Education Plus

Teachers as readers

Literature in most Indian schools is introduced only in the upper grades, and is often taught in ways that don’t connect the readers meaningfully with the texts. Oral and performative traditions of storytelling are slowly fading out from the daily lives of urban, nuclear families; while habits of wide reading have not yet been established in many Indian contexts. Although this general scenario holds across social classes, the situation is somewhat worse for children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who lack access to good literature. Ideally, schools and teachers could take up the task of helping all children to access and engage with literature from a young age.

But how well are schools and teachers qualified to play this role? If we look around, we will find that most teachers are not consistent readers themselves. For many, the power, beauty and magic of literature has not touched their lives. Teachers are overburdened with a variety of tasks, and the concept of reading for pleasure and broadening one’s imagination is alien to the prevalent culture in most school environments.

While conceptualising Kathavana 2015, University faculty and staff at Azim Premji Foundation decided to address this problem by adopting the theme of ‘Teachers as Readers’ for the festival. Kathavana, the annual children’s literature festival launched in 2012, is co-hosted by Azim Premji University and the Karnataka State Institute of the Foundation. This bilingual festival brings together children, storytellers, publishers, teachers, academics and other educators each year, to celebrate and explore the world of children's literature. Kathavana has been deliberately focusing on reaching out to children and teachers in government or low-fee private schools, and on including Kannada apart from English in its proceedings.

The Kathavana team realised the importance of developing teachers as readers from hosting earlier years of the festival. Team members noticed that even well-planned workshops for teachers on children’s literature and how to use it in classrooms, remained theoretical bits of knowledge that lay outside of the teachers’ own lived realities and experiences. Therefore, this year, the team has designed a 6-8 month-long engagement with teachers. This engagement formally began at the recently concluded festival, at which time, a small group of pre-selected, committed teachers will come together to explore literature and its nuances. They, along with Kathavana facilitators, will continue to meet once a month for half-a-day over the next six months, to read and discuss short pieces of Kannada or English literature. The intent is to spark the joy of reading in teachers and to increase their knowledge and skills related to ways of engaging meaningfully with literature.

The hope of the team is that the ‘Teachers as Readers’ initiative will make a big difference to creating long-lasting and self-sustaining shifts in teacher attitudes towards reading, which, hopefully, will eventually impact a large number of children.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 3:44:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/teachers-as-readers/article7645824.ece

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