Lakshmi Karunakaran conducts reading sessions in slums

INTRODUCTION

Lakshmi Karunakaran along with all his volunteers has been conducting reading sessions with the children of about 200 families living in a slum in Bangalore. The kids are aged between 6-16, and are divided into two groups. In between Wednesday to Saturday, children diligently engage in reading and storytelling. Sundays are special as they put their Picasso caps on, and the space turns into an art activity center. They learn painting and drawing.They can even experiment in theater and beat-boxing which opens a door to a lot of opportunities to them.

SCOPE:

There is a Buguri community library which has over 2,000 books in Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and English. All these books are raised from donors from across the world including Goobe’s, the bookstore on Church Street, and publishers such as Tulika Books and Pratham books, etc.

The road to social change is very difficult. After crossing all the hurdles then the goal can be achieved. The organisation faced various roadblocks one of which was that many children couldn’t read because 80% were in the younger group while others were dropouts.

EXPERIENCE OF LAKSHMI

Lakshmi shared in an interview with the Bangalore Mirror that they are still working out ways to tackle the issue and introduce a short-term reading fluency programmer. One of the innovative solutions they have come up with is becoming visual readers. This includes read-aloud sessions, storytelling and discussion. They help the children personalize it to the conflict in their lives and ask them to react in those situations.

LEARNING FROM THE COMMUNITY

Learning has been a two-way street for both the volunteers and the kids. Water is a major issue for the community. On Sunday morning, the entire family is roped in to fill up buckets. The attendance at 10 am on Sunday sessions dwindles. It is giving important lessons in sanitation and personal hygiene but showering everyday is difficult when the kids have never lived with a running tap.

“When a few kids misbehaved and tore up some books, they expected to be beaten up. Instead, they were kindly asked why they behaved the way they did. We took a democratic vote and decided to cancel the membership of anyone who breaches the library’s rule of love towards each other and the books. They learn to respect rules.” Karunakaran told Bangalore Mirror.

The last months have seen a steady change; they clean up before coming to the library. The kids, who speak Hindi, now translate for volunteers, who don’t speak Kannada and Tamil. The spinning of tales goes on and bright painted 200 sq-ft rooms. Tiny as it may seem, it’s a world of their own.

Karunakaran admits, they’re still working out ways to circumvent that (they might introduce a short-term reading fluency program). They’ve dealt with it for now by becoming visual readers. This includes read aloud sessions, storytelling and discussion. They also open up the story to personalizing and contextualizing it to the conflict in the lives of the children, and asking them how they would react in a particular session.

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