Manisha Chaudhry, Head of content development- Pratham Books, writes about her recent experience at an Educomp training on pre-school books.
Some of our books are being used by schools as part of their curriculum . Educomp is one of them and had requested Pratham to hold a one day training workshop in the use of Pratham Books' pre-school books. Our Shishuvachan series was developed in response to Pratham North India's need for books for their Balwadi programme and they have been using them ever since in many lovely and creative ways.
The training was held on Aug 27, '09 at the Educomp office in distant NOIDA and was attended by about 25 Educomp staffers. Kuldeep Sandhu, Shruti Nag and Draupadi were the trainers from Pratham.
They did an absolutely riveting job and I think really gave the trainees much food for thought.
There was an interesting mix of films, activities, readings and discussions in the course of the day where the three of them juggled roles in a very complementary way.
In the first session, after a film called Bajpatti me Aaloo Maaloo Kaaloo, Shruti emphasised the importance of talking to the children and getting to know them. This creates an atmosphere where the children feel good about expressing themselves. Drawing is an important part of this stage as it allows for individual expression and is a pre-writing skill.Shared reading, individual reading, interactive reading were explained followed by the importance of book based discussion as well as general discussion.
The important elements in a book for children at this age were collated through open discussion.Simple language, age appropriate contexts, big fonts, colourful pictures, primary colours, story form, few pages, good and durable production were listed. Kuldeep gave many examples from the Pratham Books' list as books which had been very successfully used: My Family, My Friends, Drip Drop Drip, Look at me, The Lion's Howdah, Goloo the Circle...
The introduction of a book to children was described at length.The book becomes a transition tool to initiate the child gently into her new environment as very often the language spoken at home and the one spoken in school is different. The teacher holds up the book and the class goes through everything page by page. This is followed by picture reading which establishes that something new happens on each page. The children develop a sense of story and sequence.Kuldeep's rendition of Khil Khil Tota had everybody enthralled.
Reference was also made to initiating teachers into examining their own relationship with books. Pre testing material is a good idea as is observing the responses of children closely. These are all essentially dynamic processes which require sensitivity and creativity on the part of the teacher.
After this the kids are encouraged to draw and the teacher should write down the words that best describe the drawing. This is followed by the teacher reading with her holding up the book with a finger following the text. After this the children get copies of the book and they turn the pages as the teacher reads.
By the time the word games stage comes, the children have a familiarity with the world of print, about the directionality of the text. The children are ready to read when they look at the pictures and are able to read a few words. They also ask and elder or an older child to read to them a book of their choice.
Reading issues with different texts for older children, pre reading, post reading; activities to make libraries a vibrant space, were handled also in group work and open discussions interspersed with short films which highlighted different aspects of Pratham's programmes related to reading.
I think the workshop not only showcased our books in the nicest possible way (and for many of the trainees this was their first encounter with our list), it also made a strong case for Pratham developing a formal training module on its areas of expertise: use of pre schol books, class room practices, using libraries creatively, using books with older children...
The response from the trainees was heartening and for good reason-they could see that Pratham was doing much with limited resources and it clearly showed them that they could do more.
I hope this will be the first of many such trainings. Thank you all-the three trainers, Rukmini, Shailendra, Arshi for making it possible. A big thank you to Shruti, Draupadi and Kuldeep.