Twelve-year-old Shahnawaz Nadaf is a restless boy. He runs around the small room in Indiranagar, Chimbel which doubles up as the Bookworm Children’s Library pinching and pushing other children.
But that is only until the Bookworm resource persons begin the musical circle. Once the singing and the movement begins, Shahnawaz becomes calmer. The restless boy is at peace as some form of organized activity has begun.
Shahnawaz is one of at least 60-70 children from the area who regularly frequent the Bookworm Chimbel library, part of the Panjim library’s dynamic mobile outreach programme (MOP).
Bookworm began its MOP in Chimbel in the compound of the local chapel some eight years ago. Sujata Noronha, founder, Bookworm recalls how the Chimbel MOP consistently attracted 40 children on an average for each weekly session. However, the open-air nature of the venue brought all activity to an abrupt halt come the Goa monsoons.
This prompted Bookworm to shift to a one-room rented space inside Indiranagar some three years back and it has remained in this format ever since.
As I walked with the three Bookworm resource persons on a warm, Tuesday afternoon through the congested bylanes of Indiranagar, one experienced a Pied Piper moment. Hordes of little children ran behind us excitedly. They could barely contain their excitement, even as the Bookworm team opened the library door.
Once inside, the resource team comprising Gayatri Borkar, a college student, Stephie Madurai and P Leeja, a trained librarian get down to work. The children return their borrowed books, by writing the name of the book on their individual cards. They are asked questions about the book and a star is marked against their names if they seem to have read the book.
Soon, Gayatri starts the musical circle, where the children sing songs and settle down. Later, two teams are formed and the children are asked to assist the team leader write down 15 names of fruits and vegetables respectively without using the alphabet ‘G’. The task is completed with commendable alacrity right down to correct spellings. The team leader is asked to read out the entire list complete with spellings. Relevant marks are allotted to the teams. Alfiya Bhagewadi (13) a Class VI student says, “I love this game, as it tests our spelling skills.”
Later, Gayatri engages the children in another game, where a child has to come and write a word on the blackboard and the others have to guess what that word means to him/her. While most children write down a particular colour, Shahnawaz, the prankster prefers to write the word ‘cat’ on the board. His customary nonchalance quickly turns into an embarrassed grin, when one of his close buddies blurts out that the cat is indeed Shahnawaz’s favorite pet.
According to Sujata, the idea of MOP was born out of the need to take good books to the doorsteps of children who could not access a library. “We chose Indiranagar because of the high density of population and the challenge of multiple home languages and a struggle with school literacy,” says Sujata.
Today, Bookworm’s MOP at Chimbel which began as a once a week activity has become a three-times a week activity.
The uniqueness of Bookworm’s MOP stems from the fact that it is open access and the children can come and go as they want. Says Sujata, “The very fact that children come back regularly, have a high interest despite struggling literacy levels and respect, admire and have close relationships with the Bookworm team is testament to the fact that something important is happening in their reading lives.”
Recently, the Chimbel children organized a surprise Teacher’s Day celebration for their Bookworm mentors complete with decorations, dancing, disco lights, a spoof, story reading, songs and cake and snacks. And if that is not all, one of the older children from the early Chimbel MOP sessions actually wants to become a school Librarian.