Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pratham - Giving away a billion books

Last summer, I  met a government school teacher,  Vasanthi  MA  B. Ed who works at a rural school in  Tiruvannamalai district of Tamilnadu.  Out of curiosity to know about rural India, I asked her how the school functions, what the government doles out  and how the rural children took to the concept of learning,  reading and  schooling.

 She said many rural parents were not aware of the benefits of schooling and they were not supportive to the idea of their children getting schooled.  Instead they preferred their children work in the farm fields or help them to  do  jobs to augment their  income. A few parents sent them because of the mid-day meal scheme.  But there were many children who showed interest to understand, read and write especially their eyes lit up when they saw colored picture books like storybooks and color pencils. She spoke about a student in particular who was inquisitive and thirsted to know more. She would  write and answer questions just by grasping what is done in the class(without any written notes that is) .  She is a class 5 student who showed interest in reading news papers, story books  and was always curious to know more and she tried to pick up English with the help of reading those story books.

When I saw the TEDx  talks of Rohini Nilekani, This unknown child whom I heard of an year ago,  flashed before me. Was wondering what if ever she gets to lay her hand on more  story books. To nurture her reading habit , isn’t it necessary for her to have access to books especially story books?

I also realized how lucky i was to have had a mom and dad who inspired,motivated and encouraged me into reading books and newspapers.  My Mom, a voracious reader was my inspiration to read books. I have seen her reading books and novels endlessly. My dad would take me to all the book exhibitions of IBH, Navkarnataka, book stores like Higginbothams, Gangarams, Sapna and we were also members of the City central Library and a private library closer home which had a good collection of books.  Not many children could be lucky as I was. Certainly not that little girl who flashed before me.  

 Not just this girl, there could be many more such underprivileged children who enjoy reading and have no access to books.  If only, NGO’s like Pratham could reach every child in the nook and corner of India, we could visualize an India where every child who wants to read has a book in hand. Nothing can be heartwarming than seeing a  child holding a story book in hand.  This could lead to a literate India.

  Pratham  has taken a nation wide campaign  towards making a nation where every child reads and enjoys reading. They call it the” Read India movement”. They create story books, publish them , sell them and spread their reach across the length and breadth of India so that they can find a story book in the hands of a young child who wants  to read.  Their vision is to see “ A book in every child’s hand” and democratize the joy of reading.  What's more the quality of books  are good and affordable. Their mission is to ensure "Every child in school and Learning well". The NGO was founded with the belief that education is the fundamental right of every child and no child should be deprived this basic right simply because they have no access or resources to realize their dream.

For more information on  their mission, vision and work listen to Rohini Nilekani  on “Giving away a billion books"

She is the founder and chairperson of   Pratham  (www.pratham.org)

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

This  post in response to " Indilblogger's Idea caravan"


  1. Yes - the facilities at rural schools and even small town schools are abysmal. Although I think giving them a few computers and giving an internet connection may be even more effective than giving books.

    The talent and motivation in rural students is amazing. These days I think every family tries to educate the children - perhaps in some backward areas girls are not encouraged, but one of the nice things socially about India is the universal keenness to educate the next generation.

    1. Computers and internet are a nice thought Ramesh. But the powercuts in rural areas around 14-16 hours. will it work? these books i thought was a nice idea because they are affordable at rs2/book. The colors and pictures could motivate a child to read was what i thought.

      YEs, most families try to educate their children even in rural areas. My maid sends her son to a boarding school run for the underpriveleged. Though it is funded by NRI's of late she paid 8000/year apart from cost of books, uniforms and 2 pair of shoes. When i told her since it is a funded school she should'nt be paying. The management i think is looting the money. why should there be a second pair of shoes. Won't one suffice? She said she is scared to ask the management since they might take her son to task. What i am saying is this woman wants her son to be educated despite her financial trouble in a good school.

  2. Very interesting. I like the idea of “a book in every child’s hand”. Please let me know where I can send a small contribution to buy books.

    Hope one of these days it will turn into “a tablet/iPad in every child’s hand”. Many books can be downloaded and children can read. It also will eliminate children carrying a heavy backpack to school. I have witnessed some backpacks children carry to school is more heavier than their own weight. (I know they give free laptop. What I mean is doing away with carrying books to school.)

    1. That's a nice gesture SG. In the US, pratham has a office at Houston. Check out more details at www.prathamusa.org.

      That's a nice thought tablet/ipad. why should the rural children be left out. but don't you think that the maintenance of these gadgets are also expensive. Moreover, the electronic gadgets get upgraded periodically. That is one disadvantage with electronic products i felt. What is your thought?

      I agree with the bookload and back packs. Some schools have locker facilities where they can keep the books. Actually, many schools are concerned like you. But here let me tell you. The children are the culprits in most cases. i have seen children carrying all the books. They never carry according to the timetable. But then the backpacks lead to a lot of ergonomic problems. Agree with you.

  3. Children are motivated...and extremely sharp in the rural areas...but we are not sensitive to their learning styles...nor are we looking at how job opportunities need to diversify in order to accommodate this huge conversion. Education in our country appears to gearing all kids towards a job in IT...which is pretty abysmal...we need to encourage more organic vocations...and see how it can become sustainable....

    maybe a little off from your blog topic...but just wanted to point this out

    1. The rate at which we are facing electronic garbage, environmental degradation, food shortage. This organic vocation has been on my mind for some time.

      So agree with you with IT Craze in education. It is heartening to read in TOI students edition that many children want to take up farming and humanities. Hope that happens. But i think ultimately everything will be linked to IT. I think this IT sector is here to stay. though i would love to go back but i don't want to be left out either:)

  4. This is such a fabulous initiative by Rohini and Pratham Books. Books are the gateways to learning, they open up a world of imagination... A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then—click—a world opens” and this is so true for us. May this click happens for the kids too!
    May her tribe increase.:)

    1. That's a beautiful quote shilpa:)

      Yes, we need more Rohinis and prathams.