A Children’s Library in Arunachal
Via Teacher Plus
Wakro may seem like your usual picture post-card village – a remote, educationally and economically backward area in the Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh – the land of the Mishmi tribes. But what makes its orange orchards a perfect Neverland for the children and bibliophiles like me is the wonderful AWIC (Association of Writers and Illustrators) Apne library. A part of a network of children’s libraries coordinated by the Vivekananda Trust, Apne Library is managed by Apna Vidya Bhavan, a school under the Anu Shiksha Seva Trust (ASSET) of Wakro.With a whopping collection of 1000-odd books, contributed by the Om Prakash Foundation, USA, this modest but wholesome collection will put most of the libraries in the cities to shame.The philosophy behind the library and the school itself is interesting. The motto of the Apna Vidya Bhavan, an innovative educational initiative inspired by Swami H.H. Anubhavananda, an eminent spiritual saint of our times, is ‘Grow Wise’. The founders believe that education should be ‘formative rather than informative’.In the same way, a book is not something that should be forced upon a child. Each child should discover the pleasure of reading for himself/herself. All we need to do is to expose them to books and let each child take his/her own time with them. That is why no student in Apna Vidya Bhavan is forced to read but only encouraged to be with the books.What is commendable is the way these library books been have integrated with classroom learning. There is no separate library room. The books are divided into levels and are kept on open shelves in the corresponding classes. But the children can start reading at whatever level they feel comfortable. The readers themselves are in-charge of the maintenance of the books. No closed cupboards or locks! And the books are not meant just for the students of the school. Anyone from Wakro town can walk in on a weekend afternoon and sit there browsing the books and the magazines!Library books are a part of the lessons in Apna Vidya Bhavan. So when they learn their lessons, say about Kalpana Chawla, the teacher immediately supplements it with a picture essay of astronauts in space. Science and Geography lessons make much more sense to children when they see the things they learn about. During my stint with the Apne library, my English classes would get longer because the kids would invariably unearth the unabridged glossy version of the lesson we would be doing.The Apne Library is open to the public on weekends. It also conducts regular book exhibitions, competitions like story-telling, book reading, etc. Such competitions have worked wonders with their self-confidence. They have not only participated but won competitions both at the district and state levels. It is remarkable to see that some of the kids are already turning into authors and poets themselves. Some children already have dreams of establishing libraries in their own villages when they grow up. Says Amonlu – a class four girl, “It is so boring in our village. It will be really nice to have a book for a friend.”
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