Friday, September 4, 2009

Reading to little ones at Project Why's school

August 28 was a special day. That was the day I met some truly lovely children and their teachers at Project Why’s school in Govindpuri, New Delhi. But then, all kids are lovely (especially if they’re other people’s! Or grandchildren!). And the 40-50 well-scrubbed, two-, three- and four-year-olds looking up at me with eager faces, eyes shining with excitement and, in some cases, tears… they stole my heart.

Here, a confession. I knew I would be meeting little ones to share some of my picture books with them – a promise made to the dynamic and caring Anouradha Bakshi on my last visit to Delhi. Anou is the founder and spirit and inspiration behind Project Why that works among and with children in the Govindpuri neighbourhood and also runs a centre for special needs (among other things). So I knew they would be little, but so little – hmmm!

So, from my bag of books I pulled out Ekki Dokki, the very first book I wrote for Tulika that's now a firm family favourite. As we went through the adventures of Ekki and then Dokki in the dark and deep jungle, the excitement built up with much hand flapping and waving… One hand waving in the air meant Ekki, the girl with one hair. Two hands, and it was Dokki. We cupped water in our hands and watered the mehendi bush, we pulled out grass and fed the cow, and… and… all in Hindi with a lot of help from the children! One little girl for whom it was just her second day, came in howling, real tears rolling steadily down her cheeks. But the moment the storytelling began, not a cry escaped her lips!

Then we all turned around, first to face the wall with the large poster of Hello, Deepa Balsavar’s delightful story about Thumb Thumb Thambi (see Thumb Thumb Books). Then we did an about turn to count with Niveditha Subramaniam’s 9 to 1. By then the children were ready to do some thumbprint drawings themselves and they happily waved goodbye with their paint-splattered hands!

- Sandhya Rao

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