Coming together for a cause

Dear friends

It has been a long time since we connected with you. Hope all of you are doing fine! The two years have gone past us in a whiff. We’ve experimented new ways to help children read, owing to the pandemic – but some of it has probably become the norm now! (Another day another post on these musings). We formed new partnerships as the year began and our mission to spread the joy of reading has been going in full throttle.

With monsoons setting in Hyderabad, July 2nd was yet another chilly, wet and cloudy day. But that did not stop us from celebrating our sponsors, our volunteers and our partners who have been with us in our journey. Early in the morning on Saturday, our team proceeded towards Golkonda Fort to reach Bright Horizon Academy, a school in Mohalla Ghanj. It was a day with multiple things going on and we started it with our training “Inculcating Joyful Reading” for four of our partners. The day also included recognizing our volunteers and corporate sponsor and distribution of books to partner schools. Enjoy the virtual tour of our celebrations that day.

Enroute to BHA. BHA school building on the right

The morning started with our training for about 30 participants. I will write separately on the details of our first in-person training of the academic year. As I was handling the training in one of the rooms, there was a buzz of activity going on the other side. With Sreekala (new addition to the Joy of Reading family) leading, Apurva, Vamsi, Samanvit were getting everything ready for the upcoming event – final checking of the books to be distributed, verification of certificates to be distributed to our volunteers, coordinating with guests on direction to venue, etc.

Our volunteer force  headed by Sreekala -> Samanvit, Sreekala, Vamsi, Apurva

We had partners from four different organizations attend our training and the event. Naresh, Chakravarthi and Divya from Amma Social Welfare Association, Praveen and Prashanth from Hope Orphanage, two schools run by Sahayata Trust and teachers from our host Bright Horizon Academy (BHA). We had ear marked around 250 books to each school. And as you must know by now, we do not stop with just giving books but go a step beyond, and help schools understand how to run a library, and also techniques that help with inculcating reading systematically in children.

Come noon, guests started trickling in for our celebratory event. First, our little champs from Bright Horizons Academy who volunteered for us assembled. Representatives from our corporate sponsor arrived shortly- namely, Ms. Sadhana, Director R&D, CSR of Sakkugroup , Ms. Prienca and Ms. Gandharva . We were also joined by Mr. Azharuddin Mohammed, Director of Challenger Stem Schools of Sahayata Trust. It was time to recognize and celebrate everyones effort in helping us in our mission.

SakkuGroup was our biggest corporate sponsor this year who believed that reading is an important part of a child’s growth. Ms. Sadhana inaugurated the event with a brief talk on their company’s support for various causes and with specific focus on education. She mentioned that they believed and liked that Joy of Reading was making an impact in the field of education with its focus on enabling and developing a reading habit in children. She proffered her company’s support in Joy of Reading’s endeavors.

Thank you so much Ms. Sadhana. The money that Sakkugroup donated will go into buying various levelled books for around 20 schools. We and our partners express our heartfelt thanks to you and your organization.

Distribution of Books by Sakkugroup to BHA, Hope Orphanages, ASWA Foundation, Challenger Schools – Shaheen Bagh and Kishan Bagh

Mr . Azharuddin talked about the partnership between Sahayata and Joy of Reading. He also shared his life experiences and how reading impacted his own journey from being a boy from a rural background to becoming the head of multiple schools.

Sharing is what we have been taught to do all our lives. It’s the same philosophy when organizations involved in philanthropy joined together as well – sharing available resources with each other . Ms. Farida, principal of Bright Horizon Academy had given space in her school to Joy of Reading to store its books and conduct its sorting and packing operations. She did not stop there. When we needed help to record some training videos, she sent some of her wonderful little champs from the school to help. We showed our small appreciation to these little champs and Ms. Farida.

BHA LIttle Champs with Ms. Farida, School Principal BHA

It was then time for lunch sponsored by Sahayata Trust. The guests mingled and enjoyed Vegetable Biriyani, one of Hyderabad’s delicacies.

Sakku Groip, JoR, Sahayata Trust, BHA

During lunch we were joined by Adarsh and Aradhya Sriram who attended the event amidst their very many classes and school programs. Kudos to both for conducting and driving a book donation drive at their community complex. The children worked on flyers and communication on their own, with help from their mother Geetha . Together they collected around 700+ books for Joy of Reading which were also distributed as part of the event ! Our small token of appreciation to both the kiddos.

Sriram (father of kiddos),Harini, Aradhya, Adarsh, Sreekala

Finally here’s to Apurva Gadde, who had been our go to volunteer for all and sundry. She had stepped up at multiple instances during our book drives and ferried books from donors to our store. She was also the photographer of the event providing us these lovely captures. Our small appreciation for her invaluable contribution to the org. Thank you Apurva!

