Friday, April 24, 2009

Emily's Suitcase of Books for Children


Emily Neidhardt is interning with Pratham Books for two weeks. Along with a truck load of enthusiasm, she also brought a suitcase full of books to donate to the Akshara libraries we work with. Emily says,
Out of the many places that books have gotten me in my life, the most recent is the chance to volunteer with Pratham Books. They have given me something substantial to do in Bangalore, India; far from my home near Boston, Massachusetts. I asked for donations of books from students in my high school, reaching out to them through posters, facebook, and word of mouth. I collected 80+ books to donate to Pratham and lugged them to India in a suitcase that almost exceeded the weight limit for checked baggage. Getting the opportunity to spread literature around the globe to children who have limited access makes me feel like a better person.
Emily goes on to talk about the importance of books in general...
Books. They don’t seem so special at first glance, just paper and ink bound inside a cover. But books are actually one of the most important components of education and are the starting point to careers, knowledge, and success. Since reading and writing are tied together, books are a necessary part of communication. If you can’t get your thoughts down on paper, how will you ever get them to reach other people on a larger scale? Books have passed on ideas for change and will continue to do so in the future.

Literacy is important in getting a job that will be able to support oneself and one’s family. It is the first step in eliminating poverty by getting people off the streets, into school and eventually college, and earning money. Even if money is not an issue, literacy is important for political and social change. If you cannot become educated by reading about a candidate’s beliefs, you will not be able to facilitate any tangible differences in the way your country or state is run.

Books are also important to develop someone who is well-rounded and not ignorant. By reading books, you take in the perspective of each author. If you take in enough of these perspectives, you can weigh them and pick and choose different aspects of each to create the one you like best. In these ways, books give people voice, a new perspective, and a chance for change.
And how important have books been in Emily's life?
Aside from Pratham, books have given me other opportunities as well. I’ve worked at a bookstore, obviously a job I would not have applied for or been hired for if I wasn’t a reader. Books have also linked me to all my subjects in school. From the history of the Beat Generation in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road to the science in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, all the subjects I have learned about in school have also been covered by the books I’ve read. Without ever picking up a book, I know I’d be deciding between community colleges instead of McGill University in Montreal and Elon University in North Carolina.

I think the best thing that books have done for me is given me a chance to leave reality on occasion. When you pick up a good book, you leave your life with all your concerns and you become totally involved in whatever is going on in the story. This has helped me deal with stressful situations, become a little less bored, and just take my mind off things. All in all, books have led me to question things and not just accept them as they are. They have helped me think creatively and every single one has given me a new perspective on life.

Emily is also helping out with reading programmes at an Akshara library in Bangalore. After Emily read out stories to the children, the kids were extremely eager to read stories for her too. One girl even said that she would like to read a story in Kannada for Emily.
Stay tuned more updates on Emily's adventures in India.

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