By Dennis Abrams
India’s Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s publishing house with the mission “A Book in Every Child’s Hand,” has launched a drive to celebrate International Literacy Day this September 8th by conducting as many storytelling sessions on a single day throughout the country as possible.
The idea behind it is simple: to encourage children, particularly in under-served communities, to fall in love with reading. The program is part of the Pratham Books Champion Initiative, which is an invitation to the Indian community to conduct storytelling sessions in their own villages, towns, and cities.
The initial goal for the International Literacy event was to get at least 100 “champions” from across the country. But as of now, Pratham Books has smashed that number with more than 250 storytelling volunteers who will now be holding sessions all across India – in schools, in NGOs, in orphanages, and in their own towns and villages.
The story they will be telling is one of Pratham’s newest titles, Susheela’s Kolams, written by Swidala Swami, a story about a little girl who loves kolams (sand paintings done with rice powder by female members of the family on their doorstep) and dreams of creating them in the sky. According to Purvi Shah, brand manager of Pratham Books, the book will be available in several languages, including English, Kannada, Hindi, Marathi, and Tamil. Each volunteer will be provided with a free kit consisting of the book, a banner about the event and a set of activities to work on after the storytelling has been completed.
Suzanne Singh, managing trustee of Pratham said in an article on mid-day.com that programs such as this are central to her company’s mission. “We are a small team so we just plant the seed and try to catalyze the community to pool in, in order to help conduct activities and take the agenda forward. It’s all about harnessing the power of the community.”
She added that “Reading books is, unfortunately, restricted to the upper socio-economic strata in many cities. Sadly, many students in government schools have no access to books apart from their textbooks. Through storytelling, we can engage and open up their mind to the world out there and ignite a love for reading across socio-economic strata.”
Interested in participating in the event? Email Pratham Books here.
You can read stories sent in by previous champions here.