Farida mam presenting Apurva with a token of appreciation

There is a proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child.” Indeed! It’s not just us who are involved in the mission to spread the joy of reading. From young to old, non profits to corporates, students to teachers – multiple people are involved to get this going. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported and continue to support us in our journey. This wouldn’t have been possible without you.

Three cheers to all of us !

Beating Covid – Our biggest Online Training Event

2020! What a year! However, the human race continued to think out of the box to move on and not be defeated by an invisible virus. JoR was no exception. We had one of our biggest online librarian training events conducted during Oct 2020 for the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Schools (TSWRS) schools. Check below to know more details.

Inculcating Joyful Reading

Joy of Reading (JoR) had conducted a pilot program (Structured Reading Program) during the academic year 2019 – 2020 at TSWRS Narsingi. There was a wealth of knowledge and learning from the pilot. We then drafted it into an experiential workshop for both librarians and English teachers. 

During the academic year, 2020 – 2021 TSWRS inducted a lot of new librarians for all their schools. The new librarians needed to be trained in library management and be provided with guidance to develop a reading interest in children. TSWRS approached JoR for an in-depth training program for their librarians. There were about 170+ schools with around 180 teachers who needed to undergo the training. 

JoR conducted a two-day online workshop “Inculcating Joyful Reading”, for two hours per session. Exercises and lectures were tailored to suit the online medium. The librarians were assigned prep work to complete before they attended the training, and were given short exercises during the training to assimilate and work on applying the concepts.

Goal: The aim of the workshop was to promote holistic reading development in children systematically.  It aimed to teach techniques to both librarians and English teachers that could be incorporated in their daily teaching or operation routine

 Workshop Synopsis

  • Basics of library maintenance (Making the library an attractive place to spend time)
  • Techniques – Measuring Reading Levels, Interactive Read Aloud
  • Role of Librarians.
  • Application of Learnt techniques 
  • Managing Struggling Readers
  • Everyday Reading Time.

The training was conducted on Oct 27th, Oct 28th for around 90 librarians, and another session was conducted on Oct 29th, Oct 31st for another 90 librarians. Despite being online, the training was very successful in keeping the attendees engaged and interactive.  Questions were asked and answered, and thoughts were expressed over the chatting medium.

Harini Raghavan, Joy of Reading, Board Member conducted the training. Three other volunteers – Shiney, Sailaja, and Vandana helped conduct the simulation of ‘Measuring Reading Level ‘ Scenario exercises.
It was a meeting full of librarians and their role was explained along with best practices to maintain a library.
Techniques were explained to help overcome the frustrations experienced by children when being asked to read.

At the end of the workshop, a free flow discussion ensued to discuss the next steps and feedback on the training.

Training Effectiveness

116 respondents replied to training effectiveness survey
Training delivery – 4.35 / 5
Training Content – 4.6 / 5

The Plusses – Verbatim Comments

  • Excellent Programme as most of our librarians are newly recruited the training session is very useful
  • These sessions were very much useful and inspiring for newly joined librarians like me. 
  • Training is very useful for us
  • A wonderful training session was given by Harini madam. We learnt how to inculcate the students towards reading and also how to motivate the children towards non-academic books.
  • Nice training l have learnt loud reading. How to read loudly technique is for useful struggling children.
  • The training session was very useful in getting familiar with the methods for improving reading skills among the students
  • Please interact and give training and healthy discussion to our English lecturers and school section English teachers along with librarians please involve them also 
  • It is very useful. In that training session, we learnt a lot of things it is very useful for all the students…
  • Thank you for this training. we learn how to assess the children and they are also showing to listen read and write the stories. Thank you, mam
  • It was a very good session and it was very comfortable
  • The training is good, it is helpful to assess the students reading level systematically and the books provided are according to the level of the students which are suitable and helps to improve reading skills cognitively. 
  • The training session was very useful for us. learnt the importance of finding struggling readers and  maKing them comfortable readers 
  • Training sessions are very useful and in that, we learnt how to improve reading skills in the children and how to help the struggling readers. Thank you
  • The training session was good .it was very helpful to identify the students level according to that we can measure and improve them to level by level by providing different levelled books. and the joy of reading story videos are very helpful us to interact with all the students and to develop  their interest towards LSWR skills. Thankyou
  • Training session is very use full  develop reading levels in students
  • I felt so happy that it is helping every children in joy of reading. I hope training session should every year so that every library will develop.
  • Very useful and learned maintain library.
  • The training  program  was too good  madam,this is very  helpful  to us for measuring  reading  levels  of the students & leveling of story books 


