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Stories, smiles and a salute to Aunty Ayesha

A story about two siblings trying to make a sandwich while their parents are away, learning all about animals and painting them and making cards for mommy — Reading is Fun! With Aunty Ayesha was a fun-filled affair for kids aged four to eight.

Devi Kar, the director of Modern High School for Girls, remembered Ayesha Das (formerly Chatterjee), an educationist, innovator and pioneer in the field of early development after whom the event at Oxford Bookstore was named. “Ayesha would have loved this. There are so many children here, Ayesha loved kids and their laughter. When she passed away we knew she would be with us always. The name of the event is just right and I am glad we are having this programme. And I believe this is the first of many events to come,” Kar said.

Uma Ahmed, a senior educationist, also spoke about Ayesha and her approach to early education and promotion of reading within children. “Katy Dalal, Ayesha and I worked together. We wanted children to have fun always. We want them to paint, read and do all sorts of fun things,” she said.

Fun was the mantra for the kids who flocked to the Park Street bookstore. The participants were divided into three groups.

Vaibhav Saha, an Upper Nursery student at Calcutta International School, loved the story while Vyom Chandak of Class I at Sri Sri Academy was happy to learn to make a sandwich.

Reethu Sarawgi, an education consultant, narrated a yummy tale of two hungry kids trying to make a sandwich while their parents are not around in the house. What made her story-telling session unique was that she explained the key words of the story. The children were shown slices of bread, a bowl of butter and cheese and cute cutouts made out of them. “These sessions are about enjoyment. Kids learn new words and their vocabulary increases. So many of them didn’t know what a loaf means and also what a cheese slicer is,” Sarawgi said.

Angela Ghose, the principal of Union Chapel School, worked with the youngest participants. “They are designing a card for their mummies,” said Ghose, who also read out excerpts from Ayesha (Chatterjee) Das and Katy Dalal’s book What Shall I Wear. “It is an enjoyable experience. Reading should be a discovery and that is what Ayesha always wanted.”

Busy painting a card was little Sara Sengupta, Class II, Calcutta International School. Mother Nilanjana Sengupta, actress and Jisshu Sengupta’s wife, also accompanied her to the event. “I have been reading to Sara ever since she was in my womb. Faraway Tree is what she is reading right now. Every night before going to sleep, she reads. These sessions are great. Sara gets to meet kids her age who have similar interests,” said Nilanjana.

Actress June was also present at the event. “I am here to support the cause of encouraging kids to read and it is wonderful that we have so many teachers and parents present here. Ayesha never believed in homework and she wished to change the way of education in her country,” said the mother of two.

Scholar Anjum Katyal, also involved with the project, termed it a tribute to Ayesha. “We have all been close to Ayesha. This is our tribute to her and what better way! We have a room full of kids, just the way she liked it.”