Thursday, April 26, 2018

Building Community Supported School Libraries

Through our work, we get to see a lot of inspiration all around us. We get to see and learn how different organizations are trying to solve problems of education, learning and equity in different communities. Ignus PAHAL is an organization that has previously used our Donate-a-Book platform to crowdfund books for the libraries they have started. Their Pahal Pustakalayas serve as a forum to bring the different stakeholders together in helping improve learning processes and levels, and form the basis of a long-term school transformation programme.

Subir Shukla sent us this report about how the books were being used :

Book donated by Pratham Books and the donors to our campaign are being actively used in 35 schools in rural Varanasi. The libraries are being run with children's active participation and leadership, and 12 of them have community involvement. Two comunities have been motivated to set up libraries in the villages as a result. In many villages, active forums for youth, girls and women, and children have come up. This also led us to do 'whole village visioning exercises' in 50 villages, where the community envisioned the kind of village they want to become. Many of them have adopted practices such as ensuring that children have a designated place to read at home, or asking children about the books they are reading, or giving the child a book as a birthday gift (this requires special effort as no books may be bought nearby!).

We have had three full time field resource persons, 1-3 senior and experienced resource persons occasionally, and 10-12 volunteers working for over a year. Currently, we have 3 full time members with a senior who coordinates. 

After the books had been there for about a year, we did a study involving 2500 children, half of them from our library supported schools and the rest from control schools. Children in the library supported schools were 10-16% ahead. Teachers' main response was that 'children are able to read the text on their own, which makes a big difference when teaching!' The District Collector made a surprise visit to two of our schools and was so impressed that he has given his card and asked our colleagues to meet him any time for support. Members of STIR India visited many of our schools and were pleasantly surprised to see that teachers seem to being doing a lot on their own (many teachers had asked us to train them, and we have done two 'training on demand' workshops). Room To Read, which was asked to introduce its programme in Varanasi decided to take blocks other than ours, so as not to duplicate efforts. 

We had evolved 'library performance indicators' for teachers and a manual - after use over two years it has now evolved as a manual that regular teachers can use to convert a classroom library into learning.

In the coming months we would like to introduce a 'Read to Babies' Programme where young mothers are encouraged and oriented to the kind of 'reading' and oral language exposure they can provide their babies from the earliest weeks - as this will help mitigate the 'word gap' and learning gap that is already evident by the time children join school. If someone can especially help support us in this, that would be great!

In the schools where we have been active we now sorely need new books. Overall we need books for 50 schools (35 exiting schools, 15 new). Ideally, we would need 125 books per school, but any number will do. About 30-40 books could be in English / bilingual, the rest in Hindi. Of the 50 sets, about 40 could be for primary levels, while 10 for upper primary schools.

IGNUS Pahal has launched a campaign on Donate-a-Book to raise funds for these libraries. Help them in their mission by making a donation here.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Pratham Books is Hiring : Junior Development Manager

Pratham Books is looking for a Junior Development Manager to join our team in Bengaluru. 

The Organisation:
Pratham Books ( is a not-for-profit children's book publisher that was set up in
2004 to publish good quality, affordable books in many Indian languages. Our mission is to see ‘a book in every child’s hand’ and we have spread the joy of reading to millions of children in India. As a publisher serving every child in India, Pratham Books has always pushed the boundaries when it comes to exploring innovative ways in which to create access to joyful stories and have been fortunate in finding partners to collaborate with who share this vision.

Ilustration by Nirzara Verulkar, from the book ´Maths at the Mela´
The Role
Pratham Books currently has multiple projects which are supported by various donors, for content development and dissemination. The role would involve supporting the development team to nurture and grow donor relationships, project co-ordination, anchoring content dissemination, and support reporting and documentation.

  • Help identify and qualify leads from non profits, foundations and CSR divisions of companies to create and maintain a robust database of potential donors
  • Market research and analysis to identify opportunities for growing the donor base and funds generated
Programme Co ordination
  • Co-ordination among teams for various projects
  • Ensuring adherence of project modules to timelines
  • Ensuring project requirements for external resources such as interns or researchers are met in a timely manner
Anchor content dissemination
  • Anchor dissemination of content in print and digital formats for grant based commitments
  • For print books, streamline processes to identify beneficiaries of classroom libraries, aligned with the requirements of the donors.
  • Co-ordinate with warehouse and CRM teams to ensure timely dispatch of the libraries.
  • For digital books, ensure books are published on the online StoryWeaver platform within the timelines committed
Support documentation and reporting

  • Streamline reporting processes and ensure deadlines are communicated to project teams
  • Co-ordinating with teams to ensure timely submission of individual components of project reports
This is a full-time position based in Bangalore, and would report to the Development Manager. 

