A library in Piyali, South 24-Parganas, which completed a year on Sunday, celebrated the occasion by gifting books to two children who had read the maximum number of books in the past 12 months.
The children are first-generation learners who had almost no access to books outside their textbooks. The idea of the reading library is to give these children access to books — an opportunity for them to feel the pages. The effort appears to have borne some fruit.
Class V student Angana Roy read 30 books and Class IV student Durjoy Mondal read 20 books — all in the reading space called Piyalir Boighar. The children cannot borrow a book but for about five days a week, they spend a couple of hours at the library reading Thakumar Jhuli, the Panchatantra and books by Sukumar Ray, among others. Other children come and read, too. Even on Diwali, Angana and Durjoy were at the boighar, reading.
“The children cannot approach their parents for books. The parents find it impossible to afford books for them,” said Ruchira Goswami, honorary secretary, Ebong Alap, the organisation that started the library. The parents are mostly daily wage earners, some of who work in the city. Angana said that she does not ask her father to buy books.
“He tries to buy textbooks for me. I do not ask for storybooks,” said the 11-year-old. Her father is a stone cutter.
Sitting by her side, Durjoy said that it takes him five or six days to finish a book. Durjoy’s father works in a bag factory. Smritikana Mondal, a postgraduate student and a volunteer at Ebong Alap helps the children choose books.
Mondal guides their reading, too. For two years, during the pandemic, the children had no access to books. Their exposure to books or the outside world was highly limited, said a member of Ebong Alap.
Many children in the city or beyond were on the verge of dropping out of school.
“By introducing them to books and films, we are expanding their range. Reading groups and storytelling circles also help in igniting their minds,” said Goswami.