Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 7, Tuesday February 12, 2008




It’s a heaven for bibliophiles! Wherever you look, you see nothing but a wide spectrum of books, books and books. As a nation we Bengalis love books. In fact, books have become such a part of our lifestyle that we truly are what we read. Moreover, books do not only cater food for thought and reflect our culture; they are the portals to our beloved mother language.

Amar Ekushey Grontho Mela or more popularly known as Ekushey Boi Mela, holds a special appeal to our patriotic zeal and we cannot but wait for the month of February. This year too, Ekushey Boi Mela has come to us with a remembrance of the glorious past that shaped our present, leading towards a brighter future.

Inaugurated on February 1, this year's fair has a lot of different flavours. To begin with, we get an extra day for the fair: February 29, as 2008 takes a leap. Then there is the number of stalls, which has been reduced to 362 cutting nearly 40 stalls down. As a result it gives the Bangla Academy premises a more spacious feel for the visitors to explore in comfort, and looks tidy and well organized. The six entry archways are well managed too, with separate entrances for women and children. And most importantly, a notice board has been erected near the entrance to accommodate the covers of newly released books of each day so that the visitors can have an easy glance. By the way, if you didn't know, the initial plan to charge a Tk 2 entry fee has been abandoned by the Bangla Academy authorities, keeping in with the long tradition of the fair.

Now, as we know, the fair is all about books and they are obviously available in abundance. All the stalls have their newly printed popular books on display and are selling them at a reasonable price after a 25% discount. As usual, the novels by famous writers like Humayun Ahmed, Anisul Haque, Imdadul Haque and the likes are on high demand in the fair. That's why the huge crowds at Annya Prakash, Maula Brothers or Shomoi Prokashoni are not very surprising. Despite novels and poems, Bangla Academy's own publications such as the dictionaries and research materials by UPL are seen to be selling fast. A lot of emphasis is also given on children's books by stalls like Jagriti and many others. And for serious readers who like thought provoking books, Pathak Shamabesh can be an option.

In addition to book sales, there are literary discussions and cultural events organized everyday at the fair. And since this is the first fair to be held after the demise of the eminent Chittoranjan Shaha, who initiated the fair, steps are taken to pay tribute to his memory. In the same way, some stalls are also remembering the famed playwright Selim al Deen with profound respect. Nevertheless, the atmosphere isn't any less electrifying. Thousands of people are gathering everyday, not only to purchase books, but to spend time in the company of books and their authors. The TV channels are broadcasting live coverage from time to time adding vibe to the already happening fair. Although Ekushey Boi Mela started merely as a book fair, it has evolved into a national cultural festival reflecting the spirit of the modern Bengali nation. Besides, there is something irresistible about the smell of the new books, the beautiful black lines on the dove white paper that draw you close; so close that you instantly want to make them yours. And the temptation is not an easy one to escape from.

So before you decide to venture into the world of books, here's the timing to remember. The month long fair is open from 3 pm till 9 pm everyday with the exception on weekends when it's open from 11 am to 10 pm.

By Shakhawat Imam Rajeeb

Story time

Walking in on Shamim Azad's performance was a treat. Standing under a soft spotlight, her voice rising and falling to the tinkle of the mondira, Bangladeshi-British poet/storyteller took us on a trip with Grandma, as she outfoxed the fox, the crocodile and the tiger. Despite being older than her target group, it was quite obvious that children would be charmed by such a lively portrayal of a favourite tale. There were moments when yours truly got caught up in the spell of the story, chanting along with the chorus, applauding the protagonist when she comes out on top. Gone were all the inhibitions and hang-ups of being an adult. Such is the power of a good story told well.

There is a rising concern amongst teachers and parents about the decline in the reading habit amongst children. Fingers have been pointed at cable television, video games, the lack of good books and more, so that it almost becomes laughable to think that a possible solution may be as simple as reading to your child.

Reading with children is fun and one of the best ways to help prepare them for school. The young ones learn about the value and importance of reading as they watch their family reading and writing in everyday life. Whether reading a novel, sharing a story, using a recipe, making a shopping list, writing a birthday card or reading a street sign, children observe the value of reading and writing.

Now all that is well and good, but as many people will counter, how do we get the children to read? The key is to get involved in the reading process, and not just hand them a book and expect them to get excited about it. The NSW (New South Wales) Public schools web-site recommends involving your child in everyday conversations from an early age. Read aloud to your child. Listen to him/her read. It will help your child to learn the language of books and encourages the enjoyment of books and reading. Talk about the books together, making reading a shared, enjoyable activity. Make sure the child has a steady supply of books; they make great and meaningful gifts. Alternatively, a library subscription is a worthwhile investment.

There is also a tendency for those parents interested in getting their children used to speaking in English, for ignoring their mother tongue and focusing solely on the alien language. This isn't such a great idea, as NSW advises reading to your child in your first language. This makes it easier to relate to the content, and research shows that using your first language will help your child when he or she learns to read English.

Finally, and most importantly, try not to let television intrude on reading time - set aside some uninterrupted time to read with your child.

Children have an innate love of stories. Stories create magic and a sense of wonder at the world. Stories teach us about life, about ourselves and about others. Storytelling is a unique way for students to develop an understanding, respect and appreciation for other cultures, and can promote a positive attitude to people from different lands, races and religions. So why not just pick up a book and get started on a marvellous journey together?

By Sabrina F Ahmad

On The Cover

Lose yourself in the enchantment of a fabulous fairytale, or go riding off on the wings of adventure. We’ll tell you how, flip to the centre fold.

Photo: LS Archives


Books are an integral part of our lives, be it a novel or an academic one. And we all love to buy and collect books whether it's for the sheer pleasure of reading or just to show off our refined taste.

Shelving the books
Buy shelves high enough so that your books can be placed upright and still have a little clearing on top, below the shelf above. Get deep shelves to leave some space behind the books. It is wise to keep the books away from outside walls, especially un-insulated walls, to protect from the damp. Position the shelves away from direct sunlight in a dark place and if possible air condition the books as books are organic, which turn to acidic overtime due to temperature and humidity.

Protecting from vermin
Did you ever wonder how those ragged spots got on books? Yep, it was cockroaches or silverfish. Rodents and termites are also a big threat. They don't just survive on a diet of books; they thrive. So, try keeping your house or library insect free. If needed call in a professional exterminator. Otherwise the only home do-it-yourself product that is believed to be effective is the boric acid powder. But make sure to never apply the powder directly on the books. Merely sprinkle over the surrounding places to get rid of pests.

Do not fold a page to save your place in the book, instead use a bookmark. Try to grow the habit of reading books with clean hands and do not eat or drink around your books. Do not use books as coasters. Never write, scribble, glue, or cut the pages of a book. And do not forget to clean your book or shelves regularly by using a good feather duster, and while you tightly hold the book closed and upright, make sure to carefully dust off the top and edges.

By Shakhawat Imam Rajeeb

For Those Interested

Our columnist of "Under a different sky', Iffat Nawaz will be reading her prose at Kozmo Lounge's Kozmo (A)maze on February 19, 2008. The event starts at 7 p.m.



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