Bookaroo in the city

-Lighting up the City with Stories

Twenty five storytellers visited 19 places in Delhi with their magical repertoire of tales. Akshita Ajitsariya shares more.

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It is that time of the year again when preparations for Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival are in full swing.

Bookaroo in the City…

It also means that it is time for Bookaroo’s outreach programme, Bookaroo in the City (BiC) to begin. And it has. Starting September 20th when BiC kicked off in the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses’ Homeless Intervention Centre in Nizamuddin Basti, the outreach has already covered 12 institutions at the time of writing this feature. Seven more are due to be covered by October 15th.

Bookaroo in the City is an initiative undertaken by Bookaroo to spread the joy of reading with children. It is an effort to take a slice of the festival to various parts of the city to reach children who may not have the opportunity to join us at the main festival. BiC travels with Bookaroo to every city and makes books come alive with storytelling sessions,dramatized reading, art and craft workshops for children.

Every year storytellers, authors and illustrators visit diverse institutions, from rehabilitation centres to NGO-operated schools to government schools to vocational centres for the differently-abled to parks and libraries.

BiC this year…

This year, BiC has collaborated with the Delhi Storytellers Tribe (DST) to conduct storytelling sessions in Hindi at 19 venues with 25 storytellers across the city. DST is a network of storytellers in the city that connects, collaborates and creates opportunities to celebrate the art of oral storytelling. It is three years old and has found resonance in telling stories for inclusion. Following SPYM came a session in Cheshire Home.

While the former had excited children of the homeless or marginalised people, Cheshire Home had a bunch of really enthusiastic children with special needs with the ages ranging from 6 to 20. The other venues were seven schools run by the NGO Deepalaya, two schools for the visually impaired, a second homeless shelter run by SPYM, MCD schools in three locations, Parivartan (a vocational technical training centre for the differently-abled) and the Mehrauli Community Library, as a part of the Free Library Network’s library in Mehrauli.

The experience…

Every visit was a learning experience for the storytellers as well as Bookaroo. Every venue gave a glimpse into the lives of the children– be it their reading habits or the ambience in which they read or the collection of books and one also learned about the gaps that exist in children’s reading. It becomes vital that diverse books across several languages find a home in the shelves of these institutions, and children are encouraged to pick and read them as frequently as possible. Bookaroo in the City as a project aims to make children fall in love with reading so that they are tempted to pick one book after the other.

The volunteers who participated in this initiative –- accompanying the storytellers to the institutions –are college students, predominantly from a literature or teaching background. This not only made them keen and enthusiastic about the project but also gave them an insight into how stories travel and can bring joy to people.

Visiting venue after venue they went carrying fun stories in forms such as storytelling, play-acting, drawing, singing, dancing, engaging in games and introspective activities. Every session was prepared such that the stories aligned with the age-group and the interests of the children of that age. And did the children enjoy these sessions! While some groups of children were thrilled about singing along with the storyteller, some put all their creative energy into their sketches. There were some who wanted stories performed on repeat, while some who giggled their hearts. The heart-warming aspect was that even the supervisors at these institution were equally excited and seemed to be taking tips on storytelling for future use.

On Bookaroo…

Bookaroo, organised by Bookaroo Trust, is committed to bringing children and books together whilst making reading fun, through interactions with authors, illustrators and storytellers. The 15-year-old festival is the only pan-India children’s literature festival that is free and open to all.

Festival director of Bookaroo, Swati Roy has this to say, “We extend our gratitude to our donors, the DST, the volunteers and the 19 institutions that agreed to host our sessions. It is our dream that Bookaroo in the City grows manifold in the coming future and more children can experience the joy of reading in as many places as possible.”

According to the DST, “Since its inception, DST has found resonance in telling stories for inclusion. This year, with Bookaroo as partner, we are supporting the Kutumb Foundation’s community library programmes by telling stories for Bookaroo in the City.”

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