Monday 16 June 2014

Pratham Books Champion : Neela Gupta, Pooja Motwani and Shweta Dave

This story was sent by Neela Gupta - a champion who has been volunteering with us since the beginning of the Champions initiative. 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."

Neela's story is also a timely reminder that everything doesn't always function as one plans... but one must continue trying anyway.

In Neela's words...

My first tentastic session was yesterday(12th June) at Achal Udyan, Vadodara with some children who were playing there as well as some children from a surrounding rag pickers community with whom we work and we call them Eagles. Here is my report::

I had support from two students named Pooja and Shweta from BBA proogramme, M S University of Vadodara who had volunteered to tell story of Radha Dhoban. It turned out to be little different than what we had planned.

Upon reaching the park, we saw that there were children who were of different ages and from different background. There were those who were English Medium school goers from middle class families and we had also invited children from Kalali Rag Picker Community whom we call 'Eagles' and whom our Auramate Vaishali serves. She teaches them to read and write. They do not go to school. 

In the beginning, We all played 'Name Playback' game to introduce ourselves which was not 100% successful. One could see the divide and the hesitation on both sides. 

I sensed we needed some other strategy to make all children feel comfortable. So I divided the children in two groups and kept some really shy and young children with me to read and tell story where as Pooja and Shweta took the mixed group of elder children (about 10 yrs and around) to play games. 

I told the story 'Dhoban ne dhoye Rakshas' story and made little children do lots of running around which opened them up finally. 

I did not pursue any other activity with them as I realized most of them were looking totally blank though they showed interest in the colourful illustrations. I also sensed they were overwhelmed with such attention. 

I also realized that in such an open inviting space, it is difficult to sit and listen to a story while you see others playing around. It is distracting. Next time I will keep this in mind and choose an appropriate place.

In the end, it was fun for everyone and some learning for me.

Thank you Neela, Pooja and Shweta for helping us spread the joy of reading!

In 2014, Pratham Books is inviting people to become TENTASTIC Champions. This year's champions initiative is a year-long storytelling drive. Join our tribe of champions and commit to conducting ten storytelling sessions for children during the year (including the main one on International Literacy Day). Lets make reading contagious!

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