Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Of Schools and Books and How Things Look! : Swagata Sen Pillai

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across several schools in Delhi.

Swagata Sen Pillai writes about the storytelling sessions she conducted in a few MCD schools ...

MCD schools are supposed to be dull, dinghy and disheartening places to go to…the children, (“Oh poor dears….”), definitely in need of cheering up and deeply deprived! That, indeed, is how a large number of the so called elite and even the not so elite population of urban areas view these much maligned institutions of education!

Well, was I in for a surprise-despite the fact that I have no such mis-founded impression! As part of the Bookaroo in the City initiative of Pratham Books, the very first school I stepped into, in one of the most congested and less favoured neighbourhoods of the city, pleasantly surprised me-first by the sheer size of the premises the school was housed in! Innocuously set in the middle of a residential cum commercial area, the school not only had plenty of space-including a playground many private and better off institutions cannot boast of, but also airy class rooms and....the most significant sign of all.....happy, energetic and enthusiastic children! Enough to warm the cockles of the curmudgeonliest heart-and mine was far from that!

Head mistresses and masters committed to doing what they can to improve the learning experience of their students, staff that recognises the signs of happy learning-(the chai wala in one school came up to me and thanked us for making the children happy as they worked with us-a sure sign of an empowering environment!), school environment that encourages as much physical as mental calisthenics and the opportunity to learn offered as often as possible...the MCD schools had it all! I visited three in my five school stint and loved the experience. The children in all the schools were amazingly interactive, eager to participate-they even had their own role-plays and short stories ready to present-which was highly encouraging as it meant that they had very healthy exposure to creative content and activity. The room was invariably decorated with the handwork of the children-bright, colourful, creative and plentiful.

The boards awash with names and special abilities related to story-telling, drawing, craftwork, the ready acceptance of the stories, the enthusiastic participation in the storyline-even completely unfamiliar ones from alien lands....all of this fed fresh impetus into the endeavour of re-introducing the joy of books...the happy faces made every second worthwhile...the genuine support and appreciation from the teachers encouraged the hope that this would continue long after the single hour of our interaction had faded from memory...the friendship forged between the authors and illustrators and their brand new readers, in which we were a mere link, seemed to rest in safe hands, and we came away content and grateful for the chance at being a part of this wonderful wheel of continuity wrought by words and pictures, turned by ever eager young minds.

You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

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