Monday, 5 May 2014

Story Club in the Slum

So do you remember my 30 before 30 post? I almost forgot about it.* Until I actually crossed one of the dreams off the list last week!


5. Do a fun reading programme with kids from the slum.

Mission accomplished!

With generous donations of  money for the slum children from different people, R and I gleefully started ordering storybooks online over the past month. Then a few people donated books too, and we had a library ready to start with.

Most of our kids don't read for fun. Reading is a chore, a trap to make school harder than it is already. Not to mention, Reading = Boring textbooks. I wanted something more for our children.

All my siblings and I loved books. My parents had to ban books at exam time, and we would still find ways to get our book fix, including hiding them behind textbooks, sneaking them under our clothes into the bathroom for loong bathroom breaks. My parents caught on and would be waiting outside with hawk eyes for book shaped bulges under our clothes. So we hid them behind the flush tank, under buckets, on top of the water heater. One of my siblings tried to dig up a tile in the bathroom to make a foolproof hiding place. (Yeah, that didn't work.) Books gave us a taste of the bigness and the beauty and the magic of the world around us, something our slum kids have never had a chance to experience.

I knew we couldn't solve the problem in two weeks, but I wanted them to have a taste of how WONDERFUL books could be.

And they did!

Every morning for two weeks, we would head to the slums at 7.30 am (yes, I've been sleepy for two weeks). Friends who were free joined me. We'd sing a few songs, pray together, I'd read them a bible story in Hindi, and then we'd break up into groups and READ! I was blessed to find a place that sold storybooks with both Hindi and English, for the kids who didn't know English.

The two weeks got a little crazy as each day more and more kids turned up. But oh the joy of seeing the kids get sucked into the fun of reading. Two big hits were 'Are You My Mother' and 'Green Eggs and Ham'. So were the Hindi and Marathi books.

I know we have a long way to go- most of our children don't even know how to sound out letters, because so many schools don't teach phonetics. Their attention spans aren't very long. Since their English is so limited, I even had to explain the simplest books. And they go to English medium schools!


For the first time I saw them ENJOY books. They WANTED to read. Many of them had 'favourite' books by the end. I saw some who never really interact with the teachers, start smiling at the pictures and jokes in the books, and glancing shyly at us as we enjoyed the joke together. I saw one little girl re-read a book we had read together, and her even littler sister creeping closer to listen to her read. One of our 12 year olds devoured books one after the next.

We've started something. And we plan to continue. Who knows what it will lead to?

P.S. Can I just say that cool as story club was, I'm excited about not waking up at 6.30 am every morning?

* It's surprising how much one can change in just 11 months. I'm looking at some of the items on the list and wondering 'Why on earth did I put all that in there? Star Wars, really? Who cares?' Some haven't changed though.

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