Anuradha Nagaraj writes about rural library initiatives that take books to children who have no access to them.
“Once upon a time there was a superman,” hesitantly begins Vishwas, a class seven student at Vadarahally government middle school in Hassan district. He then goes on for five minutes, slowly gaining confidence as he tells the story of how the “good superman defeats the bad superman”. It’s his version of the superhero’s story and it isn’t very long. But at the end of it, he gets a round of applause, the loudest from his librarian Chandrakala. “He couldn’t read a single word when he came to us in class five,” whispers a teacher. “Chandrakala would read storybooks to him, encourage him to try and read himself. Today, he can read and he is one of the best storytellers in school. And like all the other children, he eagerly waits for Chandrakala’s visit every week.”
The 2013 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) states that in 2010, across the country 46.3 per cent of all children in Class 5 could not read a Class 2 level text. This proportion has increased to 51.8 per cent in 2011 and further to 53.2 per cent in 2012. Also, for Class 5 children enrolled in government schools, the percentage of children unable to read Class 2 level text has increased from 49.3 per cent in 2010, to 56.2 per cent in 2011, to 58.3 per cent in 2012.
It was against the backdrop of similar statistics that various library programmes began in various places.
“It’s the best thing that could have happened to these children,” says HP Siddharaju, headmaster of a government higher primary school in nearby Arralikatai village. “Now in the evenings, instead of running wild and staying out till late at night, the village children, including those who don’t study in this school, come to the library. The access to good reading material gives them access to the world of reading and it has impacted their performance in school also.”
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to find out about various interesting initiatives that are bringing books and children closer.