Open Library

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Different Strokes

Some library interactions with the children of the Shraddhanjali Integrated School.
This is a school with mainly children who have severe disabilities and is situated in Hennur.

After a workshop with the teachers of the school on innovative use and approach to the library, I went to the school along with two young students fromCFL, Dakshayini and Yamuna to actually do library sessions with each class. We covered four periods and the objectives were to initiate and expose children to the library collection, its use, reading for fun, care in handling of books and making the library an attractive place to visit.

1st period. 5th and 7th standards.
Before we began, we asked them to tell us what the library contained and where. Their awareness about this was good. Since they are older children, I decided to do a session on reference books and how to search for and find information from them.. The idea was to simulate use through a game. Students were asked to choose chits (prepared earlier) which had topics written on them. Children formed pairs and then looked up these topics in the reference books. After they found the relevant page, they noted down the page n. on the chit. Then they in turn showed the page and told the others what their topic was. In this they learnt that topics were listed in alphabetical order. So they had to look it up and read whatever they could. The follow up activity for the teacher on the next visit would be to ask them to locate the book and page, read as much as they can and write two sentences of their own on what they have understood. The activity generated a lot of excitement and interest.

2nd period. 2nd and 3rd standards.
We felt that these children needed to learn about care of books since they were a bit rough in leafing through the books. The two children accompanying me staged a dumb show, one enacting the role of the book and the other the user, both good and bad! As each action was performed, the students were asked to guess what was happening and say it. This exercise was very useful since in a fun way they saw what happens to a book which is misused and vice versa. After this we asked the children to make book marks so that they can keep to the page they are reading without turning the book upside down or fold the corner! This went well and they seemed happy to be using their hands. The follow up activity for the teacher would be to ask the children to think of one sentence about a friendly relationship with books and have them write it on the book mark so that whoever uses it next can learn something more. These book marks can be kept in a container on the library table.

3rd period. 4th standard.
I had found an excellent book published by Pratham called “Chuskit goes to school” by Manjula Padmanabhan. This lady has worked with children with disabilities and her story is about a disabled child and how her classmates help her. This is the first story I have read where the main character is disabled and I found it sensitively written.
I read out the story to the children who appeared to be much taken by it. After some talk about the story, some children worked on posters for the library and with the help of the two children with me, some others made a mobile for the library using tree pods, coloured strips etc. We also talked about story books and authors. The follow up activity would be for the teacher to source unusual books like this, read them out and have a discussion about the characters and the plot. Also encourage the children to think a little more of the kind of posters they can draw. The themes they could use could be themes of books, like animal stories, adventure stories, fairy stories etc.

4th period. 1st standard
With this class we thought we would ask 4 children to be shopkeepers. They were asked to take out a large number of books from the shelves and arrange them on the table. After doing this they were to “sell” the books by recommending them to particular children in their group for reading. They had to learn about the best way to arrange the books, choose those with attractive covers and think who would like what kind of book. After they warmed up, the activity went well and every child had a book to look at. 5 minutes before the period ended, they had to collect the books and replace them. There too care was needed to replace the books with the title showing, right side up etc. The follow up here by the teacher could be to have the children read the books they chose and have two or three of them tell the story briefly. Others listen and ask questions.

Concluding remarks.
For me and for the two children with me, it was our first experience of working and interacting with disabled children. At first we were hit hard by the extent of their severe disabilities but when we began to talk and interact, their readiness to engage and total absence of feelings of limitation freed us and we enjoyed the entire experience tremendously. I found the children bright and full of curiosity and very friendly. Perhaps my only suggestion would be to find ways to free them from any psychological limitation and find ways to enhance their creativity and original thinking. I found that many of these activities were good for them in this regard.
The last moment was an unforgettable one. We wanted the mobile to be put up but the hook was rather high. The security guard could not do it and asked a tall parent who also could not reach. He immediately carried one of the school children who slipped the mobile onto the hook and we all burst into spontaneous applause!

Usha Mukunda