  • The training session was good and need videos/audios telling the importance of libraries and reading .why they have to go to the library and read books.
  • In my view the training was conducted offline is a better way. Through online, we were facing many problems like network, audio etc.
  • Training session very useful but our students are stayed at home COVID 19 situation next academic year very effectively implemented by  us

Write to us @ if you want to understand more on how to inculcate reading systematically for school going children. Till we meet you again ! Bye

Continuing the joy of reading during the pandemic

Unprecedented Times

Joy of Reading (JoR) India, completed the pilot of the structured reading program at the Telangana Residential Social Welfare Schools (TSWRS) Narsingi at beginning of March 2020. It was close to the end of the academic year. Our next step was to train librarians and teachers so that they could take it forward in their schools.  However, soon the events in the world took a turn. The academic year 2020 – 2021 was hit by the pandemic. Schools remained closed. And education was mostly done through the online medium. Most of the children that we partnered with came from remote villages where access to books was not easy and hence reading took a hit. 

The year 2020 was a reminder to everyone to be steadfast and constantly innovate. ‘What if children cannot get to books, can the books come to the children?’ was the question we asked ourselves.

Internet in India has come a long way. Many families had a smartphone with good data connectivity. We found that at least  50% of the children had a smartphone in their family even in remote villages.  Schools interacted with children passing educational videos through messaging platforms that enabled them to learn from their homes.

Technology and  Out of Box Thinking

JoR YouTube Channel

This thought led us (Joy of Reading, India) to launch the JoR YouTube Channel in Oct 2020.  The channel hosted Interactive Read Aloud Sessions using storybooks from the StoryWeaver platform from Pratham. The videos showcased virtual story reading sessions using the Interactive Read Aloud (IRA) Technique. The book was displayed for the children to read along if they wanted and explanations were provided after every page. The IRA included reading and comprehension techniques, explanation of tough words, using pictures to understand concepts – techniques to teach children how to read a book effectively . In the end, the children were asked to try out a few questions that helped with critical thinking. The whole IRA session was in English. The video description also contained a link to the stories in various Indian languages in Storyweaver, if they were present. This gave the children additional reference points, in case they were unable to follow some portions of the story.

Content and Delivery

The channel hosted about 50 stories as of Feb 2021. Stories were categorized into playlists according to the GROW BY Levelling system of Hippocampus. Stories were further categorized into Science, Maths, Environment, Moral Values, Personality and Self Development, etc. A dedicated set of volunteers helped in creating the Interactive Read Alouds, namely Latha Sampath, Ranjani Raghu, Sowmya Devarajan, Vidya Nataraja, and Harini Raghavan. Stories were released every week to keep the kids enthused and to keep the reading momentum going.

A huge shout out to these volunteers who did this out of a passion for a cause and continue doing so !!!

The Trial

From JoR India, Harini Raghavan passed on the stories to a few schools in TSWRS, and the teachers then passed it onto the students. We received encouraging results. A peek into some of the responses obtained.

Student’s response to the cloud of Trash Story

Videos of children narrating/ explaining the story in their Village Learning Circles (VLC) in their own words

Bhanukranth explainingYet Another SessionExplaining Animal Homes

Scaling Up

We received a lot of positive feedback from the trial. The TSWRS management was also very happy with the responses and the children’s post-reading activities. We detailed a plan to scale all across after a discussion with the management, regional coordinators, principals of some schools, and key librarians. Communication was then sent to all the 250 schools to start sharing the stories with their students. The stories were then shared by the teachers in their class messaging groups and in the Village Learning Circles (VLC).

VLCs were started in Telangana during the pandemic. They were small learning pods of children in villages where the oldest student facilitated learning sessions for a variety of topics and subjects with the rest of the children. When the lockdown restrictions were reduced, teachers started visiting the learning circles to monitor and guide the student facilitator. In areas where the internet connection was unavailable or slow, teachers downloaded the videos and shared them with the group in-person.

The Scale-Out Plan discussion – Harini Raghavan with key TSWRS members through online meeting

The journey of the stories to the nook and corner of Telangana

The librarians who visited Village Learning Circles shared the videos with the children at the VLC through their mobiles like Praneeth Dheeraj!

Ms. Anjali Devi’s showing the JoR video to the kids near a farming field was an example that learning could happen anywhere and anytime. We were so moved to see a JoR story being played in such an environment.

With dedicated teachers and students, reading was an unstoppable journey !! Moments like those, shown above, excited and enthused the volunteers to create more such videos.

The execution

We sent a story twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays to all the librarians of the TSWRS schools (Telangana). The program was also extended to schools under other partners of JoR namely, Sarva Vidya Trust and Payir (both in Tamilnadu). There were some amazing responses from children with the number of views increasing day by day. Harini, JoR India sent a reply to every child who sent a response to a story thus motivating the children to continue with the listening and reading.

