Monday, December 26, 2011

Pratham Books Champion : Nithya Sivashankar

As the International Year of the Forest draws to a close, we are running the 'Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow' campaign. We asked our AWESOME community if they would be volunteer to become a Pratham Books Champion and conduct storytelling sessions based on the book "A King Cobra's Summer'. And again, our friends volunteered eagerly. We will be sharing the stories of all our champions through our blog.

Today's story comes from Nithya Sivashankar who conducted a storytelling session in Coimbatore. Nithya Sivashankar is a journalist from Coimbatore. She enjoys reading, writing, music, and being with children. She thinks she reads more amount of children's books at this age than she used to when she was a child. She has always loved listening to and narrating stories. As a young girl, she would read out a lot of stories from children's magazines to her younger cousins. Now that they have all grown up, she has stopped storytelling for lack of an audience. But thanks to Pratham Books, she has found her audience!

Why I offered to be a Pratham Books Champion

Having tasted the sweet joy of storytelling once, I only craved for more of it. When I wrote to Pratham Books about my ‘International Girl Child Day’ storytelling experience, I had also mentioned that I’d love it if they organised such programmes more frequently. And the team did keep up its promise! There are a lot of kids in our country, who are waiting to listen to stories. I wouldn’t have thought of reaching out to these children to tell them a story and spend an hour or two with them, on a normal day. It’s only when prodded by people such as those from Pratham Books do we take time off to think about simple pleasures like sharing stories. Thank you, Pratham Books, for this delightful opportunity. I can’t wait to be part of more such events organised by you in the future!

Nithya writes about her storytelling session ...

I met the kids at Ashirwaad Special School for the first time on a Thursday morning (well ahead of the day of the launch). However, it never felt like we were meeting for the first time. The kids welcomed me with broad smiles and asked me to sit down with them. When I asked them whether they knew why I was in their school, none of them replied. They continued smiling at me. There were about 15 children in the room, from five-year-old Dinakar (who wanted a story with a fox in it) to girls as old as 18 years.

The children squeezed in to the small space allotted for the storytelling session and prodded me to begin. I started narrating Kaala’s story, when a little boy tugged at my kurta and told me that his uncle was a snake charmer. He proudly told the others that his uncle could make snakes dance. One girl did not want me to tell a story with a snake in it because she was scared of snakes! I reassured her and told her that at the end of the story, she’d get to know why snakes are lovable creatures too. As we slithered along with Kaala, there were many interruptions – kids fighting with each other, a small girl wanting me to go back to the page with the little girl in it so that she could plant kisses on that page, a boy wanting to narrate his own story, bigger children shushing the smaller ones so that they could listen to the story and so on. We managed to cross the river, climb trees, fight with Ketu and finally return home and meet Lila. The kids joyously clapped their hands when they came to know Kaala had won in his fight with Ketu.

After an hour of storytelling, I distributed crayon boxes and print-outs bearing outlines of snakes. The children were extremely thrilled. They asked me if their snakes should be black too. The teachers in the school assisted some of the kids in filling the page with colour. Once the children at Ashirwaad finished colouring the snakes on their respective print-outs, they asked me to draw more snakes for them so that they could do some extra colouring! I rewarded the kids with stars, ‘V.good’s and chocolates, and bade them goodbye for the day. But not before promising Dinakar that I’d come back soon to narrate a fox’s story.

Thank you Nithya 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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