An NGO that works with girls from underprivileged homes is integrating a library with the curriculum to encourage an interest in reading and books.
Most of the girls are first-generation learners and the idea is to use the library as an interactive space rather than for them to “sit quietly and read by themselves”.
The NGO Ek Tara has come up with a new learning centre and space has been dedicated for the library where lessons in several languages are being held to make “coming back to school” an engaging and vibrant experience.
“We are using the library as an extension of the classroom and not as one reading space where children would have to browse unconnected reading material. Not all books will be academically loaded but there will be a co-relation between their text and the books in the library,” said Manjusmita Bagchi, associate director, Ek Tara.
The NGO has partnered with Delhi-based NGO Katha, who are providing the books as well as online training to teachers on how to use the books as part of everyday classroom teaching.
“It is important that we make the reading material relatable and contextual so that our children take to it more. Also, it has to be simple reading for them to be able to grasp,” said Bagchi.
Ten Ek Tara teachers have been trained and are using different ways to stoke the childrens’ interest amid a “learning loss” created by the pandemic.
“For many of them, whatever reading they are doing is in the centre and we have to encourage them. We use simple games like they clap when they identify a noun or draw out the characters of the book,” said Mitali Bose, the head of the learning centre.
The Ek Tara Learning Centre, a new space that was inaugurated at the end of last month, will enable these children to access modern learning resources.
The centre has over 20 classrooms, provisions for STEM and social studies labs and play zones.
“Due to the pandemic, families under our care and others in the communities suffered financial and social setbacks that will take years to reverse. There have been rising incidents of early marriage, domestic violence and child labour, underscoring for us the need to work more deeply with all stakeholders,” said Bagchi.
The NGO is using its space, activities and curriculum to help them come back to school, express themselves and build their confidence that has suffered a setback in the past one year.
“They have been cooped up within the confines of their homes and they need to come out, look forward and be willing to learn,” said a teacher.
The library and reading space will also be used for playing games, for debates and discussions and public speaking that will encourage them to think and question, a member of the NGO said.