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Hook them to books young

Eleven-year-old Rishika Basu of Calcutta International School reads out from a novel that she has just started to write. Her descriptions are vivid and imaginative.

“I started writing during my summer vacations. Whenever I get bored, I take to writing,” she told the audience at Starmark bookstore in South City Mall on July 8.

Rishika loves to read, too, and that inspired her to write. She, along with many other children between eight and 12 years old, will be able to express their creativity at workshops organised by Beyond Textbooks, in association with Tin Can, from July 23 to the last week of August.

The project, formally launched at Starmark, aims at encouraging children to read and lose themselves in the wonderful world of fiction. Ten workshops will be held at the South City International School, where kids will be encouraged to write their own stories, act in plays and create their own music. Children from other schools are also invited to join in.

“We cannot inculcate the reading habit in kids overnight. Our challenge is to excite a child enough, so that he is compelled to pick up a book and read,” said Mona Sengupta, a core team member of the project. “We will be taking the help of theatre in the workshops to bring children closer to literature. The kids will be asked to write their own stories, change the endings of some famous tales and even write scripts.”

The workshops will culminate in a play staged by the participants. “We also aim to build a child’s vocabulary, confidence, concentration and team spirit,” said Sengupta.

The launch also saw a panel discussion in which the participants included Anindita Ray, the academic coordinator of South Point School, Anjum Katyal, writer and the former chief editor of Seagull Books, Ayesha Das, educationist and teacher-trainer, Barun Chanda, actor and writer, Bedabrato Pain, a Nasa scientist and filmmaker and Rimi B. Chatterjee, a novelist and teacher at Jadavpur University.

Chanda related how his grandmother was a fabulous storyteller and introduced him to the world of literature. He, in turn, would enact parts as he read stories to his son. This way, his son too began liking books.

Ray claimed that at the middle and high school levels, few children read anything.

“A child should be asked to read loudly in class,” she said. Pain, on the other hand, felt that the kids needed to challenge this education system.

Chatterjee felt making children come out of their shells and learn to communicate was of paramount importance.

“Tell them stories all the time. Get them hooked on a book. That’s the only way to get them initiated,” she said.

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