Like tufts of cotton, different layers of cirrus and cumulous clouds can be seen drifting with the breeze against the azure sky. A sparkling light blue river snakes past the valley forming a picture perfect setting. The van for the Reading Campaign, full of books, followed the undulating roads along the contours of the hills that presented breath-taking views of the valley with terraced fields.
The van with books constitutes a mobile library that is a part of Room to Read’s three-week-long reading campaign. “To reach out to remote areas, a mobile library was conceptualized as one of the means to encourage children and expose them to good quality reading material,” says Country Director of Room to Read, Sourav Banerjee.
He further added, “The most effective solution to end illiteracy is to build a culture of reading and Room to Read’s Reading Campaign aims to do just that. Launched on 15th August 2020 and concluded on the occasion of the International Literacy Day on 8th September 2020, this unique initiative aims to bring together people from all walks of life – students, teachers, parents, working professionals, celebrities and government representatives in a celebration of the magic of reading and through it the joy of learning.”
The van reaches Burua village and the employees quietly set up the Mobile library with colourful books under a canopy. Burua is a beautiful village in Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand. There are a lot of onlookers. The first person to arrive is a 76-year-old old man who has the distinction of being the first person in the village to have cleared grade 5.
He looks surprised after seeing the library, which is a very different experience for him. The excitement to explore the books is palpable on his face throughout the introductory session given by the principal cum cluster coordinator. He rushes to the mobile library after the address of the principal, picking up a book “Andhi” and reading it. After finishing it, he takes another book “Phool Ugana” and repeats the same process until he completes six books. As excited as a child, his eyes sparkle in the gloom of pandemic. “I have never seen books like these in my life and these are interesting books,” says Chait Singh in Burua village during the reading campaign event on 3rd of September.
He wore a smile on his face and shared, “My children also studied in this school and right now my third generation that is my grand daughter is here in school. She is in Grade one”. He pointed his finger towards his granddaughter Sakshi who is engrossed in the books with her mother.
He paused for a while as though bringing up the blurred memories of his school days, “I am very grateful and will surely discuss these stories with my grandchildren. I am an ardent newspaper reader but due to the pandemic, newspapers have stopped coming. Now, there is nothing to read”.
He thanked Room to Read for providing this opportunity and reflected that he feels indebted as something good is happening for children after the pandemic started. He read 7-8 books during the event. He even took a walk around the children engrossed in reading and helped them to read more.
The curiosity and the reading enthusiasm was not just limited to Chait Singh, but clearly visible in the whole family. His daughter-in-law Santoshi Devi was also there with her daughter Sakshi. Santoshi shared that the mobile library was a new experience for her but helping her daughter in reading was one of the best experiences she ever had. She added, “I am feeling proud and extend my gratitude to Room to Read”.
Sakshi, who is in Grade 1, has never been to school for the pandemic broke out just when she was about to start schooling. The day of the mobile library set up in her school premises is her first day at school during the pandemic. She looks very happy as she enjoys the stories read out to her by her mother. The mobile library has gifted her the sweet experience of exciting stories during her first day in school.