During the first pandemic lockdown in March, Zomato employee Jalish Ansari lost his job. While many fellow migrants had returned to their native villages, he decided to stay in Delhi and look for other employment. Going back to his village in Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, was not an option — it would have meant compromising his daughters’ education. Heena, who studies in DPS, Gurugram, and Sana in Summer Fields School, Kailash Colony (both in standard six), were anxious too, as schools were closed and online classes had just begun. Amidst this, they had one escape: The Community Library Project (TCLP), which offered them access to free books, including Heena’s favourite Chacha Chaudhary comics and Munshi Premchand’s stories.
Books for all
Launched by author Mridula Koshy in 2014, TCLP has reached over 4,000 children from underprivileged backgrounds through its four free libraries in Delhi and Gurgaon.Pre-Covid, they could go in and choose books, and in-house teachers and volunteers, who devote their time, would guide them in reading. In a quick turnaround, in April, they went online with ‘Duniya Sabki’, a remote library with story and picture books. Zoya Chadha, who handles the segment, says that now, books are selected by the teachers. “We take into account the child’s age and preferences before designing the curriculum. We sometime deliver books, and conduct book readings via Zoom. We record stories and we share it through WhatsApp as well,” she explains.
With Christmas around the corner, TCLP is tapping into the season of giving by hosting a Free Library Festival. Sign up for workshops by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan, Michael Creighton and Yogesh Maitreya. A concert segment features Varun Grover, Rahul Ram and The Ska Vengers. And a charity auction includes a tussar silk sari from Vidya Balan and a set of signed books by Gulzar. Proceeds will go towards building online and offline infrastructure to expand their operations.
- The Rotary Club of Madras Next Gen is organising a Charity Bake Sale at Black Orchid, Chamiers Road, on December 19 and 20.
- Proceeds will go towards the Build a Library project.
- The club has created seven libraries across various government schools in the city and are targeting nine more by mid-2021.
- Visitors can also donate books.
Read like a pro
The rich collection of books, mostly in Hindi and Urdu, are donated by both individuals and organisations. This has helped TCLP conduct their Hindi Reading Fluency programme, an initiative started in 2016 to help students learn how to read independently and fluently. They can practice with books of their choice and guidance from a reading specialist. “Kids need to read at least 100 books when in school to get comfortable with reading. This also makes them think,” explains Koshy, adding, “The idea is to ensure that children start to enjoy reading.”
Prachi Grover, who handles the programme, says there are many students who come believing that they cannot read. “Our aim is to provide them with books, time to read them and an environment where they can read without fear,” she says. The 300 students who graduated from the six-week long programme in 2019-20 collectively read more than 23,600 books (many of them short stories and picture books). Since then, they have continued to consume books at a faster pace than they did earlier. During the pandemic, they added 50 new readers to the fold. And their next project? “Start an English Fluency Programme,” concludes Koshy.
Details of the Free Library Festival, which takes place on December 19 and 20, are on thecommunitylibraryproject.org.