In Satara’s Hekalwadi village, Class 4 students travel to nearby bastis, issuing books and ensuring that children experience the joys of reading even when the school library is closed.
For Komal Pawar, 9, summer holidays aren’t what vacations are like for other students. A student of Zilla Parishad School, she travels to bastis in and around Hekalwadi, daily carrying books to ensure that children continue engaging with stories even during the holiday period.
“Children in our area do not have access to books even if they want to read and gain knowledge. I love reading and it has enriched me with information and knowledge. I wanted other children of my age to experience the art of reading and understand the joys of reading. This is what motivated me to do this,” she says.
Since 2016 Satara’s Hekalwadi, a small village with ﬁve bastis (hamlets), has been keeping the library of the Zilla Parishad School open during holidays. Initially the librarian from the village agreed to sit in the school, but she expressed her inability to visit the bastis. This prompted a few fourth-graders to volunteer to take books to the surrounding bastis.
Supported by Tata Trusts Parag initiative, the school has a tin box to keep the books; stationery and art materials are provided for activities. A library volunteer is selected and trained in library skills. S/he goes to the government school every day and carries out library activities with one class - from Classes 1 to 4.
Books are lent out to all children from ages 1 to 7. Some adults also borrow books. The library is usually shifted to the librarian’s home or anganwadi room in the holidays, so that books are available to children all year round.
But during the holiday season these little librarians, fondly known as Chhote Granthapal, take books from the school library and visit all the wadis and bastis around the village. They go from house to house in each basti and lend books; some children even start gathering to read books aloud.
The children pick up 15 to 20 books from the school, visit a basti, issue new books, and collect old ones to bring back to the school. They take this opportunity to also share and enjoy the books with their friends. When the ﬁrst batch passes out, the next batch that comes to Class 4 takes up the job.
“This is a typical day of how we go about distributing books. Once we are done with one basti, we go the next basti encouraging children to read books and reading along with them,” Komal says.