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Book launches for charity, with Preeti Vyas

A junior school student refused to sit next to a girl because she was dark-skinned. Publisher Preeti Vyas, FunOkPlease, talks to us about her titles and turning book launches into fundraisers.

Publisher Preeti Vyas during a book launch

Publisher Preeti Vyas during a book launch

By Suhita Roy

Your publishing house FunOKPlease stands out for its books and unique name. How did that happen?

I started my company four years ago with the idea that learning should be fun and wanted a name that was simple and connected not only with parents but kids too. So far, we have published 16 books. These include adventure stories, information about cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, besides activity books.

How has the reaction for the book Brown Like Dosa, Samosa, Sticky Chikki been?

I was looking for contemporary Indian content and this book by Rebecca Manari seemed perfect. The book is relevant as children are adversely affected by advertisements promoting fair skin. Body image has become very important for them and it’s worrying to see how children discriminate against people with darker complexion. The response to the book has been amazing. A junior school teacher of a high-end South Mumbai girls’ school told me that students in her class refused to sit next to a girl because she was dark-skinned. An eight-year-old girl refused to learn swimming as she feared getting tanned.

book coverbrownWhat prompted you to turn book promotions into fundraising activities to support NGOs?

Normal book-launches have become passé and children, in particular, find it boring. This idea came up in 2013 during the launch of the book Your Turn Now, which was about doing random acts of kindness and spreading the message of kindness. We wanted to collect Rs. 25,000 for the underprivileged, but ended up collecting Rs. 1,50,000 instead. For Brown Like Dosa, Samosa, Sticky Chikki, we tied up with the NGO Apne Aap that works in the red-light district of Mumbai. Nearly 2,000 children have received education through this. For our new book, Make. Do. Be, we have tied up with Angel Express Foundation, who have taught children on foothpaths, gardens and roadsides. Around 3,000 children have benefited from this organisation. We plan to collect 500 packs each of Threptin biscuits, Horlicks jars, pens, pencils and geometry boxes, which will be distributed among these children.

Tell us something about Make. Do. Be.

This is an activity book divided into seven sections that include fashion, science, cooking. A section on forensic science will tell kids how to lift fingerprints with the help of talcum powder. There are some easy recipes to make instant pickles too. The book by Shikha Lal and Dhanashri Ubhayakar is being brought out in collaboration with and has contribution by teachers too.

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