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Southern India emerges as powerhouse for children's books 

Southern India, known for its high literacy levels, is fast turning into a powerhouse for children's magazines in the country. This month, a new magazine for pre-schoolers, Magic Pot, just hit the stands in southern India. "A teddy bear in one hand, a hesitant crayon in the other... can our little ones have a magazine of their own too? Yes they can. This is the challenge that our editorial team has taken on," said the first issue of the magazine, which has just hit the stands.

Published by the Malayala Manorama group, the 50-page all-colour journal, priced at Rs 12, promises to help with the "extremely tough job of entertaining pre-schoolers" even while fostering their intellectual development, confidence, intelligence and creativity. It even offers tips to parents and teachers on how to read aloud stories-of animals, little devils, clowns and village life-with the right rhythm and tone to attract a child.While Magic Pot is published from Kochi in Kerala, another new publication called Chatterbox, which is into its fifth issue, is brought out from Adyar in Chennai. It offers youngsters a wide reading range, including the pop history of India, short stories, entertaining science, sports coverage and the like.

India has a long history of children's magazines, though in times when the publisher's profits determine the bottomline, many have fallen on hard days.Children's World, one of the first magazines brought out on a quarterly basis by the Children's Book Trust, ran for four years. "For a couple of years in the 1980s, Children's World even had an edition in the US," says the journal's ex-editor K Ramakrishnan, who is now consultant editor for the long popular Chandamama magazine.

After the initial spurt in the 1970s, there has been a lull in children's magazines. Publishers of the national newsmagazine, India Today, launched Target, which was initially a children's magazine and then was turned into a youth magazine. Another mainstream magazine, Caravan (later renamed Alive), began to bring out its own children's magazine called Champak. The Times of India newspaper group started Parag and The Hindustan Times newspaper group began to publish Nandan, both in Hindi and from Delhi. But Parag folded up in a few years.

Newspaper groups in southern India, like the Malayala Manorama and the Mathrubhoomi, started their own publications called Balarama and Balabhumi in the 1970s. Kerala has as many as 18 children's magazines published from varied centres and it leads in India in promoting the reading habit among pre-college boys and girls. A popular magazine from Kerala, called Eureka, is brought out by the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), a prominent regional group working for the promotion of a scientific attitude. Other popular children's magazines coming out from southern India are the Children's Digest, published by the Rashtra Deepika group; Wisdom, now in its 27th year; and Gokulam, now in its 12th year, the last two being published from Chennai.

A new magazine called Wisdom Today, published from Delhi, is widely available at news stalls here. India's commercial and publishing capital of Mumbai is home to publications like the Amar Chitra Katha series of comics for children; Twinkle, which offers science and general knowledge in comic form; and other children's magazines like Balvikas and Balavihar brought out by spiritual organisations.

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