly helps a child cultivate discipline,” explains Archana.
How can parents help their children tap their inherent creativity? The duo believes that parents should set aside time for children where they can bond and their children can express their thoughts freely. Fun activities like ‘continue the story’ or finding an alternate ending for a movie stimulate creativity. During walks, children could be encouraged to pick up things like stones, twigs and leaves and make up a poem or story about them. Making their own lyrics for popular songs and photography are also ways to get creative.
Not all children are comfortable writing. Some like speaking. Bookosmia also posts videos and has two podcasts for teens. “We run India’s first teen podcast on Audible called ‘Trending with Teens’. Another podcast is called ‘What’s on my Mind’ and is about mental health of adolescents, says Nidhi.
Making science fun for kids is another initiative. Says Nidhi: “We have been working with the faculty of IIT Guwahati to teach science in an interesting way. We did two books for them on finding science in the house. We have also created an augmented reality app to help children learn about the periodic table in a fun way. We will be distributing the app to 1200 schools soon.”
In another unique and impactful initiative, Bookosmia has cocreated with Mugdha Kalra Not That Different, the first ever comic book to help children understand autism and neurodiversity. The book follows 10-year-old Sara and her new friend Madhav, who is on the autism spectrum. “Children are curious and ask questions to understand better. They are still free of bias and conditioning and best placed to understand a subject and practise inclusivity,” says Nidhi.