“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!” — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943
We have a new space at Bethesda Life Centre. The room is open and spacious and devoid of furniture. No chairs, no benches, no tables; just the four walls and huge open windows. We sit on the floor in a circle for our sessions, cross-legged and knee to knee; the boys often with their arms slung over the other’s shoulder. As Shraddha starts reading the story aloud, the circle slowly disintegrates as the boys unknowingly inch closer and closer to the book, their eyes roving over each picture.
About a month ago, for the Christmas season, we read aloud the book ‘The Birthday Present’, which reflects the idea of ‘giving’. The boys, being in a ‘home for boys’ set up, are used to ‘receiving’ gifts from various sources during this season. The idea of giving was thus something different for them. Following this story, the boys each chose a name out of a bag of lots, and carefully painted a stone for the name chosen.
Along with the painted stone, they wrote one or two simple words for each person. The vocabulary of these children is limited and a struggle, but the words they came up with were simple and beautiful. ‘Strong’ said one, ‘Loved’ said another.
It has been two years now since Bookworm started sessions in this space. The boys are growing in thought and stature. We have had 3 older boys leave as they were shifted to a home for older boys, while 4 younger ones have joined the group. Over time, we have seen marked changes in their ability to express themselves, sustained eagerness to borrow books and a genuine anticipation and desire to be part of each session.
Recently, we felt the need to revisit alphabets with the young ones again. It was only by taking each letter one by one, that we could begin to address the difficulties they have in recognizing the sounds made by each letter, the mixing up of b’s and d’s, and the struggles in thinking of words starting with each alphabet. The boys, however, are enjoying a return to this basic level, and letter by letter we hope to slowly build up their reading levels.
Each session at Bethesda Life Centre is planned to keep the interests and capabilities of the boys in mind. While we expect certain outcomes from each session, we have also come to expect unexpected thoughts and responses from each child. Each session is thus a learning and an experience on both sides.The boys are eager in their learnings, perseverant in their attitude and strong in their support to one another.