July 2018

Empowering children’s imagination

The Trusts are bridging the gap in education through their various thematic initiatives. Parag is one such initiative which is helping promote children's literature in underserved communities and contributing towards the holistic development of kids

The interactive sessions at Parag libraries have instilled confidence amongst the students

The key feature characterising student-animator interaction in the Parag libraries in Yadgir district of Karnataka is the use of interesting activities. These activities are aimed at ensuring that the library, as a space, is attractive to children. Secondly, the methods the librarians use to engage children are valuable for the way in which they attempt to connect the narrative of a book to the world around.

The activities are carefully developed for the session and its participants. Each serves a specific purpose. In the Minaspur, Nazarpur and Chaptela school libraries, sessions begin with singing and dancing. The lack of inhibition is palpable. The library space is one in which no child is too goofy, no thought too ridiculous; in the Putpak school, a game of Idli-Vada-Dosa serves the purpose; in the Chapetla school, in a play, a child pretends to be a dog. He crawls around on all fours and emits a series of very convincing yipping noises. Everyone is entertained. The librarians like to reiterate that the library allows the children to think ‘how it might be’ if they were a dog or a rooster or a teacher, and that essentially, library activities are stimulating the children’s imagination.

A reading of Mele Kelage (Up and Down) by Chowdamma of Minaspur school begins with:
“Are you all here? Or outside?” The librarians’ words and tone are honed in training, brought to a point where their calls for attention are flawless, deeply effective and met with a roomful of ringing responses: “We’re here only, teacher!”

Read-aloud and storytelling sessions are well planned. Children are prepared, brought into a state from which they can engage with the content of the story. Chowdamma walks over to one end of the room and brings a chalk piece back with her to the front. Tossing it up deftly, she says: “What is this? It’s a chalk piece. What happened when I threw it upwards?” And the children, gearing up for the story they know is coming their way, answer, “It fell down!” “Now, the story we’re going to read today is called Mele Kelage. It has been written by Vinayak Verma…”

The read-aloud sessions place emphasis on how to learn by locating oneself to the narrative of the book. It draws on the ability of the children to relate their world to the world of the text. So an ‘up and down’ reference can be made by asking whether the togri bele (tur dal) plant grows upwards or downwards, and the experience of sorrow can be invoked by asking the children what makes them sad. The progression of the activity is such that it brings out the nature of the relationships between the content encountered in the library and the real world.

This mode of engagement with the story can aid the development of higher order thinking by facilitating the growth of children’s imaginative and cognitive capacities — where the story works as a springboard that launches thoughts and ideas. The activities are based on the mode of processing most inherently present in (and most crucial to) the act of reading — in order to read actively, the children must build links between the planes on which life and the story respectively exist.

This story has been taken from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Allied Trusts Annual Report 2016-17.