Bright book, distorted facts | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 02, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 02, 2008

Bright book, distorted facts

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A children's pictorial book on bird species widely available in bookstores and major city intersections confuses a hoopoe with a woodpecker, a pelican with shag and a martin with mynah.
The publishers apparently forgot to do their homework when they tagged a picture of a fawn coloured hoopoe in its distinctive long, gently curved beak as the noisy, red-patched woodpecker.
The picture book then goes on to identify a pelican as pankouri [shag], a martin as the [hill] mynah and a swallow as another bird from the passerine family locally known as bhat shalik.
However, the book does a remarkable job of identifying a number of foreign bird species including penguin, robin, hummingbird and turkey--translated into turky morog [turkish cock] in bangla.
"Turkey is just turkey, it does not have any local [bangla] names. Calling it a Turkish cock is silly as it is mostly found in North America," said Dr Ronald Haldar, a bird expert.
"It is quite obvious that they [publishers] did not consult any expert or specialist before publishing the book," he said, "while the book is supposed to give the children a general idea on some bird species most of the information here is far from accurate."
The four-colour illustration book, available as part of a series called 'my picture book' has sold over eight hundred copies since it's publication around two months ago, the publisher said.
The book series, reportedly quite popular with children has 10 other books featuring different subjects including fruits, flowers, computers and human body among others, is packed with similar factual inaccuracies.
A spokesperson from Shishu Sahitya Centre--publisher of the series admitted that the books might have some factual errors.
"All we can do is apologise, amend the mistakes and get the facts right in our next editions," said Sirajuddin Bhyuian, an editor for Shishu Sahitya Centre adding that they are "grateful" for pointing out the errors.
"Actually we could not find any experts who would help us to authenticate the information given in the books. In fact we are still looking for specialists to help us get the facts right," he said.
The Shishu Sahitya Centre has already published around 5 editions of the series with the most recent one around two months ago, he added.
Dr Mustafa Firoz, a bird expert and professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University, said the publishers should be more cautious about the mistakes and ensure accuracy of information before the book are passed off to the young readers.
"They [publishers] should realise that these attractive and colourful books are very strong educational mediums for the children," said Dr Mustafa Firoz.
"The [children's book] market is virtually flooded with substandard books filled with scores of factual inaccuracies. The youngsters are being fed with information that is wrong, ambiguous and misleading. The publishers should act more responsibly and immediately get down to rectify errors," said Dr Mustafa Firoz.
He believes the publishers should focus on subjects and issues related to our culture and heritage instead of foreign ones.
Citing the example of the book on bird species published by Shishu Sahitya Centre, Dr Firoz says: "When you publish a book on birds, you should put more emphasis on the local birds to give the children an idea of our rich and diverse bird species."
"Almost every youngster can readily identify the picture of a penguin or an ostrich, but the same child would have a hard time identifying a wever--one of the most celebrated bird species available in our country," he lamented.
Once a child goes through these colourful books he is sure to learn these mistakes for life. Taking advantage of lax administration and poor monitoring the so-called publishers are doing an irreparable damage to our children's future, said a parent.

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