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 aPratham 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 Neela Gupta who conducted three storytelling sessions 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."
Neela Gupta writes ...
16th Dec. ‘2011
Setubandh (a unit of Aura a learning place for the under privileged) children were eagerly awaiting their next story telling session. A small group of children and two of us, Bhavina (another teacher) and self- we walked down to a nearby temple which was at a little height on Vadodara’s polluted river Vishwamitri. There were lots of trees and wild growth around. While we read the book, children shared their experiences with sighting of snakes and other wild creatures. The open atmosphere around naturally aroused their natural urge to explore. We did that for a while. I found they knew much more about trees and forest than one would expect which was a pleasant surprise. When we returned to the centre, we had circle time. We discussed the state of our city and our surroundings. Children were listening to each other attentively. When it was time to close, we asked ourselves, ‘what is that one thing which I can do to save the earth and contribute in making it beautiful?’ Suggestions like “I will not throw around garbage and plastic packets.”, I will not waste water” and “I will try to keep my surrounding clean and also stop my family from littering” came from them which was very encouraging.
Due to time constraints, we did not play any game, but discussed the vital issues which I thought was the mood at the time. I think the time spent was worthwhile.
17th Dec. ‘11
I stay in a locality called Pratham Enclave where there are lots of children aged between 8-12 years. I saw the opportunity to introduce them to the world of books and simultaneously to sensitize them to be aware and responsible members of the society. During the day, children said they were too busy with their coaching, tuitions, games and what not… so we decided to meet late evening. The group was small in the beginning but soon more children and some ladies joined out of curiosity especially because I am a new resident in the colony and not many people know me. I found children were comfortable. They were listening and asking questions when they did not understand something. Since I had promised we will play games after the story they were eagerly looking forward to that. We had 2-3 options about the games out of which they chose to play the game called ”Who Am I?” which required them to remember the details about the animal characters and other elements of nature described in the book. After half an hour of fun, we parted with an agreement that we will meet again and read some more books.
18th Dec. ‘11
The third session of King Cobra’s summer was with another group of 5 urban English medium school going children. We met at a place and walked down to a nearby park. We had already agreed that we will invite other children who may be playing around in the park. Although we were little apprehensive about what kind of response we may get, I was completely pleasantly surprised when a boy (mostly from the slum around) approached us where my children were trying to hang the Pratham books banner and asked me about what we were going to do. I told him and asked him if he and his friends would like to join. “Yes” he said with a smile and a sparkle in his eyes. He ran and brought some of his friends. I was accompanied by my friend Sunita and another student Eesha from an elite school of Vadodara. Originally Eesha had agreed to take the session using the English version of the book but when she saw children who may or may not be going to school, forget about knowing English, I could see she was a little apprehensive so I took over. I asked children in which language should we read the story. They naturally chose Hindi which we did. Sunita narrated the story with her usual interactive and expressive style. She could engage them actively in asking questions, sharing and replying to her questions about Kaala and his life. The session ended with the story without any further activity because the play area with swings, slides and other attractions was too near to hold children’s attention for a longer time.
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.