Tuesday 9 September 2014

Pratham Books Champion : Nabanita Deshmukh

Nabanita Deshmukh sends us an account of her storytelling session conducted in Pondicherry. Nabanita Deshmukh is a writer for children'and has contributed rhymes, articles and stories to magazines like Chandamama, Bal Vihar, Children's Choice, Children's world and others. She is also a teacher of Geography in a private school in Pondicherry and conducts trainings and storytelling workshops for teachers.

Date: 6th September
Number of sessions: 2
Number of children: 40+30=70
Languages used: English and Tamil

1. Sarvam (Sri Aurobindo Rural Village Action and Movement) Community Centre, Poothurai Village, Tamil Nadu
2. Sharana Day Care Centre for Street and Slum Children, Pondicherry,


The storytelling session began with a short warm-up exercise where a small ball was passedon to the students. The person catching the ball had to introduce himself/herself to the others. This ensured that the audience felt relaxed and familiar with one another. It wasonly then that I began the three stages of my storytelling: pre, while and post.

Pre-storytelling Activities

The cover page of ‘Takloo, the Little Salt Seller’ was projected on screen and the studentswere asked to observe it. They were then encouraged to guess what kind of story they would hear. Most of them said it would be about a little boy seen on the cover page who probably lived on a village. Interestingly, all the students came from villages and they spoke about their experiences there.

This activity prepared the audience for the story and also gave me an idea on the kind of life these village kids led. I could thus plan on making my storytelling interesting by taking the students’ background into consideration.


Use of real objects
The story of “Takloo, the Little Salt Seller’ was narrated with the right intonation, diction, facial expression and voice modulation by translating certain words into Tamil for better comprehension. I paused at certain stages in the story and asked the students a few questions to gauge if they were following the story or not. Objects mentioned in the storylike cotton, salt, nuts, pot etc... were brought to the session venue so that students could see, touch, feel smell and touch them. The use of real objects created a greater interest in the story and the students’ vocabulary increased.

I stopped the story mid way when Takloo’s father gets the sack of salt home and his wife gets angry. I asked the students on how they would end the story. Most of them said that the salt could be sold but they did not know how to carry it to market. They also mentioned that Takloo would come up with some bright ideas. This activity encouraged children to use their logical thinking and imagination to predict the ending of the story.



Once the story was narrated in full, pictures from the book without the text were projected on screen. Retelling was done by a few students in their own words by looking at the pictures. This activity made me gauge if the story was understood by the students and whether they could recount it in their own words.


A few other activities were done with the students. Salt and sugar in transparent packets were shown and the students had to write and call out the names of foodstuff that were either salty or sweet. The children responded well and interestingly I came to know the names of many traditional village sweets and savouries.


To encourage the students to be imaginative, I told asked them what Takloo would have done if instead of salt his father would have got a sack of sand or cotton. The students enthusiastically came up with their original answers like: “Takloo would have made a sandpit for the village children and he would have made pillows with the cotton.” This activity aroused the imagination of children and also helped them think creatively.

The session ended well with the children wanting to look at the book and write stories on their own.


There were 40 participants comprising of slum and street children of between the age group 5 and 14 for the storytelling session. I introduced myself and asked the children if they liked listening to stories and they all said, ‘Yes’. 

The story of ‘Takloo, the Salt Seller’ was then narrated with appropriate gestures, facial expression and voice modulation by using as many words and phrases in Tamil as possible because English proficiency was low amongst kids. Objects mentioned in the story like different kinds of nuts, coins, salt, cotton etc... were shown to the children while the story was being told to make comprehension easier. Once the story was narrated many questions were asked and then a walnut was passed around and students who caught it came forward to retell the story in Tamil. This made it easier for me to find out if the children had actually understood the story well and also whether they could narrate it in whichever language they could. The session ended with a song on salt that I had composed and the children picked it up and sang it in chorus:

White, white, white,
Is the salt that we eat,
But does it really come,
From the wide, blue sea?

White, white, white,
Is the salt that we eat,
Yes, it really comes from there,
From the wide, blue sea.

This activity helped the children unwind as songs are easier to learn than bits of dialogue and when sung together, they bring in a joyful mood.

The older children had more or less grasped the story well and they were given a drawing activity where they could draw anything they wanted from the story. The smaller children had not fully understood the tale so I took them aside and the story was retold to them with the help of puppets.

The storytelling experience was interesting for me as many children at Sharana opened out
and responded well to the session.

The Sharana blog also carried a note about Nabanita's session :
The children listened attentively and were fascinated by this storytelling session; it is incredible how a story can help in language education, increase of vocabulary and understanding. After the storytelling sessions, there were songs, a puppet show and a drawing session too. The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and we sincerely hope that this is one of the many sessions to happen in the future with Nabanita and Pratham Books. 
Although most of our children are Tamil-speaking and attend Tamil-medium government and government-aided schools, they faced no difficulty in understanding the story, which was narrated in English.
This kind of educational assistance in learning a new language is always precious to our children and to our staff members. For the staff this was also a session in acquiring new skills in teaching a foreign language to the children. 
Story-telling and story narration is a huge part of our Indian heritage we have all grown up on the grand old grandma tales. We hope this nostalgic event is a precursor to many others!!!!!!!!
To see more pictures, head to the Sharana blog.


Thank you Nabanita for spreading the joy of reading!

In its third edition of the 'One Day - One Story' campaign, Pratham Books was joined by 1300+ storytellers who conducted 1500+ storytelling sessions. More than a 1000 steps towards a 'Reading India'!

What started as a small step by Pratham Books to spread the joy of reading has become a movement. In 2012, Pratham Books initiated the One Day-One Story initiative on the occasion of International Literacy Day . We will be sharing the stories of all our volunteer storytellers (Pratham Books Champions) through our blog.

View more pictures from the International Literacy Day Celebrations held in 2014.

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 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 champions(at)prathambooks(dot)org.

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