Children's Book Trust was founded by Shankar in 1957. It came to be housed in Nehru House, inaugurated by the President of India Dr. S. Radhakrishnan on November 30, 1965. Pioneer publishers of children's books in India, Children's Book Trust has set for itself an ambitious target to promote the production of well written, well illustrated and well designed books for children. In furtherance of this objective, the Trust brings out books that are easy to read and easy on the eyes, including books that enable children to have a better appreciation of India's cultural heritage.
CBT is now in the 60th year of its establishment. These golden years have seen a marked progression not only in terms of creative ideas, themes and factual accounts, but in their presentation, production and visual interpretations as well. From playful animal fantasies that were published as Panchatantra tales or the retold folktales that even today make perennial favorites, CBT gradually steered its energies towards reality issues like teenage problems, scientific and technological advances, school and sports dilemmas, contributions of eminent men and women in India's progress, the changing mindset of ordinary people and the evolution of their thought. The change came about with the launch of the Competition for Writers of Children's Books in 1978. The subjects were diversified to make a much wider spectrum. This now comprises General Fiction, Science Fiction, Indian History/Heritage, Natural History, Travelogue, Non-Fiction/Information, Popular Science, Great Institutions, Short Stories/Humor Stories, Short Plays/Dramas, and Read-Aloud Books/Picture Books. These are published not only in English and Hindi, as was the case earlier, but in various Indian languages to a certain extent.
The efforts made in newer genres, it is hoped, will generate a deeper spirit of enquiry in young minds and a healthy, progressive outlook to life and living. CBT publications on science, information, biographies under the 'Remembering Our Leaders' series, have attracted good attention, many of the titles being reprinted over and over again. CBT books have been included under schemes for Adult Education and Science Improvement. Select titles were printed under the 'Operation Blackboard' in many languages to supply the needs of the State Governments. Conscientious attention has been bestowed on achieving quality and production excellence. The publications also include an exhaustive and authoritative book on 'Children's Literature in India' for documentation and referencing. The Trust has to its credit today about 1000 titles.
The prices of the books are kept down to the minimum possible, in fact subsidized, in an effort to bring them within the reach of the average Indian child, which was Shankar's basic idea. In such ways, therefore, CBT has steadily built for its readers a vast storehouse of literature which, if followed systematically and chronologically, reveals the pace of development of children's literature from the time when there was nothing for children to call their own, to the present times which are altogether competitive and challenging. "If only the best is good enough for children," CBT shall continue to strive to achieve even greater heights to match India's current status as 'an aspiring and happening nation'.
MAGAZINE FOR CHILDREN
WORKSHOP FOR WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORSAs a fillip to creative talent, CBT has organized, from time to time, workshops for writers and illustrators of children's books. A forum for them, sponsored by CBT, has since formed itself into a registered body known as the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children. Its activities include participating in world events, encouragement to writers, promotion of the reading habit, and establishment of libraries.
The best of the entries are chosen by an international jury. Because of the limited space available for display, about 2000 paintings are selected after an initial screening. The selected paintings are put up for public viewing for three weeks. This exhibition has come to be known as Shankar's International Children's Art Exhibition.
The paintings, chosen by the international jury, are awarded prizes at an annual function held in New Delhi. There are over 800 prizes. The top awards are the President of India's Gold Medal for the best painting, the Shankar's Gold Medal for the best written entry, and 24 Nehru Memorial Gold Medals, named after Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. He had been a source of great encouragement and inspiration to Shankar.
The annual prize-distribution function itself is unique in that it is conducted entirely by school children. Prize-winners from India and a few from abroad attend the function. Prizes won by other foreign children are received, on their behalf, by the diplomatic representatives of the respective countries. The President of India or the Vice-President or the Prime Minister is normally the Chief Guest at the function.
CHILDREN'S ART NUMBERThe prize-winning entries are published in a deluxe multi-color publication called 'Shankar's Children's Art Number'.
This annual compendium has acquired a unique place in the world of children's literature.
ON-THE-SPOT PAINTING COMPETITIONAt the 1952 exhibition of prize-winning paintings, a doubting Thomas felt that children could not have turned out such 'accomplished works of art'. To clear the doubt, the first On-the-Spot Painting Competition in Delhi was held in April 1952. The Competition held on the sprawling lawns of a New Delhi's school, was an annual event till the year 2005 and over 10,000 children in and around Delhi, as well as children of foreign nationals in Delhi, participated whole-heartedly. However, the Competition had to be suspended owing to space constrains and traffic restrictions.
DOLLS MUSEUM AND DOLLS WORKSHOP
Housed in the building of the Children's Book Trust on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi, the Museum occupies a floor area of 5184.5 sq. feet – a portion of the first floor. A separate entrance with a stately winding staircase leads up to a foyer. Inside, the Museum is divided into two equal halves. The two sections have over 160 glass cases, 1000 ft. long, mounted on the walls. One section has exhibits from European countries, the U.K., and the U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand, Commonwealth of Independent States and the other from Asian countries, the Middle East, Africa and India. There are also special displays besides a representative collection from the over 150 kinds of authentic Indian costume dolls made at the Dolls Designing Centre and Workshop (started in 1966) attached to the Museum.
Indian dolls made at the workshop are exchanged for gifts received from abroad as well as sold to collectors and to museums in India and abroad. Each doll is handcrafted after meticulous research into the physical attributes, dress and jewellery of individual characters. Little wonder then, the dolls won the First Prize–Golden Peacock Feather–at the Dolls Biennale held in Cracow, Poland, in 1980. The Museum's collection of the costume dolls was inspired by a gift of a single doll, which Shankar received from the Hungarian Ambassador in the early fifties, to be given away as a prize in the Shankar's International Children's Competition. Shankar fell in love with the doll. With the permission of the Ambassador, he kept the doll for himself. So fascinated was he with this Hungarian doll that Shankar, thereafter, began collecting costume dolls whenever he went abroad. His visits were frequent, he being a part of the group of journalists accompanying the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Soon he had a collection of around 500 dolls which he decided to exhibit in various places in India along with the paintings done by children. The frequent packing and unpacking resulted in damage to the dolls much to Shankar's consternation.
Shankar voiced his concern for the damaged dolls. Promptly a suggestion came from Indira Gandhi: Why not a permanent museum for the dolls? So, when the Children's Book Trust was putting up its building, a portion was set apart and planned as a museum for the dolls. The museum was ready in 1965 and it was inaugurated by the then President of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, who appropriately named the building, 'Nehru House' after the late Prime Minister. The Museum started with a thousand dolls. Between 1965 and 1987 another 5000 were added – a vast majority coming as gifts. Today the volume has increased to 6,500 exhibits from almost eighty-five countries, giving it a truly international character. The Museum is listed in the itinerary of all visitors to Delhi. Some of the important dignitaries who have visited the Museum and recorded their appreciation are: President U. Thant of Burma (now Myanmar), Madame Tito of Yugoslavia, Queen Frederika of Greece, the Queen of Thailand, the sister of Shah of Iran, the wives of the President of Mexico and Indonesia, of the Prime Ministers of Poland and South Korea and the UN Secretary General and cultural delegations from many countries.
The Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. without any lunch break. The ticket counter closes at 5.30 p.m. The Museum observes Mondays as weekly holiday, besides three National and festive holidays.