This is not exactly a parenting tips blog, but one thought that this information will help parents in general and uncle aunties in particular.
This post is about sourcing books for the infant/toddler without burning a hole in the pocket.
I have about 12 years of experience in setting up libraries for children - cheap, and nice. So thats my credentials for writing this post. :-)
Children have to enjoy their first books. For them, that means being able to eat them, tear them, use them as tablemats, or even as weapons against you. Therefore, Rule No. 1 is to have dispensible books. If a book is very imp to your child, please keep at least 3-4 copies of that book.
Rule no. 2 is to have cardboard based books that can be wiped clean. Till at least the age of 1.
Some inexpensive sources of infant and toddler books in India: (i have to mention them by name because these are not the front slots in a book store. No book store i know has kept value for money stuff up front. Unless you ask for them specifically, chances are you may never spot them. At Landmark in Gurgaon, these books were hidden in an almost inaccessible corner, and in that corner we found some other incredible value for money popup books as well)
1. Navneet Publications: Priced at between 25-45 INR, they are affordable and very nicely done. I especially love the Vikas Fun with Craft series. There are 6 books in the series.
2. Dreamland Publications: By far the best production quality and the highest value for money. Sadly, they are not easily available. But they are worth searching for. Anything from INR 30-60.
3. CBT (Children's Book Trust) - Easily among the best in terms of content. I recommend it more for older children though. They are also expensive now.
4. Amar Chitra Katha: When Ishaan was born, i gifted mahself the entire ACK ever published. At abt 10K, it was more than worth it. Ishaan knows stories of Hindu mythology that even we'd forgotten, and everyone else in the house loves reading them too. They are the most popular part of my library now!
5. Edited to add: Eklavya Books: Wonderful catalogue, and great Hindi books.. the one thing that i was missing. Thanks a lot Silbil for that comment that led me to this bookhouse.
6. The Depot: Store Brand at the Big Bazaar.. you will find all the standard activity books - coloring, magic paint, toddler starter books etc. - good quality and lower price than the rest of the market. The Catch? You should be able to stand shopping in Big Bazaar. (Sorry, it may be fine at other places, but the one at Gurgaon leaves me positively claustrophobic)
7. Imported second hand cardboard books: These are available at a second hand book stall near you. Ask for imported childrens books in particular. They are usually in good condition, are of good quality, and are priced at between 10-40 INR. You have to be careful in choosing though. The right books for the right age, and the best condition.
The disadvantage obviously is that you cannot have multiple copies of the same book, since most of these books are just not available in India. The second hand stores are the only place where i get them. "GoodNight Moon" included. Its just not available in India.
The advantage is that the child reads them for some time, does the activities in the books, and then the book can be easily discraded or given away when the child is bored. The quality is so good that the books will survive your child also and will stand another child in good stead.
At this time, Ishaan has a library of about 70 books and he is very possessive about them. We have had to discard quite a few (he got his first book at the age of 6 months). If you want, I will post some pictures of the books in his library in the next post.