Blog post by our intern Karuna
Chetna, Suhani and I set up a mini book fair of sorts for the parents and children of the Gurukul Academy School in Ponda.
We had chosen to sell Indian publishers only, and among them were Bookworm Tulika, A & A, Katha, Jyotsna Prakshan, Pratham Books, Ekalavya and many more. We displayed our books on the steel tables provided for us, hoping to sell perhaps twenty books at the most, but were pleasantly surprised by the response of parents and children to the books. What began as a few tentative sniffs in our direction, where books were picked and examined hesitantly soon transposed into a little cluster of parents eager to find out what they could choose and buy for their children .Even the school staff wandered by dipping into, and sharing the books with each other. Many of these parents had came with their little three and four years olds in tow, so for us it was perfect setting to stress the need to develop early reading habits.
Chetna and I counseled, spouted and prevailed upon them in our most persuasive tones and Suhani too bolstered sales by vigorously vouching for the all books she had enjoyed reading.
As their curiosity was piqued, they began exploring the books with a lot more care and eagerness. Most were very unsure of the kinds of books to pick up for their children. Initially, many admonished their children not to touch the books at all, one woman related to her friend in exasperated tones how her son gets completely absorbed by the illustrations and he simply cannot be pulled away ,another had tears in her eyes when she mentioned how much she wanted for her daughter to read, but simply had no time to give because of long working hours and running a household . Others wanted to look at only moral stories and most wanted books that were related to school and homework.
Such responses are revealing of a lack of spontaneity perhaps in simply enjoying a story book for sheer pleasure and also of the lack of leisure in many people’s lives in which they can have quality reading time with their children . It also shows how much more libraries and those who work with children’s books have to do to reach out to allow people to become more comfortable with a variety of books. However this quality of interaction and the informal setting seemed to allow such a process to emerge, even in those few hours we were there.
So Like “travelling salesmen” we go knocking on doors not just to sell our wares but our passion for books.
At this book fair, the objective was more than just selling the books, it was about helping people – parents of potential readers come alive to the possibility of books.