Glimpses of a few responses and experiences

A student had beautifully illustrated and narrated this book – Smile Please after listening to the same book
A sweet thank you note from a child saying that she was enjoying the stories very much as she submitted her answers.

Praneeth Dheeraj, TSWRS Velpur Boys narrated his experience of showcasing these stories at his VLC. He also mentioned that students from other schools started attending the story sessions at his VLC.

Some of the children showcased a skit for the Welcome to the Forest story

Krishna Priya from 6th grade did an IRA session of the story “Why does  Poori puff up”. She used mobile software to piece together the screenshots taken from YouTube and recorded her voice-over to create the video. What a commendable effort !!!

Sahani from eighth grade did an experiment mentioned in the “Why does the Poori puff up” story and she captured it beautifully in this video for everyone’s viewing !.

The curious and creative learners seen in these pictures and videos wowed all of us in the JoR team. We couldn’t ask for more!

Miles to go … Miles before we sleep …

The whole effort has motivated the librarians to impact the reading journey of their students in a large way during these bleak times. It has been a learning journey for students, librarians, and volunteers as well.  JoR volunteers are inspired and motivated by the impact of their Read-Aloud stories. With the help of 5 volunteers, we have been publishing 2 or more videos per week. To date, we have published 50+ videos with some having 3K+views. We are excited and encouraged to see the kids’ responses. It has been a very fulfilling journey so far.

WE believe that what started as an effort for the pandemic can continue even beyond pandemic and serve many purposes. These Interactive  Read Alouds:

  • can be played during school library hours for the children in lower grades with the library teacher facilitating the session.
  • can be used by a librarian who is not equipped to do an IRA
  • can be played for a smaller subset of children targeting a particular level.
  • can be used during holidays when schools are on a break.

Learn to Read, Read to Learn, Read for Joy !! We will continue to spread the joy of reading amongst our young friends as best as we can. Till we meet again adieu!

Volunteering with Joy Of Reading

Hello! My name is Diya, and I am a student and a volunteer with Joy of Reading.

As a child, I loved stories. I was fortunate enough to always have access to a library, and my constant access to books has allowed my love of stories to persist to this day. I adored Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems, and I devoured all their picture books. As I got older and began to read longer books, I immersed myself in the fantastic worlds of Roald Dahl and Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House. I still love to read today, even if I do not have as much time for it. My love for reading from a young age is partly what inspired me to join Joy of Reading: it pains me to think of children who do not get to experience what I could throughout my childhood.

I have been volunteering with Joy of Reading since the summer of 2019, when I attended a book sorting event with a couple close friends. It was meant to be a one-time thing: going in, I had no idea what Joy of Reading was about, and I just wanted to get a few more volunteer hours under my belt. As I began to learn more about Joy of Reading and its mission, I developed a fascination with the organization. I have always loved to read, and I became invested in the cause, which brings books to children in India without access to them. I began volunteering by scanning and boxing books for shipment. Joy of Reading has collected thousands of books that are ready for shipment, but the boxes need to be labelled with the titles of the books inside. I spent my time taking boxes home and scanning the books inside. I enjoyed it—I loved doing my part to help the cause! This year, I began working on the blog. I hope to continue volunteering in the future!

Our little experiment to inculcate Joy of Reading

The JoR Hour – What , How & more …

Joy of Reading (JoR) conducted ‘JoR Hour’ a  pilot program of structured reading at TSWRS Narsingi, Telangana, India with a team of 4 volunteers (Sailaja, Shiney, Vandana, Harini), for the academic year 2019 – 2020. The JoR hour was conducted during the library hours for the children. 

We conducted the JoR hour twice a week for two classes of fifth graders. Each class consisted of 40 children. Two of us were always present during each session and at rare times all the four of us were present to provide the much needed attention to individual groups of children.  .

The books that JoR donated were levelled based on the GROW By methodology from Hippocampus.  In order for children to pick out the book at the right level we first measured reading levels of all the children. The children were then grouped according to their reading levels to facilitate like minded support groups and also help us in conducting targeted level based Interactive Read Aloud Sessions.

During the Library Hour

The children checked out books of their own choice at their reading level. It’s important to note that the children were the ones who chose what book to read (at their level)  during the library hour. Choice Reading is important to facilitate interest in reading. We also gave them a small exercise at the end of the story to express their own opinions and understanding of the story either in their local language or English. After finishing a book at their level and the exercise assigned, children were encouraged to take any book at any level and read. 