Who should apply?

Candidates who:
1. Have 3-5 years experience
2. Can ideally start from 1st May 2018 onwards
3. Are committed and meet deadlines consistently
4. Are self-starters, enthusiastic and have good people skills
5. Have basic computer skills – Word, XL, PPT
6. Have a good working knowledge of English and Hindi. Knowledge of Kannada would be a bonus.

Please send your resume to with 'Junior Development Manager’ in the subject line of the email.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Reading in Majuli

Earlier this month, you read about the library love we were receiving in Lucknow. We travel to Majuli in Assam to find out what kids are reading there.

The context : Last year, several organizations across India applied to receive our STEM library kit grant. This library grant was supported by Oracle. Selected schools/organizations received a STEM classroom library kit. The kit is a wall-mounted modular library unit that can be put up in any classroom or library. It consists of 100+ books, primarily in STEM subjects. The books cover a diverse range of topics in Maths, Science, Technology, Environment, and Emotional intelligence.

About the school : Majuli Island Hummingbird School, Kulamua, is a primary school providing education to around 110 students in rural Assam. The school is located in Majuli island that is surrounded by Brahmaputra. Floods are an every year occurrence and developmental activities even if initiated don’t last long. Urged by villagers from more backward villages to open a school, Bipin Dhane, now its Principal, started Hummingbird School on 16 January 2017. Thirteen villages from the area came together to help in every possible way. The school land has been donated by a local villager with a simple request to open a good school. (via the school website)

Bipin sent us a short note along with the following pictures of kids reading our books :
The books have brought a positive impact on the children. They can't wait to enter the library and go through all the books. We use it as a reward system if they behave properly they get to read in the library and that has brought about a change in the student behavior. Before we had books but they were not suitable for children and children lost interest but with Pratham Books' books they want to read and go through as many books as possible. Even teachers use this books in class and have observed a positive impact on the the student performance.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

StoryWeaver Selected as Finalist for the WISE Awards 2018

We are delighted to share that Pratham Books’ StoryWeaver has been selected as a finalist for the WISE Awards 2018.

StoryWeaver, an initiative of Pratham Books, is among 12 finalists chosen by the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) for their innovative and impactful approaches to today’s most urgent education challenges

Each year, the WISE Awards recognize and promote innovative projects from around thenworld that are addressing global educational challenges.

StoryWeaver is an innovative digital platform which harnesses the power of technology, open licensing and collaboration to address the global scarcity of books for children in mother tongue languages. StoryWeaver also allows for content to be translated and versioned for localized needs. This responsive platform has published over 7500 story books available in 109 languages, making knowledge accessible to children and educators beyond global access barriers.

Suzanne Singh, Chairperson of Pratham Books, said StoryWeaver’svision is to massively scale the creation and distribution of reading resources for children in mother tongue languages. Our endeavor is to address the global scarcity of books for children and arm every child with the power of knowledge and opportunity. By providing access to thousands of storybooks, the platform has enabled educators to make classrooms more engaging, libraries more diverse and most importantly, make learning fun for children. With StoryWeaver, we have opened up a new pathway to nurture a generation of readers”.

Stavros N. Yiannouka, CEO of WISE, said: “We congratulate StoryWeaver for making it to the finalist stage. Each of the 2018 WISE Awards finalists has constructed an effective, tested solution to a global educational challenge. Whether it’s ensuring fundamental education for refugees or creating the next generation of empathetic and conscious leaders, each project is already transforming lives, and provides an inspirational model for others to adopt. This is vital to our mission at WISE, which centers around collaboration”.
The 12 projects come from eleven countries and were shortlisted for their innovative solutions to education challenges and their positive social impact. The awards finalists were picked from a pool of 413 projects, and evaluated according to strict criteria. They must be successful, innovative education projects that have already demonstrated a transformative impact on individuals, communities, and society. They must be financially stable, have a clear development plan and be scalable and replicable.

For further information, visit awards.


About the WISE Awards: 
Each year, the WISE Awards recognize and promote six successful innovative projects that are addressing global educational challenges. Since 2009, WISE has received more than 3,200 applications from over 150 countries. Up until now, 54 projects have won the WISE Awards, from a wide variety of sectors and locations for their innovative character, their positive contribution and their potential for scalability and adaptability. These projects represent a growing resource of expertise and sound educational practice. Year by year, WISE is building a community of educational innovators which offers a fertile environment for groundbreaking collaborations. Today the WISE Awards network comprises pioneering projects that are helping bring real change to societies and communities.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Library Love in Lucknow!

