Friday 14 June 2013

Pratham Books Champions : Neela Gupta

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.

Today's story comes from Neela Gupta who conducted three storytelling sessions in Vadodara. Neela has worked as a librarian for about 30 years in different kinds of libraries (research library, an industrial library, a public library, a college library and school libraries). According to Neela, this is her longest and most enjoyable tenure of work is with 5 different school libraries. It gave her a chance to be with children and try to understand the world of children ranging from age group of 6 - 18 years. She has learnt a lot from watching and interacting with them. Neela has also volunteered with different underprivileged groups and tried to introduce them to the world of books. She says, "This kind of work gives me immense pleasure. I feel it connects me to a marvelous world of magic where there is some new discovery everyday. It also helps me explore myself and my relationship with children and adults."

Storytelling session on 5th September, 2012

By chance on 3rd sept., I came across this school called 'Kalrav' for mentally challenged children. This was the first time I was visiting any such center. After returning home, somehow, the children, their innocent smile, loud laugher of some or the disoriented look in the eyes of some ..all this stayed with me. I decided to visit again and asked the teacher if I may visit with some books and tell them a story, would they understand? She said, yes, some would understand simple story. So I decided to hold the session with the book 'Susheela's Kolams'. I had carried about a dozen of other Pratham books.

When I reached, a couple of them did recognize me and remembered my visit 2 days back. The teacher called out some names and got a group together and handed over to me. I told them the story asking lot of simple questions from their every day life and festivals like Diwali, Uttarayan, travel to another city, family members and so on.. Many of them were able to answer the questions. What I like best was their enthusiasm and eagerness to communicate. After the story we had a drawing session. I gave a paper and crayons and made three dots of different colors for all. They were supposed to make more dots and join the lines. I was not sure how much they would be able to do. There were more than 2 children who could join dots and could make some patterns. Their joy and excitement was so obvious and touching. I felt very happy when a girl could figure out after some trials that she could join blue dots with blue crayon and red dots with red! 

After about half an hour of drawing I gave other books to them to read... and they were super happy!! They were looking at the pictures in the books and trying to figure out the illustrations (rightly or wrongly).. There were also some fights and some were fierce! But then they did share all books in rotation. 'King Cobra's summer' was the most favourite. Some one demanded that I tell that story. So I told them the story (of course I made my own story using simple 1 or 2 sentences for each page) Then it was once again.. So I told the story 3 times and the 4th time I told them to tell me the same story. I was delighted that they could recollect and narrated with help of prompts intermittantly.

We spent about 1 1/2 hour together and when it was time to say Bye Bye, they told me to visit again with books. I am filled with love and compassion when I remember them. I will visit them every fortnight-that's my thought.

 Thank you Neela 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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