Reigniting the Love for Reading

Suparna Chattarji (Ex-Principal, Ankur)

Under Kitablet

29 November, 2017


On the first day of my job at Ankur, a comprehensive residential education programme, I was taken around the campus by a staff member.  It was then that I first came across this large, whitewashed room—the children’s library. It was a quiet afternoon and the slanting sunlight drenched it with light and warmth but the room looked rather plain with lots of steel cupboards stacked up against the wall.

Later I came to know that the room is kept open once a week for the children to borrow and return books.  I felt a lot more could be done with the space.  Without wasting much time, I gathered some of the staff and started to arrange the cupboards so that a lot more space was created in the room. Next, we decided to bring in items for seating purposes in the library. We searched around the campus and found a couple of sofas and large tables which were brought in, along with a few mattresses for the children to lie down and relax while reading.

The next few days were exciting as I worked with the team to plan and set up the space.  We arranged the sofas in a corner of the room and created a cozy reading space.  We put up some soft boards for display and the mattresses were piled up below the board to relax, read and play.

We painted the walls with bright colors, put up some of the paintings created by the children, laid out the books on the tables and, finally, opened the library door for the children

In no time, the curious children started peering through the door.  Some picked up the board games, some went for the books and others rolled over on the mattresses and jumped on the sofas.  The plain room I had seen on my first day had transformed into a room filled with the laughter of the children.  Soon, the new incarnation of the library became the most popular place to hang out.

Our next job was to sort out the books in the library. I noticed that there were very few books written by Indian authors in the library.  We bought a number of books from Katha, Pratham, Tara, Tulika and other Indian publishers.  New books were displayed on the shelves to inform the children of their arrival.  Every day, the children came willingly and picked up the books.  Those who were not interested would pick up some toys and board games. Slowly we directed the children to pick up books that they would love to read.  On some days the teachers sat down with them and discussed what they read.  The characters came alive through storytelling and role plays.  At times we sat with the world map and globe to learn about other countries and continents.

Two and a half years have passed since we created the new library.  Our goal was to create a cheerful space that encouraged social interactions and exploration driven by curiosity, thereby rediscovering the joy of learning. Today I am happy to say that almost all our children have developed a love for reading. In a rapidly changing world, where books are disappearing and being replaced by electronic gadgets, we are proud to have managed to instil a love for reading in our children.