Volunteers conducted Interactive Read Aloud (IRA) Sessions for one or two groups  using books according to the level of the group. We adopted a round robin technique across the groups during the week to make sure every group was exposed to IRA. During the read alouds, reading and comprehension techniques were also taught so that children knew how to read a book successfully even if they did not understand every word in the book. At the end of the Read Aloud we asked the children to explain the content of one page in their own words..  

We also had a couple of struggling readers groups per class. These children struggled to read in English and also in comprehending the text. There were also children who were able to read the text but could not comprehend what they read. We gave extra attention to the struggling readers group.A  volunteer conducted the Interactive Read Aloud session with struggling readers group consistently every week during this program. Every child was also asked to read one page of the book by themselves to develop confidence in reading.  We also helped them learn FRY’s sight words .Thus during the JoR hour, the children read at least one book at their level and also completed a fun and a simple exercise. This systematic approach helped develop interest in reading amongst the children and helped us determine their understanding..

What did we see?

We used the Hippocampus level measurement – GROW BY methodology (Green, Red, Orange, White, Blue, Yellow) – increasing order of difficulty. Our observations from the 5th A and 5th B class.

Quantitative Results

(*) 50% of Green reduced to 10% 
(*) 16% of Orange increased to 48% Orange+ 
(*) 70% of Green reduced to 25%
(*) 7.5 % Orange increased to 25%

Qualitative Results

(*) "Principals  from other TSWRS schools who visited the Narsingi school, observed that quite a few  5th graders attempted to speak in English and were impressed.
(*) Children attempted to speak in English whenever they could with the volunteers.   
(*) Every group enacted a skit based on one story they chose at their level

This testimonial from an English Teacher on the reading journey of the students was very encouraging.  
  “I observe a subtle difference in the 5th class children this year. They don’t seem to waste time roaming around, when they have free time but they seem to use their time either in art, reading, writing or something else. I have not observed this in other class children so far. The 5th class kids are more mature, and their character is much better.” She believed that reading has made a significant difference. This was an intangible outcome but invaluable as inculcating moral values is a life long learning !

These results were observed after a period of 7 months with the JoR hour being conducted twice a week. With a systematic approach, more than 60% of the class moved up a reading level. The children also went through their regular school courses which also contributed to the improvement. However the qualitative observations was a testimony that the program had helped in multiple fronts especially with the increase in the number of children attempting to speak in English.  Reading books according to one’s level made the whole reading experience pleasant and provided the required confidence to children that they could read English story books! 

The reading level knowledge could come handy while teaching English . Children could learn and apply  grammar concepts and comprehension techniques with text at their level (rather than understanding it from one standard text ). 

Many of the children who joined TSWRS at 5th grade were from local language medium schools. Due to less exposure to the English language the children fell in the struggling readers group. However wIth focussed attention from volunteers and strong determination from children, more than 50% of children at the struggling readers group moved one level up as we observed from the results. A few hard workers improved more than one reading level up. A handful of children did not make any progress which was understandable. 

A 5th class English text book @ TSWRS is at Orange level and a quick and effective technique needs to be adopted to bridge the gap in English levels.  Learning the language through stories is fun, interesting and last but not the least effective. And reading regularly helps in inculcating the reading habit as well. We were able to achieve two objectives through our effort ! In our own style, the moral of the story is “Aim to get two mangoes with one stone !! “

Level Improvement Graphs

“GREEN- ”  means struggling readers at Green level
“GREEN” means readers at Green level

We have ‘-‘ group just to create 2 groups within a level. The ‘-‘ group is a bit lower than the regular Group i.e RED- < RED


Future Plans

Our plan is to continue to equip librarians and English teachers with tools to help them in their teaching journey, so that their students pick up the right book and continue to progress in their reading levels.


Every dark cloud has a silver lining

It was a friday morning in the month of February 2019. Madhu and I were scheduled to visit a partner in Bengaluru. We had, just the day before visited the school of Hippocampus foundation – DKS Hippocampus school in Halasahalli, Karnataka. It was a hectic two day trip. The second day started at 7:30 am, with me desperately trying to book an Uber to reach the partner in the other part of Bengaluru from where I was staying. After several minutes of waiting and cancellations I finally got on the cab. The next pain started with the crazy traffic in Bengaluru. In my mind I was cursing the traffic and the busy city of Bengaluru. To keep myself busy, I started reading news and the news of 40 jawans killed in  a terrorist bomb attack in Pulwama, Kashmir (the day before) greeted me. The news once more reminded me of the fact that there are so many who face actual adverse conditions in life. 

Madhu and her niece Apurva joined me at the Hippocampus office in the morning. With the news still playing in my mind, all three of us reached Madiwala, Bengaluru  to visit the Government Observation Home for Boys. It was a nondescript building completely secured.

