Creating a Culture of Reading for children in Kodagu and Mysore

Mind and Matter, a non-profit organisation based in Kodagu, Karnataka works with the District Child Protection Units in Kodagu and Mysore and the children’s homes that provide shelter to vulnerable children. As a part of their Book Donation Drive to set up safe reading spaces in these homes, they raised two crowdfunding campaigns on Donate-a-Book. Both campaigns were huge successes and raised funds for libraries in Kodagu and Mysore. We sat down with Deepika Appaiah, the founder, to talk about books, libraries, and her crowdfunding journey.

The organisation was founded in 2020 to introduce children to various fields of knowledge. According to Deepika, even a brief introduction to something new changes something within a child. “The child is pursuing many things but does not know what they’re interested in, because they have not explored enough to know what they want.”

Mind and Matter invites experts – lawyers, photographers, naturalists, Yoga teachers, and artists to conduct interactive workshops for the children on various topics ranging from mental health awareness and sex education to aircraft dynamics, nature journaling and photography. Children are given the space and time to explore, but the exposure needs to be constant, said Deepika. “The children we work with go to school, and our influence is small. But we don’t know which spark we’re going to light.” 


Overcoming language barriers with Pratham Books

Deepika heard about Pratham Books from a friend and decided to get the books for the children when she saw the bright and colourful illustrations. Due to language barriers, children find it difficult to comprehend long and complicated sentences, and this is where multiple copies of the same Level 1 and 2 storybooks make a difference. These books have a maximum of 50-100 words and the narrative is supported with colourful illustrations that engage a child’s imagination. During the storytelling sessions, the children are put in groups of four or five and every child is given a copy of the book. 

At Mind and Matter, the readaloud sessions follow a certain pattern and usually take a long time. Rather than diving into the content of the story right away, the child is first encouraged to observe all of the book’s elements. “We ask them what objects and colours they see and what they understand from the pictures. Of course, sometimes the way they perceive the picture is very different from what the story is about, but it helps because they’re creating their own story while looking at the picture. And then we slowly read the story.” she explained.

Research shows storytelling enhances imagination and helps visualise spoken words, and reading is one of the best ways to learn and incorporate new words into our vocabulary. This approach to reading encourages a child to engage with a storybook regardless of their reading proficiency. 

“They have the happiness of having a new book in their hand and that makes them curious to open it. Even if they can’t read the letters, they’re still looking at the colours and telling me what colour it is.”

Deepika’s approach involves asking the child questions about what they observe in the book. They see a girl – what is the colour of her hair, how do you think she’s feeling, is she angry, sad, or annoyed? “Sometimes they only understand one word, but that’s enough because they’ve learnt a new word and they start using it.”, she shared. 

And this was proven when, during a mental health awareness campaign, a child went up to Deepika and told her a story about a rat and an eagle. When asked where he’d heard the story, he pointed to the library. Recalling the incident with a smile on her face, she said, “That is when I realised they’ve actually been reading. So I feel somewhere we’ve done something right.” 

She then shared this anecdote with someone who works closely with the children, who was also pleasantly surprised to hear that despite being busy with homework and tuition, the children were making the effort to read, even outside of the read-aloud sessions. 

The Crowdfunding Journey 

“I never thought we could do it.”, she says in a very matter-of-fact manner when asked about how they managed to raise funds for 4,000+ storybooks. When the first Kodagu campaign was launched, a poster was shared on Whatsapp groups and social media which received many likes and comments. 

However, when she realised many people weren’t taking the time to read the campaign story and how it would positively impact hundreds of children, she decided to make a video talking about the campaign. The video garnered nearly 30,000 views, comments and shares overnight. Friends and well-wishers who had large social media followings reshared and through word of mouth, the campaign shot past its original target. Deepika recounted how the campaign’s trajectory exceeded her expectations, which was only possible thanks to a community coming together to share the joy of reading. “The donors have made a huge difference. Without them I don’t think we could have established effective libraries. We are very grateful that they all came along at the right time.” 

Three children’s homes in Kodagu and Mysore for underprivileged children have libraries filled with Pratham Books storybooks – storybooks that the children are actively reading and enjoying. “People have been generous – they have not just donated but they have gone out of their way to share it with people and that pushed a lot of other people to donate to us. A lot of people have gone out of their way to facilitate this for us. So there’s only gratitude.”

It’s not easy to create a reading culture, but it is possible with the support of donors who are invested in helping children read, and building libraries for underserved children who truly need them. It is also made possible by the people working on the ground, dedicating their lives to improving the lives of the children. And we are grateful to be part of both these journeys. Join us in supporting more campaigns like Mind and Matter become successful and make a difference. Click here: