“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles William Eliot
A month ago I was in Bangalore looking for a couple of books. I stumbled across a second hand bookshop called ‘ Goobes Book Republic‘ on Church St Inn. It is a wonderful place – an Aladdin’s Den of books in a basement shop. I was mooching and trying to restrain myself from buying too many books when I overheard the wise owner (pictured) trying to persuade a boy with his mum to start reading an Enid Blyton book. The boy was doubtful – so the owner cut a deal – he could have the first book as a free loan and if he enjoyed it he had to come back within a week and tell the owner why. The boy left the shop skipping with enthusiasm. I was smitten with this book shop and the mission the owner had to get the children reading.
This year – because of my tertianship (like a renewal year) I have had the space and time to read more. It has been a great joy rediscovering novels and books. I now feel at least half an hour quietly reading in some corner or other has become indispensable. It struck me that reading is an important contrast to the immediacy of the digital age. Films, TV, The Internet seem to have become faster – hyperstimulating – a succession of rapidly changing images – and the danger is that there is no ‘breathing space’ or more importantly space left for your imagination to engage with what you are consuming. With a book I find myself putting it to one side, thinking about something, mulling something else over. It is refreshing and can increase your sense of well being tremendously. Along with this rediscovered passion I have found wonderful resources on the internet such as Goodreads, The Browser and BookCrossing. In fact you can see my goodreads widgets to the left of this blog.
Here in Manvi – literacy rates are very low in the villages. So as well as attempting to convince a first-generation how important schooling is, we are also trying to do so in the English Language. For the poorest children from the remotest villages, they stay on site in hostels. That means we get an extra few hours in the evening with them. At the moment that is ‘dead time’ i.e. after a day in class the children sit with their books open but not really doing any productive work. So I am suggesting that we buy sets of comic books to improve their English. Good learning can also be fun and entertaining. So now, during the holiday, whilst the hostel is relatively empty, we are trialing a few different types of comics to see which type are the most engaging and hold the attention of both girls and boys. Fingers crossed this could get the children into the habit of reading for enjoyment, thus expanding their worlds. A true gift if you come from a family who have been illiterate for generations.