“You must have heard of the Chinese saying: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime'. Give children education and they will help themselves. Education will help them fetch the life they want,” says director Vishnuvardhan on the eve of the Great Wall of Education initiative of The Hindu and Aviva Life Insurance, perhaps, the largest-ever book donation drive for underprivileged children, between September 5 and 9 at Express Avenue, Royapettah.

Activities lined up

The initiative will be kicked off by guest of honour, actor Kamal Haasan on Sunday. The inauguration would be followed by a street play by Awan on the cause of education. Children at the mall will be invited to come on stage for the ‘Dress Up A Book' event (they will be given covers and stickers), and all book donors can have their photograph taken.

The inaugural day will also feature quizzes at the venue. Many celebrities are expected to participate and support the cause.

“I'd be coming in on the 5th to donate a few of the books I read as a child,” says singer Chinmayi. “Reading as a habit has probably been on the wane, and I hope this Wall of Education serves as a bridge between underprivileged children and their dreams.”

Says actor Shiva (of Tamizh Padam and Va Quarter Cutting fame): “Education gives you the right to ask questions.”

“Reading is a wonderful habit, and I confess I never cultivated it,” admits actor Prasanna. “Today, I wonder how much richer I'd have been as a person, had I made my introduction to books early on in life. They widen your horizon, and prepare you to face the world better. And, when people donate books to underprivileged children, it makes a world of difference to them, and is a great support in such kids' journey to emancipation.”

Even books that cannot be used will get a fresh lease of life during the initiative — they will be recycled into notebooks. “Being a writer for children, and a teacher, I feel this pro-active venture is a worthy complement to mainstream national efforts by the Government to educate underprivileged children. A crowning celebration of Teachers Day,” says Shreekumar Varma.

Many filmmakers such as Mysskin and Vasanth have, for long, publicly spoken about the role of books in their career. While Mysskin says he owes his awareness to his job at Landmark bookstore where he read about Kurosawa, director Vasanth recalls: “I grew up in children's clubs, and used to run a library at my Alwarpet home even in Class VII. Whatever I know is from books, a trait I picked up from my mother. A reason why libraries are a favourite spot. Even now, whenever I visit a new city, I check out the libraries there. I am thrilled about this initiative to donate books.”

Habit of reading

Alarmel Valli, Bharatanatyam dancer, has been a self-confessed bookworm even as a kid. “Even when I went out for dinner, I would carry a book. Literature is the key to opening up the inner self, unlocks the sources of imagination and allows them to dream. Money is here, gone tomorrow. The only true wealth is reading and education. There is nothing better than gifting a book to a child.”

There's no better time than childhood than to get into a habit. As Sivasankari, writer and activist observes. “A book drive such as this is important because it initiates children into the reading habit at a young age. If not, it's very difficult to cultivate later. Books are teachers at home. The most beautiful thing is that books can teach you when you're lying down or eating or doing anything else. And they're the perfect companion — you can pick up a book, and not feel alone anymore.”

As Shrinivas, singer says: “This is the least that we can do — helping these kids read and learn. Books are the best way we can open their minds to the different beautiful aspects of the world.”

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