One hundred meetings old, the Readers’ Forum at Madura College inspires students to take up reading

The Harvey Library of the Madura College is unusually buzzing with youngsters. B. Sara Begum, introduces ‘Kalagakarar Einstein’ to the gathering. She reads passages from the book. It is a beautiful narration that is followed by interaction between her and the listeners.

This is the Readers’ Forum in action. “The overwhelming response from the students, not only from our college but also from outside, has propelled us to make the Readers’ Forum meetings a regular exercise,” says the Principal of Madura College, R.Murali. He firmly believes that the reading habit of the students is noton the decline.

The Forum has recently had its 100th meeting. In times when very little time is given over to leisure reading, this is good news. In a world exploding with knowledge where students are constantly chasing academic excellence, creating a forum for readers is rare.

Hema, the college librarian says “At a time when people are only seeking data and information, there is no place for fiction or long narratives. I sometimes find it a suffocating situation. But the forum has tempted more people to get back to reading. They say it feeds them with fresh ideas,” she says.

It was the 26/11 incident that propelled a group of youngsters to start a readers’ forum, basically to share information and further thoughts. It began at the Department of Philosophy and gradually rose to become an 80-member group. “More than 20 per cent of our members are outsiders. Initially, only Madura College students were members. We then invited reviewers from outside to introduce books to our members. The reviewers went on to become members. Now, the forum has many teachers too as its members,” A. Rabeek Raja, coordinator. “At the end of every session, we make it a point to read some interesting article from a literary journal.”

The group meets on Fridays. Over a 100 books have been reviewed in these meetings. “We wanted to move beyond academics,” says A.Chellamani, a PG student of Philosophy, “and the readers’ meetings help us de-stress. He reviewed the book Vaadivaasal.

“The group introduced me to new vistas in reading. My knowledge of jallikattu was limited till I read this book. But now I am aware of the cultural implications and nuances of this sport. I hope my friends in the forum found my review useful,” he says. UG Chemistry student Sara Begum says the reading sessions rejuvenate her and give her confidence.

Taking a cue from this forum, the Madurai Kamaraj University has also started its own club. It circulates information about the book to be reviewed a week in advance to help them prepare for the session. It has also triggered young minds to write. For instance, Baba Bakrudeen, an undergraduate physics student launched his book Bodhi Dharmar in one of the sessions.

What the students say:

D. Sivaganesh, Student: It helps me excel in academics. I feel that my perception of subject has changed. I feel more liberated and independent.

S. Saravanan, marketing professional and part-time student: Now, I feel socially more responsible. Attending the session have improved my conversational skills.