I recently ordered the full range of English language readers from Pratham Books in India to review them for our school. They are an NPO that focuses on literacy in India, and aim to provide low-cost, attractive materials for children. Benefits include very cheap books and the knowledge that by purchasing their materials you are supporting their charitable activities.
Pratham Books currently publish 95 books in English. Purchasing the entire range was very reasonable (40 dollars for the books, and 50 dollars for shipping). Payment is unfortunately limited to bank transfer (no credit cards or paypal), which adds an additional expense. Still, the opportunity to buy books for around 100 yen is very attractive when buying multiple copies for class sets.
My first impressions were as follows:
1. There is a fairly strong Indian flavour to much of the series (character names, objects, illustrations, culture, slang), which is a plus for us as we hope our students will gain a more cosmopolitan outlook through studying English, but could be a drawback for schools looking for American or British English only.
2. Some of the books are pretty advanced and seem designed for native speakers of English, although the simpler ones are decodable, recycle language, and deal with simple concepts (ideal for our EFL students). The simpler ones are also cheaper.
3. The books are not organised into levels or series, so teachers or schools would have to organise them themselves to fit their program.
4. There are a range of topics, from folk stories to science to maths and conservation.
On the whole I like the series and can see myself using the lower end of the scale (the first 30 books or so) for decoding/reading practice for our elementary classes, and the rest as possible extensive reading materials for JHS and above. Despite the advanced English in some of the books, they are designed for children so the topics are not particularly difficult.
I am not sure if I can recommend the books wholeheartedly though. Limitations include a lack of control of vocabulary and grammar, little coherence between books, and occasional difficult or esoteric language. They would work well as supplementary materials for schools that already have a basic foundation of readers (for example, we have the full range of Jelly and Bean and the Oxford Reading Tree already), but not as the sole resource. Finally, ordering is not very convenient as Pratham Books do not accept credit cards or Paypal. Hopefully this capability will be implemented in the future, which will certainly boost their sales overseas (I have been informed that due to strict Indian financial regulation, it may be difficult for businesses in India to accept payment by credit card/Paypal).
However, the prices are excellent, and I can see potential for giving sets of these to students as part of a school welcome pack, for example.
If you are interested in the series, you can see the covers of all the books and get more information at the Pratham Books website.