Reading for Recovery Project on the Coromandel Coast, India

February 2008: Report by AWIC

Reading to Recovery in Andhra, India

 

Following the setting up libraries for children in the Tsunami affected regions of India by the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children, the IndianBBY, books for libraries have been given to 30 primary schools in the Tsunami ravaged coastal region of Andhra Pradesh in India.

A team of three members of AWIC, Ms. Shail Tewari, Ms. Ranjana Goyal and Ms. Virbala Rastogi took charge of the third phase of Tsunami project. It involved collection of titles suitable for Telugu speaking children in the age group of 6-10 years. Telugu books published in Andhra Pradesh and translated picture books in Telugu were included in the collection along with colourful books in Hindi and English. Just as the boxes of books were bundled away by road transport the AWIC team boarded the flight to Hyderabad and then took a train to Guntur where they were greeted by Dr. Manga Devi, an AWIC member and founder of Sri Venkateswara Bala Kuteer (a Co-educational School Trust). She had identified the schools and arranged for the visits of the team from Delhi.

The coastal town of Nizampatnam, severely affected by Tsunami, was chosen to start the distribution of books. Nizampatnam is a vast Mandal in the coastal region of Guntur District in Andhra Pradesh. Children from 11 schools assembled at the main Nizampatnam Mandal School. Tidy uniforms and enthusiasm could not hide the shadow of the trauma writ large on their faces. The sight of book packets propelled a spark in their eyes as eager boys and girls rushed to carry the books from the car. Each school received 200 books.

More than 300 children, their teachers and headmasters had their eyes fixed in the direction of the books. In the excitement they did not mind squatting on the damp earth still cold and damp after previous night’s rain. The local member of State Assembly and Mandal Education officers marked the event as significant with their presence.

Children presented a grand welcome with patriotic songs, fisherman’s songs, thrilling dances and acrobatic tricks. In turn the team treated the youngsters with stories and puppet stories. In an informal chat with the children they talked about reading and the activities of IBBY and IndianBBY. The qualified teachers quickly translated the English speech into Telugu. Each child was presented with a small gift by the team. The satisfaction and glow of the faces of children as they felt and scanned through the books was a rewarding experience for the book-loving team from Delhi. The experience at other schools was similar.

The event was widely covered by the Press as the team completed their tour. The noble sentiment of giving the gift of a book was substantially rewarded with a cheer on the faces of children.

 

 

 

April 2006: report by AWIC Indian BBY

READING FOR RECOVERY

A TSUNAMI PROJECT IN ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS-INDIA

The Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC), the Indian Section of IBBY, and the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) has jointly organised the project, Reading for Recovery for tsunami-affected children. Under this project AWIC provides children's libraries with colourful books. The books, along with puppets, and other visual aids, such as posters and CDs, make the ambience of these libraries as cheerful and attractive as possible.

 

Telling Stories

On 1 April 2006, Surekha Panandiker (Convener of AWIC Children's Library Project) and Indira Bagchi (AWIC’s Treasurer) travelled from New Delhi to Port Blair, the headquarters of Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. They carried with them one thousand children’s storybooks, puppets and other visual materials for children. With these materials they established four libraries for children at the ‘intermediate tsunami shelters’ located at Bridgegunj, Choldari, Bambooflat and Namoonaghar localities in South Andaman Island. They also interacted with children through storytelling, story painting, story acting and other book-centred activities. Children responded with tremendous enthusiasm as they could see colourful books, touch them and browse through them. They greatly enjoyed the storytelling, which was accompanied by the playing of ‘manjeera’ (Indian tambourine) and the use of puppets. Their enthusiasm to depict the characters from stories through drawings revealed their talent and potential. Their imagination had found a novel way to express itself.

The local teachers and educational volunteers were shown how to use motivational know-how so that they could promote the reading habit in children. They were enthusiastic and promised to continue to run these libraries with the cooperation of the parents. Mr Krishnamurthy, District Education Officer of Wemberlygunj, was extremely enthusiastic about the project and cooperated wholeheartedly. He also promised to extend all help in future for the smooth running of libraries. Similarly, Paramjit Kaur, headmistress of the school at Choldari, was very receptive to the idea of using library books as ways to give emotional support to tsunami-stressed children.

The local UNICEF office provided technical support to allow the AWIC volunteers tell stories on environment and social reforms in an engaging way. The UNICEF-produced animated film, Meena’s Story was a great hit with children, who enjoyed it thoroughly. They also enjoyed Chota Sipahi, a film based on the storybook Bridge at Borim written by Surekha Panandiker and made by the Children's Film Society of India. This film is another way to motivate children to read books.

The Andaman and Nicobar Island Administration’s Education Directorate cooperated with the AWIC and provided all the facilities for the project. AWIC is happy that its books and the storytelling by its volunteers have provided emotional support to the children of these distant islands and helped them overcome their trauma following the tsunami that hit their islands and homes more than a year back.

Report by Surekha Panandikar & Indira Bagchi

 

 

March 2006: report by AWIC Indian BBY

The AWIC INDIAN BBY successfully launched the READING TO RECOVERY programme for the Tsunami orphans at Nagapattinam, Tamilnadu , India.

In May 2005 a team consisting of two committee members, Vijaylakshmi Nagaraj and Surekha Panandiker, spent a week at the orphanage in Nagapattinam. They undertook emotional and psychological healing through storytelling. They set up a library with over 1,500 books in English and Tamil and involved the children in various activities, including making stick puppets, singing, making bookmarks and reading.

