Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pratham Books Champion : Neela Gupta

24th September was a very special day for all of us at Pratham Books. We managed to create a book in 4 languages in 2 days. But, we also had many friends from within our community volunteer to become a 'Pratham Books Champion' and conduct storytelling sessions in their neighbourhoods. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Neela Gupta who conducted a storytelling session in Vadodara. 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."

Why did you volunteer to be a Pratham Books Champion?

I have been following Pratham Books for the last 2 years and am greatly impressed by and happy about the books being published, the enthusiasm, persistence and variety of ways in which you are trying to reach children. I find a similarity between the objectives of Pratham and Aura. So, it inspires me all the more. If more efforts of this kind come up, the world will be different.

Neela conducted her session at Setubandh. Setubandh is a part of the NGO called -Aura -a learning place. Aura is a a non profit organization working with children - urban as well as underprivileged. Neela wrote to us about her session and said ...

Vaishali and self drove down to Setubandh around lunch time. As we entered the locality, everything seemed to be quiet but as Vaishali opened the door of the centre, children came running as if they emerged from their hidden places. Their eager and happy faces reflected all that was going on in their mind. They couldn’t wait to get noticed, to share their stories, to listen to what Vaishali had to share and to know who was the new person visiting them.

We sat down in a circle. I introduced myself and told them about the significance of the day. I also shared about the Pratham books initiative. And then…I took out the story book Ritu’s letter gets longer and longer…It was very obvious that they connected to Ritu immediately. I had three copies of the book so they could share the other two copies, could read along and enjoy the illustrations. The part that they enjoyed most was Ritu’s writing on her grandfather’s letter that ‘Please do send Mani’ (‘Chokkas mokaljo’) and the way she had messed up the word.

Next was the Dungali ni shaal. The story about all the veggies arguing about who was the best. The illustrations caught their attention first and they loved it. We named each one a vegetable which amused them. The story was much liked by them.

By this time, boys had started coming in as it was the time for the boy’s group. One boy who likes to do headstands most of the time rushed in and headed straight for the wall where he could do the head stand. He can listen to something well only if he is upside down!! This was the most suitable time to open my laptop for the story of Ulta pulta girl. Since I did not have a Gujarati hard copy, my friend Vaishali clicked on the pictures in my laptop while I narrated the story. Their focused listening was making it clear that their imagination and connection was strong. Their laughter in between sounded like a fresh water stream running down a hill, jumping off the rocks and pebbles.

This activity was followed by letter writing. It was an exciting moment to get a post card in their hands and each one was eager to write or draw. Each one wrote her address and returned the post cards to me. I mixed them up and then distributed the cards to them. Some were at a loss as to how to write a letter. Some did not wait at all but wrote whatever came to their mind. It was a moment of great satisfaction and fun for them because they were getting a chance to express themselves and reveal their inner world.

One girl was very keen to have the books. She told me to get books for her and her friends. She has written a letter to Pratham Books which will be posted on Monday.

It was a very good experience for me too. I loved every moment of it and wish to thank you for giving me this opportunity. Thanks Pratham Books! Wish you all the best for becoming bigger and bigger and reach every corner of India and every corner of children’s minds and hearts.


A week later, Neela wrote to us again about some surprise visitors. Read on to find out who her surprise visitors were ...

It is one week since the last story telling session happened. Yesterday being a Saturday- a half day at school, the children who had heard the stories were tempted to listen to and read more story books. To my surprise, 5 children walked down to my house (about 2 km. from their area) and knocked on my door! I was pleasantly surprised! We shared the story of banana-Kela, kela, ghana badha kela.. which was not shared last week. They read the other story books again and then we talked for a while before they left.

Thank you Neela for spreading the joy of reading!

Click here to read the stories sent in by all the Pratham Books Champions. 

Note : If any of 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 web(at)prathambooks(dot)org.

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