It happened to us like a spark - one conversation leading to another, all while we were still working on our other program. While we were still in the very early stage of Varitra, we realised that the students in most of our partner schools either had no access to non-academic books and lacked the culture of reading or had a small collection of books but lacked a designated reading space. These villages are located on Haryana’s Yamuna Belt and face extreme economic and social backwardness. Majority of students are first generation school-goers and lack any quality learning opportunities or resources other than those provided under government schemes.
Our journey of building libraries began with a small question,
Can a village school have a safe, child-friendly reading space?
We began by setting up libraries, providing books we raised through donations and creating reading corners. The space (library) was there, the resources (books) were. Still something very integral was missing. It was the engagement of students with books and libraries. So after long discussions, we were allotted one library period per week from 4 schools. It feels nothing less of a milestone, even today. We started innovating methods and activities to create engagement and build their reading skills.
So what is in our libraries?
Varitra’s libraries consist of bi-lingual (Hindi & English) story-books, knowledge books, poem cards, children magazines, wall posters and library wall-display materials. For smaller schools with no extra rooms, we build reading corners using portable book-jacket and wall display materials.
Since we raise books through community donation drives, sponsorships as well as partnership with other NGOs, we were able to create a diverse collection of books across each of our libraries. Using the books available in these libraries, we also work on building critical thinking among the school children on age-appropriate themes as well as self-development issues like gender sensitivity, identity, confidence-building and value-based education in order to ensure their physical, mental and emotional health as well provide a learning-friendly environment in the school.
What happens in our library?
A lot of things, reading, activities, interactions and appreciation. While all of them deserve a separate section, we would like to talk about appreciation here. Appreciation is an integral part, especially when working with young children and can go a long way. We believe that any student’s efforts must be acknowledged and cheered.it has been a guiding principle for us while designing library activities. A simple yet effective way to do this is to have a ‘Best Reader’ chart to celebrate the reading milestone achieved by our students.
Library Management Committee (LMC) is another special component of our initiative comprising a group of students who lead library-related activities. The objective of LMC is to promote a student-led environment in the school. All library activities like lending & return of books, book-keeping, library cleanliness and maintenance are administered by the LMC members.
STEP 1 - BUILDING ACCESS - Children have access to a functional, safe reading space in their school and are exploring it on a regular basis.
STEP 2 - FOSTER READING - Children are getting accustomed to reading and are exploring different genres. They are comfortable in participating and responding during the reading sessions.
STEP 3 – SYSTEMIC CHANGE - The library is effectively managed by children and is operating on a regular basis. A dedicated reading time has been allotted by the school and the teachers adopting innovative initiatives for a strong reading environment.
STEP 4 – SUSTAINABILITY - A strong community of local volunteers has been built who regularly undertake reading sessions in School or Community. Student readership in school is improving.
The benefits of fostering a reading habit early in a child’s life are hard to overstate. From building and strengthening vocabulary and language skills to aiding with creative thinking, reading is one of the easiest and best activities available to teach children a range of new skills.
So Far, So Good
So far, we have opened in 21 schools. By the year 2025, we aim to scale it up to 100 schools.
Want to build your own library?
Are you passionate about creating a safe space of engagement and interaction for kids too?
Stay tuned, we are sharing the resources soon!