Frontlist | Room to Read: Inculcating the love for reading among young children

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In conversation with Mr. Saktibrata Sen, Program Director, Room to Read (RtR) India

 

What is Room to Read organization working for?

In 2000, Room to Read was founded on the belief that “World Change Starts with Educated Children.” We envision a world in which all children can pursue a quality education that enables them to reach their full potential and contribute to their communities and the world.

Room to Read working towards transforming the lives of millions of children in low-income communities by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. We work, in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations, and govern­ments, across sixteen countries of Asia and Africa, to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond.

How can education impact the lives of young children?

Ability to read, in the initial years, is the foundation for all future learning. A well-educated society is empowered and has the capability to directly impact the social, economic and political environment of a country and the world at large. Those who can’t read will continue to be at a sub-optimally level and will not be able to participate in the political, social or economic advancement and development of their country.

The challenges of illiteracy and its repercussions are enor­mous, yet nearly 175 million young people in low and lower middle-income countries are unable to read a single sentence. That’s one out of every four children.

Room to Read’s Comprehensive Literacy program is to ensure that all primary school children, in low-income communities, become independent, lifelong readers. The integrated Literacy program focuses on child-friendly, print-rich libraries full of diverse books that engaged and inspire children to read; effective teachers and librarians able to teach literacy skills and encourage the habit of reading; school environments that are conducive to learning; family and community awareness and support of reading; collaboration with government, civil society, and/or other NGOs to support policies and programs are necessary to effectively and sustainably impact students’ independent reading abilities; and ongoing research, monitoring and evaluation activities to ensure program quality and improvements.

What is the importance of books in foundational literacy?

Reading opens doors to knowl­edge and education. It is an important means of introducing the child to the world that surrounds him or her. It is also is one of the most important components of our language acquisition and an essential tool for lifelong learning. Reading as a lifelong habit can be sustained only by a love of reading, which has to be nurtured through books that they enjoy reading. When children read for plea­sure, without conscious effort, they achieve a good level of development in language, communication, and literacy skills.

Books exposes children to the world around them; worlds that are similar to their own and worlds that are different from their own. It helps them to imagine worlds that they have not been exposed to, as well as to reflect on the worlds that they live in. Books expose children to ideas, think, analyze, understand and form opinions.

High-quality children literature is one of the most important component of our Literacy program.

You mentioned print-rich libraries, so what kind of books and other reading material are provided in these libraries?

Room to Read has an in-depth understanding of pedagogical practices and epistemological theories emphasizing the importance and need of diverse and heterogeneous children literature during the foundational years. Understanding the important of providing children with material that is engaging and suitable to their reading level, we try to achieve an ideal collection of books for our libraries, which is balanced, targeted, relevant and levelled as per reading skill development of children.

Unfortunately, many children in the developing countries, like India, don’t have access to high-quality and age-appropriate children’s books. Children literature is often limited or non-existent, in low-income countries. While, Children’s literature in India is a growing segment and lot of good books are being published, but books for beginner or early readers, is still neglected. This scarcity further deepens when we look at quality children literature in regional language.

Room to Read also has a book publishing division, tell us about it?

 The lack of good reading material/books, in the countries where we work, impelled Room to Read to start publishing local-language books, in 2005. Our Book Publishing Program ensures age-appropriate and culturally relevant books in local-languages, that readers can enjoy at various development levels of their reading skills.

 The program focus is on reducing the gap for non-available material in the market. We prioritise on publishing books that will help fill this gap, which ultimately, helps us provide a stronger collection of books to each of our libraries.

How excited are you about the virtual Delhi Book Fair?

 Book fairs play a vital role in publishing. They provide platforms publishers, agents, distributors and other stakeholders to meet and do business. They draw public attention and interest and serve as key stimulant for the book industry. So, it’s great that a virtual platform is bringing people together to connect and collaborate, in spite of the current situation.

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