Weaving our way to Narayanpet – Part 4

Previous blog entry – in case you missed

How did it all pan out?

The training was over and Alokit had its ground task force helping the schools with Foundation Literacy and Numeracy – supporting the schools in executing their program. A WhatsApp group was formed to encourage teachers to share their work during library hour. We received a lot of good updates from the schools. The Alokit team at ground, Amzad, Elizabeth and Venkatesh also monitored the library sessions happening at schools.

Check out the feedback from a few schools on how the books are being used

50% of students from 3rd class to 5th class completed Green level books. One of the students’ reached White level books. Keeping constant effort from teachers and students with maintaining the library period weekly twice in their timetable. Thank you so much teachers

**From MPPS Madwar**: Today I visited MPPS Madwar (Marikal complex). They are using joy of reading books in the last period and one of the teachers is guiding the students in between the reading. Thank you so much teachers for taking initiatives

Today I visited MPUPS Shashanpally and HM sir told me that on alternate days library books are given to students for half an hour. More than 50% students from 3rd and 4th classes are able to read green level books and these books helped students to improve their reading Levels.

Check out a few schools on how they setup their libraries

Some heartwarming feedback

Check out some of the read alouds by the kids. FOr the sake of privacy we have cut some portions of the videos where the private details are present.

MPPS Kothapalli
MPPS Kothapalli

From Amzad, Alokit
GPS UTKOOR, kids are reading library books in Library hour. I loved the fact that HM Srividya ma’am is giving books to kids consistently

MPUPS Mandipally – It was awesome to see the way teachers have maintained the record of the Library Book…

Narayanpet holds a special place in our heart as this was our first CSR project (funded by Sakku group). It was also an inroad into a rural place in Telangana for us. It gave us insights about schools in small places with limited resources but with a great set of passionate teachers. Hoping to fund more libraries in the future in Narayanpet. Thank you for reading about our journey and Ciao until we share our next story with you.

Weaving our way to Narayanpet – Part 3

Previous blog entry – in case you missed

The Finale

Books were handed out to the schools, but the training was yet to happen. It meant we had one more trip to Narayanpet. The next few days went in working with Amzad to figure out training dates,  the teachers who needed to attend the training , venue for the training and many more logistics. Thanks to the Alokit team at the ground headed by Amzad all the arrangements happened at a fine pace.

28th October 2022 – was the day of our training. We decided to drive over the same day and do the training and come back. Narayanpet was around 170km+ and to drive the same day meant we had an early start. But then the previous night we heard that there was a “paada yatra” (Foot pilgrimage) of a central opposition political candidate and hence we could not take the main highway route. But that did not deter us. The early start became an earlier start.  I took my car. Shiney, Sailaja, Pramod accompanied me and we started around 5:30am to Narayanpet for the training. It was a long drive and an adventurous one. We had to go through several side routes and through several village roads in order to avoid the traffic blocks. But the plus side was we got to see some really beautiful scenery interspersed with small villages. We reached Narayanpet around 9am and reached the venue for the training which was a government girls high school at Dhoolpet.

The session started after introductions and the headmaster of the school gave a speech on the importance of reading books and inculcating the reading habit in children. The training was a one day workshop, covering the topics of leveling books, interactive read aloud technique, basics of library management best practices, running classroom library (since most of the schools did not even have enough classrooms) and handling struggling readers.  The teachers were engaged during the sessions and found the sessions useful.

By the time our training was scheduled there was a change of the collector for the district (!!) . Shri Koya Sree Harsha also was supportive and came to watch our training for a few minutes. This motivated the teachers even more who realized that the management considered this very important. The collector distributed the books to all the schools that were donated by Sakku group (Thank you once more Sakku for enabling this). The training ended around 4 pm with the assurance from the teachers that they would put the books to good use.

The press report regarding the program from the collectors office

It was 5pm before we could leave. But ofcourse how could we miss the famous Narayanpet sarees and not treat ourselves after a long productive day. We were guided by the teachers to a local weaver who has been in the handloom industry for several generations. Sailaja , Shiney and myself after buying sarees left Narayanpet around 630pm along with Pramod who was happily sitting in the car and working while we were saree shopping. We reached Hyderabad around 10 pm in a happy mood after having a very productive day.

A happy group !!

You must be wondering ok what next – check out our next blog post from Narayanpet again.

Weaving our way to Narayanpet – Part 2

Previous blog entry – in case you missed it.

Lights Camera and Action !

The day finally came when my first visit to Narayanpet happened. I met with Pramod and Venkatesh (also from Alokit) at the PV Narasimha Rao flyer on a September morning, embarking on a long ride to Narayanpet. Our first destination was the district collectors office.

We had an appointment with the district collector,  Smt Hari Chandana Dasari garu. Luckily we had a smooth ride and reached the collector’s office in time . We met with Smt Hari Chandana and had a fruitful discussion regarding  the project and the plan moving forward wrt distribution of books, training and the schools selected etc. She was very supportive and wanted children to have access to a good library and develop an interest in reading. She is a very dynamic person constantly working to improve the very many facets of the district.

We also met with a government officer , who would facilitate with the arrangement of training and the logistics of coordinating with the schools.