Look what popped into our inbox the other day! Our STEM libraries getting a whole lot of love in Lucknow. Last year, several organizations across India applied to receive our STEM library kit grant. Sarthak Foundation was one of these organizations. Sarthak's vision is to add significance to the lives of the underprivileged children by providing quality education. The Sarthak team sent us these pictures of the latest library installed in their Ismailganj Study Centre, Lucknow. This centre caters to the rag picker community they work with.

What is a STEM Classroom Library Kit?

The kit is a wall-mounted modular library unit that can be put up in any classroom or library. It consists of 100+ books, primarily in STEM subjects. The books cover a diverse range of topics in Maths, Science, Technology, Environment, and Emotional intelligence. Some of our colourful books are: How Far is Far (estimation of distances), I Spy (subtraction), Bonda and Devi (robots), Ammachi’s Amazing Machines (simple machines and their use), AutumnMonsoonSpringSummer and Winter (seasons of India), Up World, Down World (biodiversity of canopy forests), A Cloud of Trash (Cleanliness), A Helping Hand (inclusivity and accepting differences), Reethi and Mithu, Angry Akku (handling emotions).

This library grant has been supported by Oracle.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Sparking Curiosity through STEM books

"The soap bubble will be pink," said a little girl at the District Girls Home as author of Why are bubbles round?Sukanya Sinha, prepared to blow a bubble with pink dye added to the soap solution.

At a Zilla Parishad School in Pune, a group of boys said, "We can make this jar invisible now!" They had just listened to author Varsha Joshi talk about her forthcoming book The Invisibility Cloak. 

"Shh.....Simmi is listening!" I said to a group of noisy kids at the Girls Home, holding up the book by Aparna Kapur. Actually, we were very quite happy that the children were so full of questions, and not sitting quietly. You see, we were on a mission to spark curiosity. And how better to do that than to have children coming out with questions about everything under the sun! Through March, we went to several schools across cities with our authors, illustrators and storytellers to introduce our new STEM books.

Earlier, at the Government Boys Home, I spoke about my forthcoming book, Sir M Visvesvaraya - The Builder of Dams, Bridges and a Nation. We were delighted to hear later that the story inspired the boys and helped spark a discussion on goal setting during their therapy session. 

"They had so many questions!" said Sudha Thilak, Tamil editor, who went with storyteller Sathyanarayan, to Chudar Education Centre. She also went to other centres in Chennai with the help of Pratham and Teach for India fellows and shared many of our new books, including Maths at the Mela.

Author of The Drawing Game and Where is Nandini?, Anitha Murthy, shared her stories with little ones at Shishu Mandira, Bengaluru.

In Guwahati, Yasaswini Sampathkumar author of forthcoming book How heavy is air? had answers for this question: "Why is Bimla's cake so spongy?"

Srinivasan Krishnaswamy,  assistant professor at IIT Guwahati, narrated the same story in Assamese, getting the students quite interested in the chemistry behind cake-making.

Vidyun Sabhaney who illustrated '3..2..1..Blast-off! used art to explain astronomy to the students of Children organization in Delhi.

Our Kannada Editor Hema Khurshapur travelled to Shiggaon in Haveri ditrict and met governnment school teachers who were thrilled to see the STEM books. They happily read out from some books to the students. Later, the girls learnt about got immersed in the books including,  Telephones: From Bell to Cell.

Dr. Shivani Kanodia used storytelling, songs and activities to introduce the books  Bin Aahat Sunne Pippu (Pispsqueak Hears Echoes) and Divya Ne Banaya Naksha (Divya Draws a Map) at The Community Library Project, Delhi.

At Chaitanya English Medium School, students had a cool time with Niloufer Wadia, illustrator of the book Let's Make Some Lime Juice and Saee Keskar, who translated it into Marathi.

The exciting world of tomorrow is closely linked to the sometimes tough world of having to learn abstract concepts of maths and science today. Could colourful, fun books help children to be ready to learn these concepts? We strongly believe so, and so we've been creating cheerful books on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

This year's list of 25 STEM books was made possible through a Cisco grant. The set includes picture books on sound, astronomy, driverless cars, kitchen science, and many more themes.  We are grateful to our authors, illustrators, translators for taking our books to children in different parts of the country. 

More sessions to spark curiosity will follow, and we will keep you posted.