Tuesday 25 June 2013

Pratham Books Champion : Dhristee Foundation

For International Literacy Day (8th September), we had a dream - we wished that 100 people would volunteer to conduct storytelling sessions across the country. We ended up finding more than 250 champions to conduct storytelling sessions across the country. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

This story was sent to us by Asha Jyothi from Dhristee Foundation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that there is creative reading as much as creative writing.

This is what we set out to do to celebrate the occasion of International Literacy Day on September 8th
 in a village called Thawar in Lucknow.

As part of our capacity building programs at our community centre called Dhruv Tara Kendra, we have a small library stocking books on subjects relevant to rural areas and the kids' section is filled with Hindi and English books published by Pratham Books. This is the most frequented part of our library thanks to the colourful attraction of these books and the footfall the centre received from kids studying in neighbouring schools.

Everytime we have a break during a computer course that we offer to kids here or there is some time to kill before classes, they swarm around the books and read till it's time to settle down. It's a wonderful distraction as the teacher doesn't have to worry about engaging the kids and shushing them till the class commences and the children are happy enough to gobble up a pretty book.

Therefore, we embraced the opportunity to conduct a full fledged storytelling session with willing arms. Accordingly, we organized 2 sessions for 3 schools around the office. One school backed  out in the end and we conducted 2 sessions for 120 students from 2 schools. The excitement at our office was palpable from the time we could catch sight of a line of schoolkids dutifully making their way to the centre to participate in the event from our windows.

The story having been read, we had a delightful Q& A session with the kids where we asked them what they thought a kolam meant and encouraged them to infer from the pictures they'd seen in the book. We were able to elicit the right response in both our sessions. This led into a similarly interactive session on the occasions when rangolis or kolams are drawn and on the different festivals we celebrate. Puzzling words from the book were discussed including pongal and 'vayusena'( airforce) and everyone was geared up for a fun activity after this.

It was time to bring out the computer and show videos of women making kolams in the hope of replicating them through the local talent field that had gathered. The first kolam video we showed proved too tough and only the principal of the school was able to get it right after repeated trials: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG043eYvunM&feature=related . We then opted for a simpler kolam design for the next session and the results were much more accurate! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EugbRMRqTB0&feature=related ). The smaller kids were generally encouraged to doodle and were allowed to draw whatever they fancied.

The kolam exercise instilled a sense of awe in us with regard to the simple yet precise beauty of these dotted designs that seem almost mathematical but are drawn with such casual assurance by so many women on a daily basis.

At the backend level, it was fairly simple to organize such an event making it perfect to incorporate into our list of community activities to keep up on a regular basis and yet, any event demands its share of due diligence from its organizers as we realized and this one was totally worth it. It was great to be part of the conversation and put in our small step towards the giant leap for literacy that Pratham Books took this year.

Thank you Asha for spreading the joy of reading!

View more pictures from the International Literacy Day Celebrations.

This blog contains stories sent in by all our champions. Browse through the blog for more stories. You can also go through the tags on the right side of the blog to find stories happening in your own city.

Note : If any of you want to be a Pratham Books Champion and join us on our journey of getting 'a book in every child's hand', write to us at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org.

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