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From Aldona to Bangalore – KathaVana experience…
September 23, 2014

Written by Flavia

I’ve been with Bookworm for quite a few months; I’ve helped out at Jumble Sales, I’ve attended a session of their Mobile Outreach Program, I’ve assisted and conducted their library sessions in classrooms in quite a few schools and I’ve assisted with their activities at a Fete and at a Conference. KathaVana would be the first time that I would be part of the Bookworm team conducting sessions outside Goa. Most of the other team members were pros at Bookworm activities – they had travelled to all parts of India with the Worm. I grew more apprehensive as the days flew past until it was time to leave Goa with the rest of the team.

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Day One at KathaVana was a Friday. I would have one Kannada-speaking volunteer to help translate my words to the school kids to whom I would read an English story. Then with the volunteer’s help, the kids and I would make pinwheels or bookmarks, depending on the story. Craft papers cut appropriately, pencils with erasers on one end, push-pins, bookmark accessories, colour pens, a sample pin-wheel, a sample book-mark, glue and scissors were kept ready.

One group of students entered the tent. They sat down, the teacher stood behind them. I started reading the story, ‘The Village Fair’. Blank faces turned animated as the volunteer did a great job translating. The pictures in the book brought the story to life. Soon the kids were able to understand a few words of English which appeared more than once in the story (also, because I realized I had to speak slowly and clearly). It was pinwheel time! By the time we had finished distributing the materials, many of the kids had already assembled their pinwheels – without any instructions – the sample pinwheel was help enough.

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The kids went to the next tent waving their pinwheels and another group entered. I would be reading Dr. Seuss’ ‘B is for Books’ to these kids and then we would make bookmarks. Again, the pictures in the book and the volunteer worked their magic on the kids. They eagerly formed groups so that bookmark accessories and glue could be shared. The teachers and some other adults looked on. None of the kids seemed to require any instructions (besides being asked to share material). Was this the magic of Dr. Seuss?

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By lunchtime, I had made bookmarks with 3 more groups of kids (some of the teachers made bookmarks too!). The tent always seemed full of kids – only their different uniforms told me that the groups were changing. There were also assorted adults around – other volunteers, teachers, who helped pass around material and replenish glue in the bowls. The interest and enthusiasm with which all the kids worked was amazing.

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By the end of the day, I had made pinwheels with one more group, and bookmarks with 3 more groups. Unfortunately our stock of pencils with erasers on one end was over and we would have to buy some more for the next day. As we cleared up at the end of the day, I noticed an adult waving a pinwheel, and some kids comparing bookmarks.

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Day Two, Saturday, was as eventful. Plenty of bookmarks and pinwheels were made and admired. Some kids who were part of the previous day’s sessions had returned to make more pinwheels and bookmarks. The magic continued.

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As we cleared up and repacked all our stuff for our trip back, I recalled the great time I had, the new friends I had made – kids and adults, and the important lesson I had learned. Language is just one of the myriad means of communication. The KathaVana experience will stay with me for a long time.

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