The latter part of the visit was the best as I did some school visits and met some wonderful passionate teachers. Here are a few glimpses from my visit.  

The first was a visit to the government school in Danwada, Telangana. The school teachers had come up with their own Teacher Learning Material (TLM) that would help facilitate building strong concepts of fundamentals on Literacy.

The headmaster of the school was very supportive of Alokits FLN (Foundational literacy and numeracy )program. He showed us the monthly reading and writing assessment exams prepared by the teachers to continuously evaluate children and figure out the improvement strides. The school meticulously also prepared course content to address the gaps in student fundamentals. What I liked most was the headmasters involvement of the community which includes the parents as well, to support the study plan of the children.

With the teachers and headmaster of Dhanwada primary complex school. Pramod and Elizabeth from Alokit are also with us.

Narayanpet has some schools that cater to the tribal areas as well. One such was the Manipur Thanda. A Thanda is a clustered settlement or community of Banjaras (the local tribe present).

There is only one classroom in the school with children from the first to fifth grade. Alokit has trained the teachers to do level based teaching for both Math and language. This means the children irrespective of the grade they belong to, are grouped based on their English knowledge and math knowledge levels. And the teacher teaches each group according to their level. Here Ms. Radhika has been religiously
following the technique and the children are happy learning under her.

Next we visited Kamsanpally where we met Ms. Swetha and the HM Mr. Kistaiah. Here too we saw good TLMs created by the teaching staff and an enthusiastic principal who is devoted to the improvement of the foundational skills of the children. The training and support from Alokit has helped these schools to be innovative with their methods of teaching.

Finally the D Day arrived – the formal inauguration of our libraries happened on 21st Sept 2022.

The school opted for an in classroom library due to lack of space and had created a beautiful Joy of Reading nook. The children present were so excited about the books and were waiting for the library to be inaugurated.

Ms. Hari Chandana Garu – District Collector of Narayanpet graced the occasion and inaugurated the library at the school in Baherpet, Narayanpet . The collector arrived and engaged with the students regarding the library and made sure the children also cut the ribbon along with her thus formally inaugurating the library. Here is a tweet from her supporting the initiative

Yours truly was asked to light the lamp once the collector left and perform a small pooja praying to the supreme power for the success of the endeavor and beautiful beginnings. The teachers, children and I recited a sloka (prayer verse) on Goddess Saraswati (the goddess of learning) jointly and threw open the library .

The Alokit team that worked on the ground (Pramod, Amzad, myself and Elizabeth)

Check out the next part for the rest of the Narayanpet journey

Weaving our way to Narayanpet – Part 1

How it all began?

One day during Feb/March 2022 Sai Pramod, from Alokit called me to talk about the Ankuram project in Narayanpet, Telangana that aimed to work on the Foundation and Numerical Literacy in around 55 schools, spanning multiple districts and mandals.  As part of the same, they also wanted to establish libraries in schools and hence the call to Joy of Reading.

Narayanpet is a relatively new district located in the Southern part of Telangana and shares borders with Karnataka and Maharashtra. Its about 170km from Hyderabad

Fun fact: : Narayanpet is famous for its handloom industry and the Narayanpet sarees are popular throughout the state !! In case you are wondering about our title 😊 .

Ankuram was a large project and involved working closely with the education department of the government in order to see good results. Towards end of April an online meeting happened between Joy of Reading, Alokit and the government education official.  The demographics of the schools, criteria for selection of schools etc was discussed. The initial target was to setup libraries atleast for around 20 schools across the different mandals.

Talk about coincidences or the universe conspiring to make things happen  – Our first corporate sponsorship allocation came through in March 2022 as well when the Narayanpet project came our way.  Narayanpet district schools required English story books in the lower levels.  So we started working with wholesale suppliers, for books
that would be fun and easy to read and would attract a child to pick up the book. A set of 91 books was finalized for each school. It consisted of a mix of Pepper series, Early Grade Reader series, Funny Photo Phonics, Read Along stories, Rabindranath Tagore story series, Bruno series, and a few Information books (Great Junior Encyclopedia, 200 Facts and Questions on various topics).  Lots of coordination has to be done to get them to our storage space which was in a narrow steep gully.

logo

Thanks to Sakku group who enabled funding of books for 20 schools in Narayanpet.

Time of several volunteers was spent in sorting and labeling and packing these new books. The books were packed separately for each school with carton boxes procured from various recycle suppliers. It was a back breaking effort literally !!

Pramod then came and took the whole bunch of boxes in his car and took them to Narayanpet on one of his visits, thus transporting the books without incurring any transport costs.

 It has always been the selfless efforts of several volunteers who are responsible for the very many behind the scenes effort in pulling together a project. When it takes a village to educate a child imagine how many it would take to educate a village full of schools !! Check out our next part on what happened thereafter.

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 

Suggestions

  • 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 @ joyofreadingus@gmail.com 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 https://youtu.be/7rpwiFu7a_c
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

VB 
(*) 50% of Green reduced to 10% 
(*) 16% of Orange increased to 48% Orange+ 
VA
(*) 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

Legend
“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

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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.

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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. 

Email: joyofreadingus@gmail.com

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.