Speak Out: Mobile Libraries

“The kids in my class don’t know the alphabets. The kids in my class just want to copy and write. The kids in my class think drawing is the best thing to do during my classes. My kids are just not interested. “. These are some of the most common grievances one gets to hear from the volunteers. This is where introducing story books to children, from as early as Class 1, can make a massive difference. Yes! Speak Out has planned to implement Mobile Libraries for kids across the 5 centers in the city, for kids from Class I to Class V.

It is completely reasonable if you ask what kids will do with story books at such a young age, when lots of them don’t even know the alphabets yet. One valid reason could be that the kids will be entertained with such stories. Instead of giving them “boring” study material and exercises, and asking them to learn to read; volunteers reading out the stories to the kids will keep them engaged and very interested to be seated in the class. But, have you ever considered that the biggest reason that the kids can’t “read” or “understand what they read” is because they don’t have access to the wonderfully enjoyable world of books?

The role of books begins at a very early stage in a kid’s life, much before the question of learning to read arises. There are many books which kids can listen to, or whose colourful pictures they can look at, feel the pages with their tender hands, and start recognizing that learning to read these books could be something to look forward to. These books take children into the world of their dreams. They get to see animals that can talk, mouthwatering food items that seem to be interacting with them, or they get to see how a rabbit, which is just as small as they are, gets to overcome the odds and win over a lion. Such topics are extremely close to the heart of kids, and will get them exceedingly interested to know more about it. It also gives us the avenue to explore lots of new topics and possibilities with & for them.

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If these kinds of books are available in the homes/centers of children, and if possible, the elders/ center authorities read out passages from these books for some time daily, the kids will definitely start recognizing words and eventually alphabets. When they get to match the content they learn in classrooms to the personalized experience they get with the books, it makes them increasingly confident. This is how kids embark on their journey towards becoming expert readers.

As the kids in our centers haven’t had such an environment which enables them to learn to read, the onus is on volunteers like us to guide them with the help of these books. During the initial days of befriending books, volunteers must take care that they run their fingers through each and every word they read out from the book & hold the book in such a way that the kids can see the finger move beneath the words. This will help the kids in identifying the “left to right” orientation of reading or writing, and will also get them excited with the fact that each and every word that their eyes behold has a meaning to it. If the books happen to have words/sentences that repeat themselves, the children will start to notice, identify them and then read them on their own.

Thus, the process of befriending the books is more about kids discovering the relationship between the printed words and its actual meaning, than just merely reading it out to them. Yes, It is very important that the kids don’t feel that they will see the books just once in their lifetime, but they will also have the opportunity to hold them, feel the pages, smell them, stare and smile at the colourful pictures, and finally have the chance to decipher the meaning of the hordes of straight lines and curves, that we call words. Let’s work towards building a strong, fruitful bond between the books and kids.

– Princee Chaudhary

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