 An Observation Home is the first stop for troubled children who get into  conflict with the law. 

We went inside and were greeted by Ms Kalpana Purushothaman, who had invited us to visit the facility, as we had supplied books to them to start a reading center / library for the youth present in the building( in 2018). A brief background on Ms Kalpana Purushothaman -> She is a member of the Juvenile Justice Board and is part of the Judicial bench, a three member panel, who adjudicate cases of children in conflict with the law (both boys and girls) brought from all across Bangalore (Urban) district. She is someone  with a passion to bring in some positive changes to the home and brighten the lives of the boys housed in there. She believes in bringing a positive atmosphere and light in the lives of the boys, even though it’s a facility that reminds one of darkness. We were also introduced to Dr. Kamalavva, Superintendent of the Observation Home who is with these boys day in and day out handling the very many issues. A young mother herself, with a PhD in Human Development, she works tirelessly to bring hope and cheer to the lives of the children in her care.

Harini, Madhu, Kalpana & Kamalavva

Ms. Kalpana, Dr Kamalavva and the staff keep looking for ways to bring a positive atmosphere, cheer and hope amongst the boys housed in there.

After our discussion we were led on a tour of the facility. Indeed it was out of the box thinking of the team to provide for the boys with some space to play a sport they enjoy, within the constraints present (that prohibit them from going outside the facility to play). An indoor basketball court in a room inside the facility.

Then we were led to the reading room. Our eyes brightened to see the books from Joy of Reading lined up in the shelves neatly. The reading room had chairs and tables and looked like any other library.

The boys had decorated the walls with their paintings. The room resembled just any other regular library outside and the feeling that it was inside a secured campus was not there. The Open Learning Space created with the help of Headstreams along with the boys looked warm and inviting.  

We did get a chance to meet the boys present in the facility, who were participating in a workshop that involved expressing their thoughts through painting. The session was led by a dance and movement facilitator Lakshmi . The theme that day was “What made them feel safe?”

  • One boy had expressed that he felt most safe with his parents and had drawn a beautiful picture with a child holding the hands of 2 elders.
  • Another boy had drawn a picture where he expressed that he felt safe with his elder brother and told us, that had his brother been there he would have never ended up here.
  • Another boy had drawn his house and implied that his safe environment was his house.

We couldn’t take pictures in this room due to privacy reasons – but I remember these paintings even though its close to 6 months since I visited. These were boys who were 15 or 16 or 17 years but these paintings made us realize that they were just children. Their paintings depicting the safe environment stirred up too many emotions. These were children who committed mistakes due to not receiving proper guidance/education or by just being in the wrong environment or company. Yet amongst all these, we were glad that they had some light in the dark tunnel they were navigating – thanks to Kalpana, Dr Kamalavva and the staff there, who encourage these interactions..

Lakshmi was close to ending the session, and she played a song and asked the boys to dance. Some of them were shy, but some were very enthusiastic and gave us some good bollywood dance moves. They cheered Kalpana to join them, who shook a leg enthusiastically.

Lakshmi mentioned that the boys had told her that they loved the library and it was a refuge for them during their down times.  We silently high fived in our minds, for making a small impact in the lives of these children.

We had given a book on Clifford and one of the boys had drawn Clifford so beautifully from the book which we had donated. It struck a chord and touched us that these books helped in some way – thanks to countless donors who had given the books to us.

Two hours had flown past just like that. It was time to take leave. Kalpana requested us to see if anyone could volunteer to do reading sessions with the children there during the library hours.

If you are in Bengaluru and can spare an hour once a week or once every 2 weeks, please get in touch with us. We will guide you on what needs to be done at the Government Observation Home for Boys, Madiwala. 


With a myriad of emotions running in our minds we took leave. Our hearts felt heavy but there was a silver lining – there are so many people working in making life much better on this earth. We have miles to go but so glad that we embarked on this journey. The day started in one way and ended up giving us a real time view of those really facing tough situations and reinforcing us on our mission to make a difference however small it maybe. Thanks to everyone who is supporting us on making this journey possible.

