While the collection of books and the literature related activities grew at Bookworm, children in and around Panjim continued to access these opportunities. However, the vision was to include a more diverse group of children and we realized that the library was not being accessed by several communities. On probing, we faced the reality that while the communities aspired for their children to become well suited into literate forms, accessing a library was not a natural resource.
The Mobile Outreach Programme (MOP) was hence conceptualised in April 2011 to take “Bookworm” into community spaces reaching out to the children.
Children who access MOP are mostly first generation school goers between the ages 3 to 13. With few or no adults to read with them or to introduce the library to them, this was an essential cog in the wheel towards realizing the aspirations of the community and Bookworms’ aspiration of creating an atmosphere that fosters informed reading for every child irrespective of his/her environment.
Sites were mapped in and around Panaji around the nucleus of the library and resource centre. Over the years, 9 sites have been covered. The approach to the community was that of exhibiting the heart of the programme- the book and the facilitators. The volunteers chose a spot in the site and displayed a wide array of books. The team was met with friendly curiosity of the children and at the end of the evening we promised them we would be back the next day.
These visits grew into designing an informed plan for the MOP. A story is chosen based on what the children relate to. It has been found effective and important to choose a story which is about something specific in the immediate socio-cultural environment of the children. It not only echoes a personal interest as an understood identifier but also bridges the gap in the literacy related activities that follow. The activity is typically a package of discussing elements in the story and expressing it through multiple forms- games designed to fit into the resource plan, a song written and put tune to, gestures, a drawing activity and avid discussions around it. A lending library is set up with every child who comes for 3 consecutive sessions. The child receives a kit- a bag, an identity card, a library lending card and an activity book. The volunteers discuss each book when the child returns it drawing parallels to their lives and the story / reading. The book is welcomed into their lives and becomes an extension of their world. The activity book becomes a diary for the child and at the end of the years, it is a mosaic of what has been and what can be.
In January 2014, MOP Junior came into being. MOP Junior builds on the central idea of it never being too early to introduce reading into a child’s life. The MOP Junior program is being developed on Emergent Literacy goals and foundational experiences that are required to build readers. A tailor made programme to cater to children in the age group of 3-6 with games, a relevant story book again in a context that draws the child and integrating common activities with the larger group to keep the interaction alive.
MOP becomes a woven carpet of children who have participated in the world of books and with every session take another step towards welcoming the world of books into their lives and interweaving it with their own contexts.