Stories

Indian students ignite their imaginations

Last December, ChildFund India launched a nationwide three-year campaign called Books, My Friends to provide bags full of age-appropriate books for 115,000 children aged 6 to 14 across India. The goal of the project is to make reading fun for children while helping them improve their reading, comprehension and learning abilities. We hope to create a love of reading that continues through adulthood.

In India, we work with children who live in rural villages and urban slums, and lack of education is a big concern everywhere. Many children living in poverty cannot read at their grade level and often don’t have access to books at home. In rural communities, children are often limited to textbooks printed on poor-quality paper. Many parents are barely literate, so a culture of reading has not yet taken hold. Without strong reading comprehension, children can’t excel in school.

To address this situation, ChildFund India started the Reading Improvement program, our flagship education initiative, and the Books, My Friends campaign, which encourages students to read for pleasure.

Shreelakshmi, a year seven student from the south-western state of Karnataka, received a reading bag in December during the campaign launch. It was here that she also had the chance to meet Anil Kumble, a world-renowned cricket captain and major sports celebrity in India.

Shreelakshmi recalls the meeting fondly: “The experience of receiving books from Anil Kumble is still fresh in my mind. He and the ChildFund team spoke with us freely and inspired us to read more books. I am very grateful to ChildFund for giving me this opportunity,” she says, a smile spreading across her face.

Shreelakshmi received 17 books, and she’s already read many of them. Her favourite was Kadhakalu Maha Nagara, about a girl who had no one to read a story to her. Finally, she finds one person who starts telling stories to her daily. Slowly, other children start joining her to listen.

“I, too, like stories, and my brother also sometimes reads them to me,” Shreelakshmi says.

Since most of her neighbourhood friends also have received reading bags, they enjoy reading and discussing books together.

Parents say it’s great for their children to have something constructive to do with their time, and Shreelakshmi’s teacher adds that the habit of reading appears to be taking hold, just a few months into the project.

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