Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Books, Benchmarks and Beyond

BOOKS, BENCHMARKS AND BEYOND

WM Centre Library Review – Third Term

When one of the Library team members said that we should prepare a write-up on WM Centre Library Review for the Third Term (05 Jan -16 Apr 2011), as we had done for the previous two terms, my first thought was that the Third Term was no different from the other two. This thought was immediately followed by another, “Or was it?”

Books

If we are to write about books distribution in the Third Term, it would be mere statistics. Children’s thirst for books remained unabated and we had to release about 25 more books for distribution to III, IV and V standard students, numbering 54, for taking home to read. Reading of books in the class on Saturdays, assisted by volunteers, continued, where children of II standard and VI standard also
participated with great interest. Out of some 220 books we had, as many as 180 books were in regular use, either in circulation or in class-reading sessions.

During the term, intent on trimming the Library stocks, 26 books were identified to be of much higher standard for WM children and these were handed over to Centre Co-ordinator for exploring possibilities of using them at other Centres.

To cater to the varied interests exhibited by the children, old and new issues of Magic Pot, a fortnightly English magazine (now weekly) specially designed for children – comprising comics to colouring, stories,problem solving tests, quiz, etc. --were bought and donated by two of the team members. Needless to say, these became hot favourites among the children.

Mid-week visits to the school by two of the Library Team members continued throughout the Third Term and as many as 14 such visits were made. These visits helped volunteers to interact with the children more intimately and on one-to-one basis to gauge their interests and overall improvement in language.

There were 4 occasions when a child read out for the other children a story from a book. This exercise boosted children’s self-esteem and motivated other children to emulate them.

Silent reading by some children on their own was tried during this term. However, as monitoring this activity proved to be difficult, this was abandoned after few attempts. With a better volunteer strength, probably, we could have gone on with this experiment and emerged successful, instead of losing out not just in efforts, but also in keeping track of books in the overall extra excitement this trial created. In
the third term, sadly, as many as 22 books have been lost or have gone missing.

Benchmarks

All the targets set at the beginning of the academic year – number of books every kid reads in a year, recalling stories read, overcoming hesitation to speak in English, reading to an audience --were surpassed with ease and children’s interest in seeing, reading, drawing and learning from the lot of books we placed at their disposal kept increasing and we went on creating new benchmarks. However, the number of kids showing considerable improvement in the language front was not up to expectations
and this has to go up to make the library project a total success. This is the goal set for the coming year, and towards this end, the team has already started devising plans and processes, including investing in and inducting as many as 50 new books.

Seeing that the children have started to eagerly look forward to taking home a book on Wednesdays, the teachers decided to make use of this interest more effectively. As a means of punishment, unruly children were forbidden from taking home any book for a week or two. Though this gave way to long faces, the apprehension of another week without book made the children correct their behaviour.

Beyond

Books and benchmarks are part of any Library effort, but alwyas there was something beyond these that was taking place in Deepam WM.

At the beginning of the third term, on January 7, a group of 18 children were taken on a guided tour to Anna Centenary Library, Kotturpuram, to make them understand the concept of a Library and give them a feel of the Library atmosphere and culture. The sense of awe the kids had on seeing the huge building with rooms and rooms of books (not just rows and rows), including some in Braille and digital Braille made us feel: One Library visit = All Deepam sessions of the year.

When announcement about Deepam’s Third Anniversary function was made and the Centre coordinators decided that each Centre would give a brief account of its activities at the function, the Library Team decided to make this intro speech a lively show. An idea as to how to present it was conceived, contents were developed and transferred to paper, resources (8 children) for the part handpicked, rehearsals and practice done, the children made to understand what they were to speak - and they did! Many unscheduled visits to the school were made by the team members, with one goal
in mind and when the speech was delivered at the Anniversary Function held on 19 March, the children outperformed everyone’s expectation. The remarkable capability shown by the children in reading, understanding, committing to memory and reproducing to an audience of 500 plus with hardly a tremor showcased the fruits of our efforts.

When the twice-weekly interactions with the children revealed that some of the IV standard children were dismally poor in basic English and found it difficult even to understand simple words, we identified 10 kids who needed help the most. A book specially designed for such children (simple words in bilingual form) was purchased and given to each of them, along with a notebook. Exercises to learn the language
in a fun way were devised and the children were told to do them during vacation as a pastime.

Ten children who exhibited excellent learning skills, eagerness to learn, improvement in attitude, exemplary behaviour and an enthusiasm to participate in Deepam classes regularly, were chosen to be rewarded. It was unanimously agreed that nothing other than a Book would be a fitting gift to them. Therefore, we bought 10 sticker books that were learning-oriented but with entertainment value and these books were presented to them during Deepam’s Anniversary function. Later, the children could
be seen going through these books with eyes wide with pride.

Reaching out

On the last day of the school, the Library Team members visited the school to give away free Tamil and English books to children for reading during vacation. These came out of the books received by the Centre as donation. The Magic Pot collection was also cleared and the magazines found their right places in the kids’ bags ‘to keep in touch with English’ during vacation.

Few books were collected from members’ own personal stock of books and reached to one of the IV standard boys who was staying home nursing a fractured leg and has been advised a month’s rest by the doctor.

What started as an effort to introduce the children to simple story books in English and to ensure that every child had read at least 10 books at the end of the year, has now become synonymous with a ‘way of Deepam English sessions’ at WM Centre. Nearly eight to ten kids have been able to understand the concept of library record too and had an index of a list of books they had read, which, to them, is a matter of great pride.

Conclusion

Wrapping up last year with a good sense of fulfilment, we hope to strengthen the efforts in the forthcoming year in the Library front to increase its effectiveness and consequently the satisfaction of having a fantastic outcome. With volunteers keenly supporting library team’s efforts through the year, such increase in effectiveness and ensuing joy are only to be expected, naturally.

WM LIBRARY TEAM
5 June 2011

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