Pridhee Kapoor Gupta, founder T4Tales is trying to bridge the gap for kids learning regional native languages
Anyone bringing up young kids in a land far away from their country of origin, knows the struggle. While the world may have become inclusive like never before and everything ethnic is now a click away, often immigrant parents hit a pause when it comes to teaching young kids their native mother tongues.
Sometimes it is the lack of peer company to prompt kids into speaking their native languages, other times it is the paucity of right resources and very often it is the lack of that playful technique which encourages kids to discover a new language and not see it as a boring chore.
Seeing this vital gap in the market. Pridhee Kapoor Gupta, a graduate from IIT Delhi and a mother of two, conceptualized, T4Tales, a Singapore based company that publishes interactive board books for 0–6-year-olds in Indian languages and English available in the United States and across the world.
Gupta who has lived in Bahrain, India, US, Germany, Australia and is now settled in Singapore knows the struggle first hand. She felt that in many Indian immigrant households, while the culture and tradition are emphasized upon, it’s the Indian languages that take a back seat.
It is too difficult; we tried — being in common conversations around the topic. Through a range of books, she hopes to change this by helping parents bring Indian languages to their children from the early years right alongside English.
Currently the books are offered in languages such as Hindi, Punjabi and Kannada. Some of the interesting books published are Chuglubugloo, Das Din, Gol Mol Bol, Gutargoo, Kahani Purani and Pathu Natkaal.
The American Bazaar caught up with Pridhee Kapoor Gupta to know more about teaching Indian languages at a young age!
AB: Tell us about T4 Tales. Why did you think about these books? Was it through a lived experience where you felt that Indian origin children living abroad have limited opportunities to learn their native languages?
PKG: T4Tales’s vision is to help parents around the world introduce Indian languages to children in their early years through interactive story books. Our vision is to revive the magic of Indian culture, childhood and stories in a whole new format of interactive books in Indian languages.
Our books, which are often books and toys merged into one, have interactive elements like pull tabs, flaps, moving arrows, and glitter for small hands to build their motor skills. The books are designed to be fun to read, to help children nurture a love for books.
I started T4Tales with a two-fold goal in mind – to capture and keep alive verses and stories that are unique to Indian languages. And to help Indian parents introduce Indian languages to children in their early years which can help in improving a child’s vocabulary, listening skills and imagination.
After becoming a first time mother and living in Australia, it was vital to me to teach my child Hindi. Later when I moved to Bangalore, I quickly realized that there were no fun, interactive board books in Indian languages available to read to my then toddler. I could find an abundance of English books but not enough in my own mother tongue! This was the genesis for T4Tales.
AB: How significant do you think board books can be in the formative years to introduce cultures and languages?
PKG: Young children love to have stories re-read countless times and repetition is the key to supporting children in recognizing and grasping new words. We chose the board book format as board books are sturdier than paperback books, and are able to handle repeated readings with young hands holding them and turning pages and interacting with the book.
We have added interactive elements like touch and feel, for example the sticky spot, the fur or the cardboard, to capture the child’s interest and further enhance the experience of the child while reading.
The interactive elements also bring the story to life (a turning wheel, a soft pigeon feather). To represent what it feels like to have pigeon poop on the head, we designed the spread to have a sticky spot for children to touch and feel or the elements of a pigeon to have touch and feel interactive features, for example, the fur on the feathers or like the soft fur on the cover page to showcase the torso of a pigeon or the feel of the cardboard to bring the hats to reality for the children reading.
When children feel the fur on the pages, look for hidden characters, and actively participate in stories, it helps create the building blocks for reading. Interactive elements can become the talking point between parents and children during read aloud or bedtime reading sessions.
In addition to the entertainment they provide, it helps make reading time more productive and helps create memories. We purposefully kept the book size small (7 X 7 inches square book) so that a child can easily hold and manipulate the book.
This gives the child more agency in choosing the pace of the reading, gives them the opportunity to be independent in their reading and also time to explore each page as needed.
We made sure the corners of the book were rounded and soft to ensure children do not hurt themselves when handling the books independently. We also edited the content heavily to ensure that the weight of the book is reasonable so that children are able to hold it easily.
AB: Tell us about your recent book. Does it take long to conceptualize how a book in a new language would entertain the kids?
PKG: Our eighth interactive board book and next in our Kahaani series – ‘Kahaani Rangeeli,’ a story of Krishna and Holi, is written by Anu Sehgal and myself and illustrated by Alicia Souza. After reading our previous book ‘Kahaani Puraani’ when Anu came to me with the idea and manuscript of Kahaani Rangeeli, I jumped as I had always been keen to make a series.
To add to that my younger daughter had been begging me to come out with a new book as she’s bored of the old ones. So, when Anu presented the idea of a book on Holi as a part of the Kahaani Series, I just couldn’t say no!
It has taken us almost six months from coming together when she presented the idea to the final storyboarding and finalizing elements of the book. We worked together to make the story and rhyme more relatable, easy to read and understand yet giving all the information around the festival.
Depicting the story in a fun way with interesting interactive elements is the tough part, many of which I have not attempted before or rather never been attempted in Indian language board books globally. True to our vision this book is going to be interesting for children in their early years as it is an amalgamation of a book and a toy!
Kahaani Rangeeli is a short rhyme about Holi and the popular background story behind the festival about Lord Krishna. With the beginning of the Kahaani series, we are definitely thinking of adding more festivals and more stories behind these festivals.
As with our first book in the Kahaani series, Kahaani Puraani, which was published in Hindi and Gujarati, we are definitely planning to publish this book in other Indian languages as well.
Read: Bridging the Language Gap: The Story of T4tales (March 7, 2023)
AB: What is your message to the parents who are bringing up kids abroad? How can they ensure that children get exposure and understanding of their cultures and languages?
PKG: Don’t give up! Focus on confidence, not accuracy. If they decide to try to speak in their mother tongue, please refrain from correcting them. This is very difficult, because there is a strong urge in all of us to correct immediately.
But let them give it a shot and gain confidence. In the long term, their confidence in speaking in your language matters far more than the accuracy of the word or grammar. Also, it’s not too late! With kids it is never too late to try teaching a language.
So don’t give up. They may not repeat what they hear immediately, but it all registers somewhere deep inside, and repetition and consistency will go a long way. And, perhaps someday when they are older, they too might pass on some part of what they hear from you today, to their children. Just as we are trying to.