The Sarva Vidya Experiment

It was 2017 close to the festival of Deepavali or the festival of lights. I had gone to Chennai to celebrate the festival with family. At this time we also had a load of books that were dropped from the US to Chennai, due to some good samaritan agreeing to carry the books from USA. I had to pick them up and take it with me to Hyderabad or think about organisations at Chennai itself. As this was happening, Sarva Vidya  caught our spotlight. Sarva Vidya is a trust that empowers the girl child through its nursing diploma program and also conducts after school classes for children in various grades. The trust itself sits at the Sarada Vidyalaya school run by the Ramakrishna Mutt – a local language medium school. The school and the trust have a good connection and the after school programs of Sarva Vidya run at the school as well. The headmistress of the after school program Ms. Namagiri,  Ms. Thenmozhi of Sarva Vidya , Mr CSRaghunathan one of the early founders and board member of Sarva Vidya and I met at Mr Raghunathan’s house. We discussed on the importance of reading and how to inculcate the same amongst children at an early stage. At this time the concept of Joy of Reading hour popped up. The discussion then proceeded to how we could implement it at Sarada Vidyalaya. No plan was made but agreed that we should start it at some point of time. Fate smiled at us and we had Ms. Ranjani Raghu interested in the Joy of Reading concept and decided to volunteer for the same. Everything seemed to fall in line. And thus the Joy of Reading journey started in Sarada Vidyalaya. Ranjani started visiting the school twice a week to conduct the JoR hour. Her routine was to read the  various story books present to children. The school is primarily a Tamil language medium school. However, small English stories were read and the children ended up learning new words. Often some activities around the story was also conducted as to who can repeat the story and what new words have been learnt etc.  

The reading of the story along with explanation in Tamil

Interactive session where meaning of new words learnt are asked of the children 

Ranjini : I am a part of Joy Of Reading program for the past one year, where I was reading story books for children of classes 4th and 5th in Ramakrishna mission, Sarada middle school in Chennai. It was a very nice experience. Children was so excited to listen to the stories by which they also learnt a few english words. They all enjoyed the session and were always waiting for the next session to come. Some children who did not open up in the beginning also started to participate at the end of the year. Overall it was an enjoyable experience for both me and the children

Ranjani during a JoR session at Sarada Vidyalaya

JoR Hour is a a volunteer run program. JoR is always on the look out for volunteers to help conduct the JoR hour in schools of its various partners. Ping us if you are interested. 

Thanks to Ranjani, the JoR hour at Sarada Vidyalaya has been running successfully for the past one year.  Here are some testimonials from some kids in the school after a year of the program

Kamalesh talking about his jolly experience in JoR Hour. He loved the Tenali Raman story and the peacock story. And learning new English words makes him feel good

Nisha from the 5th grade tells that she loves learning English through her story teacher & stories

A whole bunch of children treat it as a great platform to gain proficiency in English language and find the the story hour great fun which is different than their usual routine. As and when we find volunteers we want to scale the concept to other schools that we partner with as well. Stay tuned for the next experiment we are conducting at Sarva Vidya – to level and measure the reading level of children

Till then its Au revoir !

The wheels of the bus go round and round

India Literacy Project (ILP) : Our partner in mobility !

It was December and Hyderabad turns a tad bit chilly – a good time to visit the city as  the weather is pleasant. Madhu was visiting India for the holiday season.  In between her family visits , was a trip to the India Literacy Project office as well.  India Literacy Project is one of our initial partners . WE have an association that has spanned over years and we have supplied them books on and off through the years. The ILP Hyd chapter head Mr. Manmohan has helped us through many of our questions while we have discussed several rounds of how literacy worked in India. During the December of 2016 when Madhu was here, she and I went to the ILP office to discuss how to take the partnership further. It was at this time that ILP was figuring out how to move with their second mobile library van up and running. End result – Joy of Reading ended up sponsoring a mobile library van (thanks to Madhu and Joy of Reading US which sent funds to ILP India directly and JoR India helped with the books).

The mobile library sessions by ILP are similar to the Joy of Reading Hour. An ILP employee visits 2 schools per day distributing books as well as conducting various activities during the library hour and helping the children to read. 

So on one cold wintry morning in Hyderabad close to Chandanagar area at the Mpp School both JoR and ILP formally inaugurated the joint mobile library van. 

Needless to say, the children were very excited about their school being included and got the first set of books to read that day.

After a year here are some statistics from ILP on the mobile library 

Mobile Library data: 
Schools :  6 schools 
Students: 388
Sessions : 61 sessions (July to November 15th)
Books distributed: 1194 

Reading levels as per pre – assessments 
Level 1 – 163
Level 2 – 33
Level 3 – 7 .
Level 4 – 6
Level 0 – 179 (Beginners)

Thank you ILP . Looking forward to more such lovely initiatives in the future. 

