had to be a part of it. I’ve always believed stories are a great way of enriching children’s
lives and Pratham Books was giving me that opportunity. It was also a great chance for
the volunteers to introduce children to the joy of reading. Though I agreed to do this, I
started getting jitters a few days before the reading session as this was the first time I
was doing such a thing. Maya from Pratham Books was very helpful and quelled most of my
about ways to conduct the session. My mind was constantly coming up with ideas to
make the experience more interesting for the children.
for Children in Dapodi that is nestled in a narrow lane with houses on either side. I
pushed open the blue door and was led to a tiny office. The staff then led me to an
adjacent room, where I met the kids for the first time. He briefed them in Marathi as to
what was going to happen and why I was there, and I noticed the sparks in their wide,
English speaking skills, replacing at times, “My” with “I” and “I” with “Me”, saying things
like, “I school is Saraswati Vidya Mandir School” or “Me in 5th class.” They stood with
their arms folded, their eyes flitting left and right, feeling shy and uneasy about having to
of King Cobra today,” I said, and immediately the eldest of them said, “He’s the king of
snakes he is.” They even told me of their trip to the Katraj Snake Park and the names of
the snakes they saw and how big they were.
attention. I was still nervous, which incidentally came to fore when I reached the point
in story where Kaala is lost and scared and his throat is parched. A kid with no front
teeth said with concern at that precise moment: “Your throat seems dry. Are you scared,
the world around them. They knew about kindness and giving and sharing. They knew
they were not supposed to harm animals and that if they don’t tease or prod them, they
won’t bother them either.
were standing next to me, some had their hands on my shoulders, some sat close, their
chins resting on my knees, while some held my arms as though they wanted to be as
close to the story as possible, living and breathing every page.
across rivers; to imitate the sounds elephants and monkeys make, the way they move,
their mannerisms and they did all of that with surprising accuracy and enthusiasm. I also
prepared a small quiz based on the story, which almost led to a fight as all of them had
answers to the questions. They all clapped at the end of the story, saying, “Too good,
They all rushed to me as I was leaving and made me promise I will come again and said
to me: “Bhaiya, when you come next week bring many, many, many books, okay?
touched and humbled me, and made me feel so loved. I’m now considering reading to
these kids on a regular basis.