It was Library period for Class V. The kids rushed to the library to collect their books. Every library period, they get one book that they can keep for a week. The person in charge of the library usually distributes the books in the order of serial numbers. I happened to notice Santosh in the line. He kept sending other kids ahead and falling behind in the line. When he finally got to the front, he again went back two places. That’s when I noticed; he was waiting for a particular book in that stack of books, because it was the only one with colorful pictures in it.
When it was his turn, he finally got the book he waited for. Boy did he look excited!
That was when I realised that most of the books in the library were text-heavy, with few or no images; they were mostly books on history, science, etc. It is so important for books to be attractive to encourage little kids to read them. I remember my cousins and I read Panchatantra stories, fairy tales and Tinkle and Archies comics at that age!
I decided that I must get a few story books in English, with simple sentences and attractive images. This would also help them learn English better. I bought a few books- Jataka Tales, Grandma’s stories, Akbar Birbal stories – all single page stories with simple sentences.
I found Santosh and handed over a book to him.
To my surprise, he said “Bhuji naa didi.” “I can’t understand didi.” And he didn’t even take the book!
My experience with the class VI students was slightly better. They did take the books from me but returned them without reading them. I found that they were able to read comfortably, but without understanding a word.
I then gave them a dictionary and asked them to use it whenever they didn’t get the meaning of a word. I thought I made it simple for them. I was so wrong. They had no clue on how to use the dictionary! They had to leaf through the entire book for a word. Sigh.
So I spent that period teaching them how to use the dictionary. They were really excited. We even decided to have a competition – Fastest Finder First – in the next class, so they get quicker in finding a word.
Overall, across classes, I find that there is an interest to read. I am so happy that they want to read. Using a dictionary always is not the answer.
Pratham books has a good solution in the form of bilingual books in English-Odia. They are lovely books and priced low so that every child can afford and enjoy them. I am considering getting these books for the school. When I just happened mention this to the kids, they were elated!
Now, I can’t wait to see them read these story books!
If any of you are interested in contributing to buying these books, please write to me at sunayanamc[at]gmail[dot]com