The pleasure of reading and learning

-Katha and Geeta Dharmarajan’s story pedagogy

Akshay Rana, Editor at Katha shares how Katha brings children living in poverty into reading and quality education

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Started in 1988 with a magazine for children from the underserved communities, Katha’s work spans the literacy to literature continuum. By seamlessly connecting grassroots work in education and urban resurgence, Katha brings children living in poverty into reading and quality education. Over the past three decades, through its many programmes, Katha has helped over one million children help themselves out of poverty.

Flagship programme…

One of Katha’s flagship innovations in literacy and curriculum education is StoryPedagogy, which has been developed by Founder-President Geeta Dharmarajan. In the Founder’s own words,StoryPedagogy places the child at the centre of the learning process, and endeavours to develop a pedagogic praxis that focuses on reading for fun and meaning, thereby transforming the education experience for the child by making it interactive, participative, enjoyable and meaningful. It is an interdisciplinary, integrative pedagogy that emphasizes joy in the process of learning, understanding the “Big Idea” in any content, and the idea of the child being a lifelong learner. The “story” has been judged to be the most effective medium to this end.

StoryPedagogy is the specific pedagogy, which is implemented in its most complete form at Katha Lab Schools (KLS). Katha Relevant Education for All-Round Development (KREAD) is the overarching education model, which encompasses StoryPedagogy.

The following 5Cs are the primary components of StoryPedagogy:

• Content: The content used for teaching is designed keeping in mind the ideals of Curriculum for Life, as well as the requirements of Classroom Practices. Katha believes in nurturing the Social, Personal, Imaginative/Intellectual, Cultural and Environmental skills of children through its content and broader curriculum to address the debilitating effects of poverty, which go beyond economic and material poverty alone. The content used is drawn from Katha stories created, curated and edited under the active guidance of Geeta Dharmarajan. These stories are created in a manner with colourful illustrations and relevant context to bring joy to first generation readers. The stories often revolve around the “Big Ideas” of Gender, Equity, Earth and Kindness (GEEK). Children actively engage with these “Big Ideas” in Katha content – which enables them to become Reader-Leaders while developing critical 21st Century skills.

• Classroom practices: The classroom practices are built around the child, who remains at the centre of the teaching-learning process. The primary component of Classroom Practices is ASBL, which includes TADAA!
o ASBL: Active Story Based Learning is the central method of teaching followed in StoryPedagogy. ASBL emphasizes distilling the “Big Ideas” from each story, and building lesson plans around these “Big Ideas” in an interactive and engaging manner. ASBL stands in stark opposition to the passive method of rote learning that is practiced in most mainstream government (and even private) schools in India.

.TADAA!: Think, Ask, Discuss, Act, Achieve! is the key process followed in implementing ASBL. Children are encouraged to think independently, ask pertinent questions and discuss their thoughts, ideas and opinions. This leads a child to act based on a wide and deep understanding. Then one goes on to achieve a goal or a mission – however big or small – which benefits and is meaningful to oneself and others.

• Continuous Assessment: StoryPedagogy uses the RUCHI (Read, Use [language to], Comprehend, Holistically and Intuitively) matrix of assessment. It is a qualitative, non-threatening, continuous process of assessment that is implemented by the teachers. Apart from the traditional Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing (LSRW) skills, StoryPedagogy also assesses Storytelling skills, effectively making it the LSSRW model of assessment.

• Classroom-Community Linkages: As part of Katha’s mission, KLS has become a hub of community action and the socio-economic resurgence of the Govindpuri slum area, and especially through children, youth and women. As part of their StoryPedagogy-led education, the children have their own Self-Help Groups and committees. Student-led groups identify and address various problems and difficulties faced by them within their communities, and the students come up with sustainable solutions for the same. Older students often help, guide and enable the community members to enhance their economic profile.

Ultimately, StoryPedagogy as envisioned by Geeta Dharmarajan is much more than just a pedagogic practice: rather, it is a way of life that encompasses multi-faceted, inter-connected values and strives towards building a more just, empathetic and equitable society, led by students who are Reader-Leaders.

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