Building Community Supported School Libraries
Through our work, we get to see a lot of inspiration all around us. We get to see and learn how different organizations are trying to solve problems of education, learning and equity in different communities. Ignus PAHAL is an organization that has previously used our Donate-a-Book platform to crowdfund books for the libraries they have started. Their Pahal Pustakalayas serve as a forum to bring the different stakeholders together in helping improve learning processes and levels, and form the basis of a long-term school transformation programme.
Subir Shukla sent us this report about how the books were being used :
Book donated by Pratham Books and the donors to our campaign are being actively used in 35 schools in rural Varanasi. The libraries are being run with children’s active participation and leadership, and 12 of them have community involvement. Two comunities have been motivated to set up libraries in the villages as a result. In many villages, active forums for youth, girls and women, and children have come up. This also led us to do ‘whole village visioning exercises’ in 50 villages, where the community envisioned the kind of village they want to become. Many of them have adopted practices such as ensuring that children have a designated place to read at home, or asking children about the books they are reading, or giving the child a book as a birthday gift (this requires special effort as no books may be bought nearby!).
We have had three full time field resource persons, 1-3 senior and experienced resource persons occasionally, and 10-12 volunteers working for over a year. Currently, we have 3 full time members with a senior who coordinates.
After the books had been there for about a year, we did a study involving 2500 children, half of them from our library supported schools and the rest from control schools. Children in the library supported schools were 10-16% ahead. Teachers’ main response was that ‘children are able to read the text on their own, which makes a big difference when teaching!’ The District Collector made a surprise visit to two of our schools and was so impressed that he has given his card and asked our colleagues to meet him any time for support. Members of STIR India visited many of our schools and were pleasantly surprised to see that teachers seem to being doing a lot on their own (many teachers had asked us to train them, and we have done two ‘training on demand’ workshops). Room To Read, which was asked to introduce its programme in Varanasi decided to take blocks other than ours, so as not to duplicate efforts.
We had evolved ‘library performance indicators’ for teachers and a manual – after use over two years it has now evolved as a manual that regular teachers can use to convert a classroom library into learning.
In the coming months we would like to introduce a ‘Read to Babies’ Programme where young mothers are encouraged and oriented to the kind of ‘reading’ and oral language exposure they can provide their babies from the earliest weeks – as this will help mitigate the ‘word gap’ and learning gap that is already evident by the time children join school. If someone can especially help support us in this, that would be great!
In the schools where we have been active we now sorely need new books. Overall we need books for 50 schools (35 exiting schools, 15 new). Ideally, we would need 125 books per school, but any number will do. About 30-40 books could be in English / bilingual, the rest in Hindi. Of the 50 sets, about 40 could be for primary levels, while 10 for upper primary schools. IGNUS Pahal has launched a campaign on Donate-a-Book to raise funds for these libraries. Help them in their mission by making a donation here.