The Mobile Outreach Program (MOP) is one of Bookworm’s important programs that take the library experience to children who have no access to library resources in their community. Children who access MOP are mostly first generation school goers between the ages 3 to 13 years. Through this program we try to foster a relationship with books and that includes getting to know the reader, the act of reading and that of expression in writing, art or performance, a reading habit among children. Evidence from the ground suggests that reading is a negative engagement task for most children, made even harder with gaps between home and school language and poor literacy teaching. Evidence also suggests that story books are a very powerful way to reinforce positive experiences with books and strengthen literacy skills. With a specific choice of MOP sites, where children do not have access to story books, Bookworm, through this program gives children the chance of free, open access every week and the space to talk about book choice, understanding from the story and also listen to a read aloud and engage in different craft and writing activities.
One of the activities is journal writing. In this activity, usually positioned at the start of the library time, children form a circle and then settle down to think about recording some thought/ feeling in a journal. Here, we encourage children to write about themselves, what they feel or how they spend their time. As some children feel inhibited to interact orally, this journal writing enables children to write about the feelings they want to convey. We do not give them any prior instruction on what they have to write and also ensure that there is not stress on spelling, punctuation and sentence formation. What we appear to want is them to record their thoughts. They write what they feel about their family, what happened at their homes, tuition classes and also about the library class.
Initially children are startled by this request, free writing, their own thoughts, despite spelling. But it takes a few minutes and utmost confidence on the goal to arrive at a time when everyone in the room is writing. It is highly advised that the adults in the room also write a journal entry at this point to reinforce the objective of a shared writing practice.
Some of the journals entries written by the children from the Chimbel MOP are given below:
13th August 2015
Today I am very happy to be in the library. Library is good for children and the teachers are good. I am also happy because today is my mother’s birthday and I told her, “Mamma today is your birthday” and wished her. My mamma said, “Thank you, because you remembered my birthday”. I like the library and my teachers very much. I love my library.
20th August 2015
Today my mother made cake and cupcakes in the new oven. Today my friend came to school and she had got very high fever so she went back home. I am feeling very bad because she missed her computer classes.
30th October 2015
Today I am very happy because today I am free from exams but I am little bit sad because today is Miss Prerna’s last day in our library. See how different I am; sometimes happy, sometimes sad. In School today we had history paper and morning I was very very afraid because history is a hard subject. If I fail in history all these words crawling in my head. But while answering the paper was very easy. Then I came home. At home my nana, nani and cousins were asking me, “how I answered my paper”. I told them clearly, “very easy”. Then all laughed at me. That time I was very angry. I said oof! And then controlled my anger. Then sat down under the tree and absorbed the cool wind and listened to the chirping of birds very silently. Then I went for tuitions and there besides studying we all make fun of each other.
In the library when I was reading a book, my friend Tasmin asked me difficult word and I told her. Than teacher looked at me and hold my mouth. She did not knew that I had a dentil problem. Then I told miss after that she felt so sorry and said sorry to me. My tooth was paining very badly. I could not open my mouth. And I cannot speak. See I told you first only; sometime sad and sometime happy. Similar like “Kabhi Khusi Kabhi Gum”. I hope you all were interested in my journal. Bye meet you later.
Today after school I came home, had bath and then I had my lunch. Later I went for my tuitions and there I played a lot and also danced with my other friends. Because of which tuition teacher’s father shouted at me and by this time tuitions got over. After my tuitions I came to the library and played a game of words and now I am writing my journal
24th September 2015
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Tomorrow is Eid and I will invite all my friends for Eid. And I will also call Sujata miss and Melcom sir and all the teachers who teach me, I will invite all of them. Thinking this I looked at Sir but Sir was explaining something to Saniya. I think like ma’am sir writes journal. I think no because Sir is not interested in this. And Anjum is copying others. And who knows what is going on in everybody’s mind (but still I am sorry). Happy Eid to one and all.
1st October 2015
Today I am very happy because I made a circle with small children in library. But I am little bit sad as when we were writing our journals lights went off and it was also raining outside. I came to the library thinking about the story but because of no lights story was not read today. I hope when we come next time I will get to listen to a story in library.
I like 12th September because it my birthday. I am very happy as I got many gifts on my birthday. I was happy in school as I got a prize for participating in story telling competition as it made my day.
Today I went for my tuitions and suddenly there came a foreigner. We all introduced ourselves to the foreigner by telling our names. We laughed a lot and had great fun. We enjoyed a lot.
12th September 2015
Today is Saturday and I like to go to the library school. There are many books to read and I like to play with other children. There are five teachers in our library. Before library school I was feeling very bored. Though I was late to the library, I was happy to attend it.
29th August 2015
Today I am very excited as I will be going at my granny’s place. There my uncle gives me ice-cream, chocolates and my granny cooks delicious food. I will play with my mother’s sister’s daughter who stays there. My uncle has his fruit shop there so I will get to eat lot of fruits. Today I will enjoy a lot.
5th September 2015
Today my brother told me how they celebrated their teacher’s day. Even I celebrated teacher’s day with my teachers which I cannot tell in words. Today I had a great day. HAPPY TEACHERS DAY. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
1st October 2015
Today I felt good. In school, there were three English periods and I like English very much. When there are two or three periods of English I feel very happy as like English very much. Yesterday it was holiday and therefore I feeling good. Today my day went good as lot of homework is not given and only tables are given from 2 to 15.
After children spend time writing in their journals we ask anyone who wants to share to do so. It is interesting that many children enjoy the act of reading aloud what they have written and in the process also strengthen their reading and fluency while sharing something of themselves. There continue to be children who keep their journals private and that must be respected. It is strongly advised that the adult in the circle also shares his/her journal entry and we are reminded by the children that they are constantly watching us. This is beautifully evident in Muskan’s journal entry of September, 24.
What journal writing does for children is firstly enable a space for individual voices. It goes against a culture of silence and disempowers and enables young children to feel free to write what they think and feel in a space of non – judgment. It does all the more commonly understood skill strengthening like improve writing skills because it frees children to communicate more effectively in the absence of writing rules. When we started with this activity about 10 months ago we did not focus on writing skills like grammar or spelling. While writing, children ask us how to write the sentence, ask for spellings, auto- correct when reading back their own work and slowly shape their writing. As they want us to read their journals with pride, they take responsibility to write in an understandable way.
As the program grows, we hope to introduce variations of the journal writing process and learn more about literacy engagement and our children in the library through this medium.