I always thought schools and teachers are in shortage and books are in abundance. As a kid I always had more books than what I could read. Though all of it were text books, but surely, books were always more in supply. Sadly, this is not the case in reality. Watch the following video and you will find that we don't have enough books in India. Twenty kids have to share a single book as per statistics. Now, how can we expect children to read without books? And more importantly, how can we progress without education?
And when I heard about Pratham Books' mission - A book in every child's hand, I felt it was a far fetched dream. When the government's way of luring the kids into schools with food and other laws are failing, how can they possibly achieve that mission? Also, as far as I remember, reading has never been that much fun. Then I dug deeper with sheer curiosity of how Pratham functions and how a book reaches a child. I must say, I was amused and I had fun.
To start with, a Pratham book is no ordinary book. It is a joy ride to learn the basic lessons of life. I happened to read three Pratham books which were a part of 'You Read, They Learn' drive with Hindustan Times and believe me, I had a great time turning the pages of those books. Colors were taught in simplest way in 'Colors on the Streets' and concept of Height was taught amazingly in 'Tall, Taller and Tallest'. Frankly, I don't remember learning shapes in my childhood. I guess, I stared and read the name again and again till it rested in my memory but when I read the book, 'Goloo, the circle', I figured that shapes were all around us and I wish, somebody taught shapes like that to me. I wish, I read, 'Goloo, the circle' back then.
Goloo, the circle
What excited me the most is their 'Pratham Books' Champions' program. It is the most engaging and interactive way of reaching out to children. I read the experience of Author Kailash Srinivasan where he organized a story telling session with kids in Pune. Not only the content of books are engaging and enjoyable, all possible efforts are made to imbibe the habit of reading in young minds. I read many such stories on Pratham's blog spanning across India. Believe me, after reading it, you would also want to be a part of this drive. Spreading wisdom, and getting love and respect in return. Who wouldn't want that?
Leaving you with one of my favorite quotes from Ernest Hemingway, 'There is no friend as loyal as a book' and the Coolest ghost story ever - 'Muchkhund and His Sweet Tooth,' a ghost who turns into Honey Bees savior.
Children enjoying story-telling session in Pune
In their continuous strive to grow, they have adopted some exciting and affordable ways. A two rupees story card and 'You Read, They Learn' initiative with Hindustan Times (where stories were published in newspaper, you can read the stories to a group and pass on your copy to those who haven't read it) are perfect examples of their sheer dedication to bring their mission closer to reality. Breaking the language barriers by publishing in 11 different languages and producing books in simple graphics, I bet the face of reading will change in our country. Not only we will see more children having books, we will also see kids spending more time with books.
Click on the image to explore...
I always say we Indians are qualified but not well read. For most of us, reading means completing text-books and scoring high, which could fetch a decent job. I have a fairly interactive friend group on Facebook but whenever I share anything remotely related to books, it dies somewhere in my timeline. We stay away from books. It's either boring or for intellectual class. And once we finish our studies, we don't have the urge to read a book. We forget that learning is a continuous process. I feel not only we need to give every child a book to read. We need to imbibe reading habits in them. So that when they grow up, they read, learn and prosper. We also need to change the way we perceive books and that can only be done when books are fun and learning is interactive. And then, books will become our lifelong friends.
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.
*Image Source - prathambooks.org
*Image Source - prathambooks.org