Monday, January 16, 2012

Pratham Books Champion : Arundhati Venkatesh

As part of the International Year of the Forest, we were 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 Arundhati Venkatesh who conducted a session in Bangalore. An engineer by degree, an IT professional in her previous life, she now works for an NGO, is an aspiring writer and kid-lit enthusiast, a mother, an observer of life and people, a feminist, a minimalist and a compulsive maker of lists! She is at peace only if she has been productive or learnt something every day. She blogs at Her journey with books began with Enid Blyton, when she was six. She discovered the joy of reading picture books in her thirties! Arundhati loves being around children as much as she loves books. She believes every child should have the opportunity to explore the world through books. She thinks what Pratham Books is doing is wonderful - producing affordable books in many Indian languages, and on themes that any child in the country will be able to relate to.

Arundhati writes about the storytelling session at the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled ...

As I read the book in preparation for the event, I realised the children at the NGO would love it and relate to it in ways that privileged city-bred kids may not. Combining fact and fiction, it is an interesting read.

I prepared the following activities:
a. The children would have to pick a paper, read a word from the story and act it out (strong, scared, lost, langur, elephant and so on)
b. Pick the odd one out, Match the following, Fill in the missing letter, Find words that rhyme
c. Giant words – they had to combine words from two different sets to make a compound (or giant) word. Eg. king cobra, horn bill, rat snake, sun light 
d. Anagram – make as many words as possible from the title of the book.

I had class 6, twenty five boys and girls eagerly looked forward to the session. One boy said he’d been bitten by a snake and showed me the scar! Since it is quite a long story, I used the illustrations and described the key events in Kannada. They shot questions at me - how long does it take to completely shed the skin? What does it eat? – the book had given me all the answers! The children listened, fascinated. The book worked better than any of the books I have used with these kids so far.

The book provided scope to open up the discussion to –
The king cobra lost his eyesight temporarily during the period he was shedding his skin.
The king cobra could not hear.
His mother starved while she protected her eggs, then went away after the eggs hatched.

After the story, we played the games. They enjoyed making giant words. Meanwhile, the book was passed around. I could see the kids take in the pictures and go over the story.

What everything else fails to do, a book can - bring boys and girls together!

The activity they had the most fun doing, was the anagram. It was amazing to see them come up with word after word. Less than a year ago, these very kids had struggled with phonetics. I told them they had come up with fifty words. We’ll do a hundred, they said. I wasn’t sure that was doable considering they seemed to be running out of ideas. I was delighted as I watched them work collectively towards achieving a common goal. orange, mango, crossing, crane, cream, music, basic, camera, bank, mumbai, menu, memo, socks, uncle... One boy told me his name was there too – Kumar. It was time for lunch but there was no stopping them!

When they reached 90, it felt like Tendulkar was nearing a century! Fittingly, the hundredth word was ‘games’.

Thank you Arundhati 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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