Last Thursday, a group of us took on a mob of 50 children aged 5 to 11 for a three hour workshop on reading and related activities. We actually enjoyed it! We had a mix of activities which were taken on by each of us. Craft, drama, poetry and art. What chaos it seemed to be but what fun the kids had! Leela Garady repeated her natural colours activity. We were a little uncertain how these affluent urban kids would respond to painting with spinach paste, beetroot juice and using a broom stick for a brush. But young children are very open as we discovered and the defining moment of the session came for me when a young child came running up to ask, “Aunty, can I have another paint brush?” i.e. broom quill!!! They made some lovely paintings too.
In the afternoon we had the older ones, 35 of them, aged 12 to 16. This was rather different and made us ponder about the mainstream education these kids were exposed to. Fisrt of all, we could see a reluctance or diffidence to move outside their familiar spheres. Secondly, when asked to write down their favourite book as the first stage of an activity, they were blank, confessing that they had not read!!!!! After this we talked and read out to them from different genres and during the break, we got our breakthrough. Many of them went to the library’s computer to check out some of the books we had talked about!! The final activity involved making a miniature book with 14 mini panels which they could fill with any sequential ‘story’ or events. sad to say,too many of them sat with a blankness which indicated a paucity of imagination. We also spotted boys who had been dubbed ‘difficult’ or ‘troublesome’. These were the ones that tried to draw attention to themselves through snide comments. But when they saw we were not judging or punishing them, it was very moving to see how they came forward tentatively and volunteered to do things or talk about anything to the others.
We learnt a lot!!!