Monday, January 9, 2012

Pratham Books Champions : Saroj and Gaurav Sachdeva

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 Saroj and Gaurav Sachdeva who conducted a storytelling session in Bangalore. Saroj Sachdeva loves to read and write, and is happy to get paid for it! She is a masters in English literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi but can still manage to keep her critical side away and enjoy any book curled up in her bed. She likes telling stories whenever she can lay her hands on a bunch of young enthusiasts. Gaurav Sachdeva is an engineer from IIT Delhi and makes computer games for a living. You can play his games on In his free time, he likes to play Chess and solve mind boggling mathematical puzzles. Between the two of them, they can engage children of any age group for hours and have become a current favourite of their little nephews and nieces.

Why they offered to be a Pratham Books Champions

Saroj says, " To be in touch with children means to be reconnected with the child within you. The world of a child is a world of dreams, full of laughter and life. And, every time I interact with children, a part of me enlivens- a dead memory comes back, wafting though all those years of adulthood, piercing through everyday chores. It sits by my side for a  long time, provides me with a create fire and gives me the motivation to dream! I wanted to be filled with that wonderment again when I decided to conduct a story telling workshop for Pratham books. I utilized this opportunity to spend time with the students of Gajendra Nagar Government school, Old Baiyapanahalli, Bangalore."

The Day Before

My dear husband had offered to volunteer for the event, as well as to sponsor gifts for the students and so we went stationary shopping and returned with colorful crayons, pens and candies to be distributed to children. I had read and re-read the story ‘A king cobra’s summer’ so many times that by the end of it, I could recite the story in my own words without even looking at the book. Along with story, I had built a quiz based on it to facilitate learning. I had decided to conduct the story telling session with students of 4th and 5th standard, and a drawing competition for students of class 1 to 5.

Workshop Ahoy!

Let me tell you something about the school. It’s a small two room school- with one classroom occupied by children of class 1, 2 and 3 and the other by class 4 and 5 students. In total, there must be around 40 students that day. We reached school while the students were doing their morning prayers. It was amazing to be greeted by the sounds of our national anthem sang fervently by all the students.

The students were happy when they were informed that they would have a workshop first thing in the morning. So, as soon as we entered their classroom, we were greeted by the most cheerful ‘good morning' we ever heard! That was enough to put us in gear… the banner was stuck, the books were out
and we were ready to begin the event.

We introduced ourselves to the students and in turn asked them to introduce themselves. All of us got candies for introducing ourselves! Then, I began telling them about the king cobra. More than words, I had to resort to actions because the students could not understand English completely and I could only speak bare Kannada words. But that did not deter their excitement one bit and we ended up having even more fun while trying to communicate with each other in half English-half kannada and full actions!

1-2-3 Action!

By seeing the enthusiasm in their eyes, I realized that I had built my case well and after telling them fascinating facts about king cobra, I asked them if they would like to hear a story of one such serpent. The room reverberated with sounds of yes! And at once, we all sat down for the story session. This time, the illustrations came to my rescue because where the words failed, I could show them the pictures which helped them in understanding the story. By the end of it, they were in love with Kala, and completely hated Ketu’s guts! They even clapped when Kala succeeded in reaching his house... err.. hole! Then, we had a small quiz and whoever answered got a pen each. (We made sure that each one of them answered a question somehow, so in the end, all of them had a pen each.)

 Little Da Vincis!

After the story ended it was time to capture all that excitement into something creative, so we called in the students of class 1, 2 and 3, had a quick round of introductions and candies, and began with the drawing competition.

We distributed crayons and drawing cards. I was amazed to see how; even small things can make children happy. One little girl still couldn’t believe her luck and asked me if she could write her name on the box. I told her she could do whatever she wanted since it was all hers!

I asked them to draw any animal, domestic or wild, of their choice. Class 1, 2 and 3 students needed to be assisted a bit. I taught them how to draw a kitty and they surprised me with cute, colourful, absolutely adorable little kittens. Class 4 and 5 students drew anything from a lion, peacock to snakes and lizards. Some even drew Kala. I did not give them any time limitation because I wanted them to enjoy doing art and not be under any pressure.

Slowly, entries started coming and by the end of 45 minutes or so, most children had submitted their entry. Then, we encouraged others to finish their art and within a few more minutes, we had 40 little masterpieces in our hands. We decided winners from 2 categories- senior (class 4 and 5) and junior (class 1, 2 and 3). The children were thrilled to get Amar Chitra Katha books and pens as prizes. We ended the session by sharing a bagful of banana chips (donated by a kind friend) and left with a promise to meet them again!

Thank you Pratham Books for initiating this novel idea. May the tribe grow and succeed in their mission of providing a book in every hand!

Thank you Saroj and Gaurav 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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