The teachers and other volunteers were also trained to motivate the children to read, as well as how to run the library. Ms Suryakala, one of the social workers who has been closely associated with the children, said that after our stay and activities with the children she saw their smiling and cheerful faces for the first time. We were most touched to hear this.

In partnership with a local NGO AVVAI, the AWIC team was able to establish five more libraries for the orphans and other local children. AVVAI recently sent a report of how the project, initiated by AWIC INDIAN BBY, has been greatly appreciated and is doing extremely well.

They have requested more books for the children, which we will be sending.

In January 2006 a follow up on the Reading To Recovery programme was done. The two members went to Nagapattinam: Indira Ananthakrishnan and Prema Srinivasan. The children were very happy and delighted with the new activities and books that were taken for their library by our team.

The library is now located in a new and permanent building. The puppets and books have been very attractively displayed and the children enjoy spending many happy hours in the library.

The Collector of Nagapattinam, Dr J. Radhakrishnan, has been very helpful to the AWIC INDIAN BBY team and has given some very positive responses toour work. He recently said how very much he appreciates the effort, commitment and dedication of our team.

AWIC is very grateful to IBBY for its financial support and guidance in our endeavors to give the tsunami-affected children many happy and fun filled hours in the library. The time spent with them has been rewarding. The emotional and psychological healing through books and stories has been the right approach.

AWIC INDIAN BBY will continue in its efforts to bring hope, joy and normalcy in the children affected by the trauma of Tsunami.

December 2005: Report by AWIC / Indian BBY

 

Tsunami Relief Work – A Report

It is a year since life along India's eastern and southern coasts was devastated by the tsunami.

This is an appropriate time to remind you of our efforts in the affected areas and apprise you of the latest developments. Below is a small write-up of the effort already made, the on-going programmes and future plans.

AWIC/ Indian BBY formulated a 'Reading to Recovery' programme aimed at using books to effect emotional and psychological healing among the tsunami-stricken children.

The purpose of the programme was not to probe the trauma but to lighten its impact on the affected children by providing them moments of happiness - and, in this regard, the effort was a complete success.

Nagapattinam, the chosen venue, witnessed the concerted efforts of AWIC members, Ms. Vijaylakshmi Nagaraj and Ms. Surekha Panandiker, in May 2005. They received the wholehearted support of local authorities and, in particular, that of Dr. Radhakrishnan, the District Collector of the area.

The children who profited from this venture were from the government orphanage that housed children from infancy to fifteen-year-olds.

An instant attraction, and one that melted the children's reservations, was the library corner set up by the AWIC team, with books in Tamil (the local language) and English. Through singing, puppetry and storytelling sessions, the children succumbed to the healing power of books. Even non-readers were drawn into the magic when they received presents of Tamil alphabet books. The bookmark and puppet making sessions were also a great success.

Here is some recent feedback that was received from Dr. Radhakrishnan. He conveyed his appreciation of the AWIC/ Indian BBY library that was set up in May 2005 and noted that the children are very happy frequenting it. He informed Ms. Nagaraj that the library would shortly be shifted from its temporary premises to a permanent building. Most importantly, he supported AWIC's follow-up proposal, where, among other things, the library will be augmented with new books and several more book-related activities, such as book reviews and creative writing sessions, will be conducted.

As decided earlier, an AWIC team will visit Nagapattinam in early 2006 for the follow-up session. Another item on AWIC's agenda is to set up a library in the Andaman-Nicobar islands in February 2006.

 

Report presented by Nilima Sinha, President of AWIC/Indian BBY

 

Our team has just returned from their visit to the tsunami-affected region.

The two-member team of V. Nagraj and Surekha Panandikar reached Chennai on 14 May. They contacted an AWIC (Indian Section of IBBY) member, Prema Srinivasan, who helped them to buy books in Tamil, the local language. An officer from the Army who had been involved in rescue operations immediately after the tsunami struck, helped them throughout their stay in the area since the place was new and a guide was needed to help them. He also helped in the coordination with the local authorities.

It was a six-hour drive to Nagapattinam the next day. The local authorities had made arrangements for the stay. The District Social Welfare Officer took the two members to the Government orphanage, where they met the Matron and social workers taking care of the children.

The next day, 15 May, was spent meeting other NGOs working in the district and planning out the programme. The workers were invited to join in a workshop for training in reading and storytelling.

On 16 May, the first AWIC/Indian BBY Reading for Recovery centre was set up at the Orphanage. The books were arranged in an attractive manner, as a string library and on two tables and a reed mat. The puppets, made by Nagraj were displayed, too. There were 62 children between ages 3 – 15. Songs were sung to break the ice. This was followed by a story reading.

The children were shy at first but soon opened up. There were children who were illiterate, but who liked looking at the pictures. The Tamil alphabet books were presented to them. Those who had never possessed a book before were soon beaming with smiles.

The morning session was about books and reading. In the evening there was another session of activities with the stories read out. The children made puppets, drew pictures and made bookmarks.

On 17 May book reading was conducted in small groups. The children selected the books and stories themselves. Two teachers and social workers participated and learned how to conduct the sessions.

Similar activities were carried out the next day. On the whole the children bonded very well. They were eager to help, told their names and shook hands and kept saying: Please come again, Will you come again, etc. The members did not talk about the trauma, as they did not want to rekindle the past, but make the present as happy and cheerful as they could. It was a very meaningful and rewarding experience.

Books were given to 5 centres run by different NGOs, such as AVVAI, SNEHA and SRIKALI, and an orphanage for youngsters aged 14 to 19. The social workers that joined in the reading activities also gained useful experience that will help them to carry on the work.