Tuesday 11 June 2013

Pratham Books Champion : Jasmeet Walia, Bijita Devsharma, Nikita Seth and Tina

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.

We received three stories of the sessions. This story was sent to us by Jasmeet Walia.

Story Telling at Sapno Ki Duniya, 8 th September 2012 

 Books and reading have always been an integral part of my life as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I was a voracious reader, going through pretty much as many books as I could lay my hands on from everywhere. I believe reading has had a profound impact on my outlook, my choices and my whole life. Passing on the love of reading to children has of course come naturally. Reading has been an equally big part of my children’s life- I’ve been reading to them since they were born.

When I got to know about Pratham Books’ story telling initiative, I was keen to be a part of it. A friend (Bijita) who knew the NGO, coordinated and organized the trip. The children who came there were mostly rag pickers, some went to schools and came for some time, majority worked in the Lajpat Nagar market doing odd jobs or at tea stalls.

There were four of us who went, armed with Susheela’s Kolams as well as a few other books. We brainstormed interaction ideas and activities that we could do around the Kolams. We also decided to split the children and ourselves based on the age of the group of children. Bijita and Nikita decided to do the reading with the younger group, while Tina and I spent time with the older children (7 years and up, approximately).

We started with introducing ourselves and asked the children to do the same. They were quick, polite, very clear and forthcoming in their introduction, which was a big surprise for us. We had expected them to be hesitant and shy as we were meeting them for the first time. The first book we read was ‘Geet ka Kamaal’. It was a bundelkhandi folk tale with beautiful illustrations in the local art form. With every page, the children sang the song that was part of the story. We talked about quick thinking, finding ways out of tight corners as well as art. It was beautiful to see them agog with curiosity and enjoying.

We next read a book ‘Billi Kahan hai’ about a child who looks everywhere for her cat to finally find her at home. The children talked about the animals they have kept as pets as well as animals they see around them. Dogs by far were the favorites.

The next story was ‘Kharrata Shanmugam’ about a lion who sleeps all day and snores loudly, which annoys the other animals in the jungle. But when a rival, not-so-nice & gentle lion comes, the animals use the snores to scare him away. All the kids imitated the snoring and enjoyed the tale, especially the quick thinking of the baby elephant to come up with a plan in the face of danger.

We finally came to Susheela’s kolams. While reading the story, we talked about where Susheela is from, what are kolams, when they are made and Susheela’s love for her art. We concluded the session with everybody contributing to making a kolam with rangoli colors. It was bright and beautiful!

It was a joy to bring stories and reading to children who did not otherwise have that exposure.


The following story was sent to us by Bijita Devsharma. Bijita has been working on issues of child rights and education for over 6 years now. Her interest in this field led her to pursue a course on ECCE from Mirambika Research Center in Delhi where she met Nikita and many other friends. She have a 3 year-old daughter and loves reading out stories to her as much as she enjoys listening to them.

Venue: Sapno Ki Duniya- A center for street-connected children run by CHETNA and supported by SAVE THE CHILDREN, INDIA
Stories and storybooks have always had a special place in my life. As a child, I grew up with a rather strong dose of stories, courtesy my Grandmother, followed by my father who spoilt me rather bad with Enid Blytons. And today, history repeats itself when I and my husband keep collecting books with lovely illustrations in all languages for our little three-year old daughter, who can immerse herself into books for hours and hours together. Such is the joy of reading! So when I heard about Pratham’s initiative of conducting many story-telling sessions on a single day with children on the eve of celebrating “International Literacy Day”, I had to become a part of it. I had to become a part of something that spreads the joy of reading!

It was a bright sunny morning and I along with my three friends was all geared up to conduct the much-awaited story-telling session with children. We had made prior preparations for the day and discussed activities that we could do with children both pre and post session.

On entering the Center, we were greeted with smiling faces and kind “Namaste Didi” sounds, as if the children already knew us and were awaiting our arrival. The mood was already set and we couldn’t wait to begin. After a brief chit-chat with Shashwati Didi, the Center in-charge, we divided ourselves into two groups (with two persons each), and sat in two separate rooms. I along with my friend Nikita handled one group with initially 7 children.

We began our session with a sing-song introduction using claps and clicks “mera naam Bijita...tumhara naam kya” and “mera naam Nikita...tumhara naam kya” and so on. Children were really excited and cheerfully participated in the little game. Next we began with a funny story titled “Khichdi”. We decided to begin with that to set a light and funny mood. Children thoroughly enjoyed the story and laughed a lot.

After the first story, we again played a short fun game of naming things and making pairs. By this time the number of children had gone up from 7 to 14! Next came the story “Susheela’s Kolam”. We briefly talked about India on a map and which side of the country does Susheela come from. Then, we began our story. Children already knew what a Kolam was on seeing the pictures in the book and said that it’s a “rangoli”. We briefly talked about the various names given to Kolam in different parts of the country. Thereafter, the story went ahead with Susheela making Kolams everywhere she goes.

After finishing the session, we began another brief activity of making kolams. Children were given soft clay and they were asked to make kolams of their own choice. In minutes, we could see some lovely patterns displayed on the floor. Children had used their imagination to create Kolams of various shapes and sizes and were thoroughly enjoying using the clay!

With that, we finished our wonderful day of story-telling and activities with children with the hope of coming back sometime soon!

The following story was sent to us by Nikita Seth. Nikita is a market research analyst by profession and a mother to a 19 month old son. She is currently also doing a course on 'Early Child Care and Education', which she finds very interesting and thus knows the importance of reading aloud to children, and getting them interested in books via stories :-)

This is the first time I have volunteered for a storytelling session; my 19 month old son has thoroughly inspired me to do the same. I have been reading him stories and showing him picture books since he was very small and I know how much he enjoys it, that is how I was motivated to share the joy of books, reading and imagining with as many children as possible.

I conducted the story telling session with one of my friends Bijita.  Bijita knows of a centre for street children in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi which holds classes for kids for reading and writing, art and craft as well as dance. The children were so happy and excited to see us, they were ready for a new visit for a new activity. Each one of us came and greeted us with a lovely smile and a cheerful Namaste.

We all sat in a circle and did a fun introduction session of clapping our hands and saying our names out loud in a nice rhythm. The kids were extremely friendly and in a matter of minutes were eager to do more with us. We had come with enough time so we told them 2 stories. The first of course was Susheela’s kolam, were they understood from us where the word ‘kolam’ comes from. We showed them the map and pointed to them where Susheela was from- Tamilnadu. They could recollect how they do similar desigins and patterns on Diwali. Most of them had done a rangoli for their house during Diwali.

Some were keen to read aloud the book themselves and so we let the children too take turns to read the book aloud and take the story further.

We had taken along with some clay, and the children came up with such beautiful kolam ideas. It was lovely.

We then read them another story called Khichdi, it was a funny story about a boy who wants to remember the word ‘khichdi’, but keeps forgetting the word. We asked the children to draw on a paper an image of the story they recall. Each one of them had a unique recollection and they drew the part they most enjoyed with wonderful creativity.

The kids were delighted by the storytelling activity and asked us to come again if possible. I am sure we would!


Thank you Jasmeet, Bijita, Nikita and Tina 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment