Written by Neeraj N
2 Days with Bookworm: Observing LIS and MOP and
When I began working with children, 3 years back, I read Gijubhai Badheka’s book ‘Divaswapna’. In the book he writes about the experiments he has done in a classroom of a government school and immensely stresses on the power of storytelling as it helped him bond with the children and in opening up a lively space for learning.
Stories have shaped my life. And it continues to.
Stories have brought me close to books and comics and libraries which have it and I was always aware of its power and necessity in the classroom. But it was always haphazard in my mind about using the stories to its maximum capacity. I was in a state of jumble about crafting a web around stories to enhance literacy, to infuse love of reading, to explore emotions and find peace through a story. Many thoughts criss-crossed my mind but none emitted light. My children cried for more stories but I just didn’t want it to be plain storytelling. I wanted to explore and open the world that stories bring with them.
This brought me to the ‘Library Educators Course’ designed and beautifully run by ‘Bookworm’. The grand design of the course enriched my ideas on reading, books and library and renewed my love of children’s books. It gave me a sense of direction, widened my narrow thoughts about libraries and sharpened my understanding of the interlaced work with books and children.
But I craved to see how Bookworm does it with children. So I asked Sujata Noronha if I could be an observer for a day or two in Bookworm’s regular work in the schools and communities and she gave me a green signal.
14th July 2017
Decent private school. Around 18 June Road, Goa.
I am with Shraddha and her partner (both from Bookworm) in class 4.
Boys and girls jumped and shouted in joy as she entered the classroom with the box of books. I was curious what’s going to happen next. The energy in the classroom: explosive.
A session began with a small activity and then book talk by children. I was impressed by the number of hands up in the air to come forward and tell about the books they have issued last week. A few games followed and the books were returned in parallel. Shraddha started having a dialogue with the kids in an effort to set a context for the todays read-aloud. Then she shows the book she’s going to read to them. And the children’s jaws dropped in awe.
Such is the beauty of a children’s book. She read ‘Dancing on walls’ written by Shamim Padamsee and illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy. I folded the adult-me and unfolded the child in me. My jaw dropped too. Children in the last benches jumped up and widened their eyes to see the pictures clearly. The participation of the children in the story was very high. I remember Shraddha asked if we could swim in the moon. I began wondering. Science and facts spring up in my mind. Then a child shouted ‘No, because there’s no water in the moon.’ I was stunned by sheer logic. Children, they always startle me. Anyway the point is that the storytelling and the books had an effect on the children. They were falling in love with the stories and books and swimming real deep in it. The story ended and was followed with a post reading session that included writing and comprehension.
New books were laid to be issued and as if they were not books but candies, children came running to select and take home.
Most children participated in the class and asked many questions. They were encouraged to speak in whatever language they are comfortable and not just the medium of school or class. I could see that they are already in love with books.
However I felt that due to stiff timing limitations, the class has been a little stuffed. So many things happened in the session one after another. A little more time and some space to breathe (as the class was small and full of tables and benches and children) would make it even better.
In class 1. I am with Deepali and her partner (both from Bookworm). The energy: do I really have to say. It’s class 1. Crazy.
First thing that popped about this class is that Deepali speaks in Marathi and most kids spoke in Marathi in the class. And that was amazing. The structure of the session was similar. But Deepali’s energy and hold was admirable. She’d read ‘Walking through the Jungle’ by Julie Lacome. The props, the stuffed toys she’d used during the story excited me. Imagine what it would have done to the children. When the huge crocodile came I too jumped. The story was followed by the fun colouring session and after the children issued new set of books.
The session was ended. Children still made animal sounds. They were in the hangover of the story.
In schools, however, because of the high number of children and the spread of the classroom, children are sometimes not close to the book and that creates up and down in the attention to details. But anyway children were enjoying it and that is good. Very good.
Evening. In Cacra. I am with Stephie and Terence. Small room. Books. Coloured walls. Songs on paper. And drawings. Slowly children start coming. What I love about the MOP is that nobody asks children to come. They come if they like or want to.
Stephie was reading ‘Walking through the Jungle’ to small children. So I joined Terence and his group of children, slightly elder to Stephie’s kids. We moved to the temple with the kids and Terence read ‘Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People’ written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Initially I was skeptical about poetry session but later on, as children expressed their own depth of feeling and experience of the poem that Terence had read, I was brought back to my senses. I should never underestimate children. Something that I do sometimes.
In MOP, children are so close to the storyteller and the book, opening up the possibility of touching the pictures in the book and sailing with the flow of story. Children actually came close and close to the book Terence was holding and snatching the words out of it and again stunning me with the details they could see and I can’t.
The poems Terence had chosen were Neruda’s poems with ‘Sea’ at the centre of it. Now Cacra is located on the sea shore. Nothing could be better than that. The Planning was superb. Terence then took children to the beach and again recited the poem and asked the children to draw the imagery that formed in their minds. And we were on the beach with sun setting down into the sea. Poetry and nature were flirting with each other. And we were welcomed to see it.
Cacra’s session was simply beautiful and it seeped into me. I was again startled by the imagery children have expressed on white sheets. The poem and Neruda’s ghost was in them.
Then we all played with the children on the beach. We ran. We laughed.
15th July 2017
In a government school. Long ride to reach there. The beauty of the surrounding was just magnetic.
Class-5. I am with Flavia and her partner (both from Bookworm). Session had similar structure. Children spoke many languages here. Flavia read ‘Mai And Her Friend’ by Durgabai Vyam. Now Durgabai’s pictures always draw me close. And I guess it does the same to children. The participation of children was a little limited. But I guess in schools, like I’d written before, due to the space of the classroom, some children are often distracted. There are windows and it was raining and thus the beauty and sound of the nature didn’t miss catching attention of the children. Yesterday’s private school sadly has limited connection with the outside world.
But when it comes to the love of books and taking them, children are equally crazy interested.
Class-6. Stephie read ‘Frog Goes Fishing’. I was quite confused about it because the story is really short and might be more entertaining for tender classes.
Now, Stephie has a unique style and confidence of her own. She’s spontaneous and real good with her body. Her strong voice and movements are like a hook and I and children both were like fishes, just hooked on to her performance. Her class was, to my surprise, quite smooth. I don’t know how she did or how things were like they were.
Another good thing about these sessions are that it opens up avenues for meaningful dialogue between children-teacher and children-children.
The session ended and Stephie introduced me to the children and asked them to guess my profession. Range of answered were shot at me. Some said artist, which made me happy. But when I said I am a teacher they were really disappointed.
While returning back we had amazing local food in the small place. The owner actually took us to his home and served the home cooked food.
Evening. In Chimbel. A densely packed Muslim community. I am with Krystal and Kabita. No Konkani. No Marathi. Hindi speaking kids. Again, small room. Colourful walls. Sheets on wall with children’s work.
In two groups, children divided. Krystal read ‘A Colour of his Own’ by Leo Lionni. I love Leo’s stories and the way he plays with big, bright visuals and vibrant colours. The kids just can’t keep their fingers to themselves. They were poking the animals in the book. Working in the community has this enormous benefit of forming a relationship between the child and the book. Denise von Stockar’s book as an object theory just fits in here. If you let loose, the kids would chew the books too.
Kabita read ‘Dancing on Walls’. I particularly liked her post activity in which she gave black papers and chalks to the children on which they can actually get a feel of making Warli like stuff.
The session ended.
My 2-day experience with Bookworm was fascinating. There was so much learning. I actually felt like I am stealing their work, something that has evolved over years and years of hard work, commitment and passion.
While coming back, I was filling these bits of learning into the empty spaces I had between the curves of my ideas. I am trying to make the picture clear so I could max out my library class.
Thank you Bookworm for allowing me in the classes and communities you work with. The greatest learning of this year in my life is because of LEC and Bookworm.