How did we start to level our books and our partnership with Hippocampus


Our library in India is a basement at Madhu’s parents house in Kalyan Nagar, Hyderabad. It contained more than 10000 books that were shipped over the years. We were supplying books to schools based on our scheme of levelling books of increasing difficulty. They were graded level 1 to level 6. There was no standard algorithm there but based on the experience gained. We ran our library  (and infact still run) using the help of very many volunteers either part of friends or family. With a varied combination of help, the organisation and sorting of the books was not the best as there was not a perfect algorithm in sorting the books. When schools asked for books a mixed supply of books were donated based on the understanding of requirement qualitatively.  The other thing that we also noticed is that since our target beneficiaries were government schools and organisations with children run by non profits, these children were from a low income background whose experience with the English language was still in the nascent stages. At this stage we were thinking what would be the best books to send to schools and if there is a standard way we could follow to send books to school that will help improve their reading experience. At this time we visited our partner India Literacy Project (ILP) and were interested to learn that they have books sorted based in the GROW BY Reading program from We got an understanding what this means exactly. The details of the program can be read here @ GrowByReading The GROW BY reading program by Hippocampus
focusses on increasing reading levels irrespective of the grade a child belongs to. It has helped work in rural areas and for children studying in non-English medium schools. It’s a levelling solution that levels both children and books and matches them, and progresses irrespective of the  grade level of a child. This system was mainly targeted at schools run in rural Karnataka where mostly the children are the first generation to be exposed to English. It seemed logical and we heard success tories both from ILP and Hippocampus (later)  themselves. From then on JoR shifted to the GROW BY Levelling system .

This was also the juncture where we were wondering how we could get in touch with the organisation Hippocampus themselves and we did soon get an opportunity. As we were put in touch to supply books to Remand Home Bengaluru under the Govt of Karnataka we got the introduction to the founder of Hippocampus Umesh ! They were interested in our partnership and we supplied in May 2018 a total of  2500 books of all levels for their newly started primary schools in Karnataka, India.

Crowdsourcing Help through Volunteers – Our Modus Operandi

A common question in many a persons mind when they hear about a non profit organisation is how are operations run?  Its a valid concern and question for anyone who is a donor to the organisation. Here we would like to give you some insights into our model of operation.


Our books are largely sourced from the USA . They are procured through very many book donation drives. Books from USA form more than 90% of our inventory.   As an organisation we strongly believe in recycling and reusing.

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Books can never be trash but simply one outgrows them and moves onto the next set. But there will be 1000s more who can be benefitted by the book.  That has been our first principle – how can we reuse the treasure spread across the world. Do we need to buy books or can we reuse them – many a times we have seen people donating books to other children when their own have outgrown. The books that come to us are in good condition though they have been donated.

The first step: Donation drives

These donation drives are done by the 3 main trust members in the USA board namely Madhu, Yogita and Stephanie. Each of them enlist the help of friends to volunteer to help with the donation drives . These donation drives happen at schools or communities or work places or sometimes book stores donate them, Very seldom have we bought books and it happens maybe at half price sales.  Here is a sample of our donation drive which gets heavily advertised on all forms of social media, email  as well as word of mouth.

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 The second step: First level of sorting and boxing

The books need to be then sorted into their respective categories . This is once more a volunteer driven operation headed by our board members in the USA. It also takes place in Madhu’s house, founding member of JoR. Help for this is crowdsourced as well and friends sign up for the same. here is a sample of how its advertised

Its made into a fun activity for both adults and children and is fondly referred to as a book sorting party – indeed its a party for book lovers who just go through several thousands of books and organising into their categories . Check out where both our youth and adult volunteers helping us out with a sorting event.

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The third step : Shipping to India

Once again volunteers are sourced for trasnferring books from America to India. People relocating to India who hire a container help us in carrying 1000s of books. There are also people who keep shuttling between Hyderabad (our base in India) and Seattle (our base in the USA) as part of business trips. We make them carry one suitcase of books.  Till date we haven’t spent any money for transferring books overseas. It has been the goodwill of several of friends and acquaintances who have helped us in this good cause.


The fourth step: Sorting and levelling in India

In India once the boxes are transferred to our library at Kalyan Nagar, Hyderabad . Once again through help of volunteers the levelling (using Grow by Reading) , sorting and accounting of books happen. The novels are further classified based on authors or series type. Reference books are classified into Animals, Space, Geography, English, Math, Magazines, Management etc. The volunteer help is sourced through word of mouth by the India board member. Both children and adults help with the whole process.

The fifth Step: Shipping to recipients

We have to ship cartons to places outside of Hyderabad for which we need help in shifting the boxes and packing and actual shipping. This is where we spend money to pack and ship it to send it to the interiors of various states. At times we ask our own partners to bear the bill or we go ahead and bear it at our end.

These form our bulk of operations where we use the help of volunteers mainly. Our main costs include the hire of a part time as and when needed manual labor to help us with the cleanliness and maintenance of the library in India, auditor costs for help with filing taxes and printing our stationery (such as labels and receipt books and those with the upkeep of our money in bank). But as we increase the size of our operation we have to rethink our strategy.