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Mobile Outreach Program
“Teacher, I’ll read to you!”
February 28, 2014
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A busy Wednesday. Many stories already; not all from a storybook, a number from the kids in Bookworm’s LiS classes.

More stories are to come. Today is Tonca MOP.

The space that we usually use has been taken over for Mahashivratri celebrations the next day. A warning bell goes off in my head immediately; ‘Will there be kids at MOP today?!”

As the van pulls up, I see a couple of kids coming running out of the lanes, and I’m a bit pacified. We set up and all around, kids were settled in with their books. Some were going through graded readers and anticipating the worksheets that were going to be given to them, the little ones were going through board books pointing at pictures and talking amongst themselves, some were still picking books out of the box.

Sanjana came in a little later. She returned the book she’d taken home and had picked a book to read. She sat beside me and asked; ‘Teacher main padoon? (Teacher, shall I read?)’ I said, ‘Zaroor! (Certainly!)’

The book she had chosen was Balu’s Basket; a Tulika book that tells the story of a boy who finds a basked on his way home from school; and then proceeds to use it in many different situations to ‘help save the day’. At the end of the day, he ends up with a basket of surprises for himself. It’s a simple story with colourful illustrations that have a number of details tucked into them.

She looked at the cover of the book, wondering whether to read in Roman script or Devnagiri. She looked at me, anticipating a response to her yet unspoken query. I didn’t respond immediately, and she then asked. I chose to ask her what she preferred; and she told me that she could manage a little bit of Hindi, and English was harder for her.

‘Theek hai!’ She chose to read in Hindi, and I followed her in English. She opened the first page, and began to read….mid-sentence she looked at me and I followed her gaze to her finger and helped her out with a word. Then she continued.

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When she was done reading, she explained to me what she had read. Then I read to her in English. This was a pattern we followed for the rest of the book.

2014-02-26 17.00.19A couple of pages later, she turned the page. Silence followed. I asked her ‘Kya hua?” She excitedly told me ‘Teacher, maine aaj yeh khaya! (Teacher, today I ate this!)”; she said pointing to the illustration of a fruit seller who had put wedges of cut watermelon on display. She then told me the Kannada word for watermelon, that I cannot recall.

2014-02-26 17.01.38We carried on with our reading. By now, she’d gotten the pattern of the book and had taken to telling me what was happening and what reward Balu was given for his kind assistance only by looking at the illustrations. But this would not suffice! ‘Sanjanaaa….’; and she would proceed to read with me helping along the way.

When the book was through, I quietly asked her what she would do if she were to find a basket on the street. She had a number of responses. They included:

–          I would shout loudly and ask if the basket belonged to anyone.

–          I would bring it home and ask if anyone needed a basket.

–          I would bring it home and give it to my Mother.

–          I would put many flowers in it.

–          When we played games, I would use it to put things.

And lastly, she explained a process of soaking and drying masoor dal for a sweet made at festival times. The basket was to be used for the draining part of this process.

A simple book. A quiet time. A little world that rotated around a storybook. And happiness for both readers.

By the time we were through, we had a little cohort who were ready to ‘Make a circle!’

For today, this reading time is another memory I will add to my basket of stories.

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