Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lighting Up Lives of First Generation Learners with Books

Suzanne Singh, Managing Trustee of Pratham Books, shares this lovely incident where she met a bunch of kids recently and how that experience reaffirmed the purpose of Pratham Books for her.

I would see a large contingent of kids coming in and out of a gated community called Palm Meadows in Bangalore every evening and discovered that they were attending English classes being run by a teacher, Purnima Hindia. So I dropped off a bunch of Pratham Books at her house. She invited me to class today when she was planning to distribute the books. I walked into her airy garage this evening and saw about 25 kids poring over our books. All the kids attended the neighbourhood government schools and were reading the books with great concentration. Some of them had dictionaries at hand and were referring to it to decode an unfamiliar word. Purnima insists that the kids not only read but understand what they read. As they finished reading their books, they came and read them out to the “teachers” – Purnima, Vidya and myself.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear them read confidently. Little Hanumantha read out – “Where is my bat” and after every line, he would explain the meaning in Kannada. He told me what an “attic” was and at the end of the story I asked him – “So where was the bat?” And he replied, “The girl had it”

Bright eyed, 7th grader Sangeeta read out “City of Stories” with ease and fluency and it was a perfect story for her because the “didi” in the story was reminiscent of her older sister, Vijayalakshmi, a PU student who was one of Purnima’s early students and now helped at the classes with the younger children. She was given “Asian Folk Tales” as her reward with the instruction that she should identify all the countries mentioned in the
book in an atlas.
All these kids were first generation learners and were very engaged with all the bright, colourful books. The characters and settings were familiar and they were gently drawn into the narrative. The sight of all those little heads bent over the books made me feel that we sure are doing something right!!!!

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