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These Kids Built a Library for Govt School Children From Scratch to Spread Love & Learning

To share the joy of reading with children in an adopted government school, SAI International School students created a library and reading space.

To share the joy of reading with children in an adopted government school, these SAI International School students created a colourful library and reading space in 2012. Their vision has now expanded into the ‘100 Libraries Project’. 

In 2012, 16-year-old Priyanka Patra and her friends at SAI International School in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, keenly observed the conditions of an adopted government school in Patia. They were upset to see a lack of infrastructure, furniture and basic amenities in the 113-year-old dilapidated building. The year before this, the school’s ‘Going Global’ club had installed new toilets in the school. The students pondered over what more they could do for the children this year.

After speaking to the children at the Patia school, the students realised that they were eager to read but lacked the resources to do so as they didn’t have a library. Wanting to share the joy of reading with these 100 odd students, they planned to donate a rack with some books that could be collected as part of the Joy of Giving week, through a book drive. But realising the value of creating a more long lasting impact, they finally decided to donate a complete library.


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Under the mentorship of Binati Mishra, the students – Ankit Sahu, Vikram Aditya Sahoo, Vishal Aditya Sahoo, Priyanka Patra and several others – divided themselves into three groups. One group scrounged through old furniture that was piled up in SAI International School’s storage room, and went about mending these and painting them so they could be reused.

The second group launched an All School Book Drive to collect donations for the new library. Over 400 books were collected through donation, in different languages – Oriya, English and Hindi – from comics to magazines, story-books to dictionaries.

The third group went about cleaning up the storage room in the Patia government school, fixing a tubelight, installing a fan, repairing the electrical outlets, painting the walls playfully and fixing curtains for the window. The students say they constantly interacted with the children at the Patia school so as to involve them in the process and incorporate their suggestions. Priyanka Patra adds, “We taught the students the entire procedure of issuing and re-issuing books and keeping records.”

new library
The storage room before and after it was transformed into a library
colourful library
The newly painted library and recycled furniture.
Image Credit: Jessica Patnaik

By adopting the simple four-step design-thinking framework of Design for Change – a not-for-profit organisation that challenges children to solve problems in their community – the students of SAI International School went about step-by-step realising their vision for the new library. DFC’s FIDS framework encourages children to first ‘feel’ for an issue, then ‘imagine’ a way to address it, then ‘do’ something about it and go on to ‘share’ their idea with more people.

This story was selected amongst the top 20 stories globally for Design for Change’s ‘Be the Change’ Conference, 2013, organised in India.

Students of SAI International School say that their school’s management was highly supportive in providing transport and even in re-scheduling classes so that they could take out time for this initiative. In their written submission for Design for Change, they say that they are happy that their small idea could bring a change into the lives of the government school children – through their project ‘Reading Rainbow’. The children at the Patia school are delighted to have a new library, with Preeti of class IV remarking, “This is the first time we are going to have a library. I am very happy and feel proud to have one.”

Reading Rainbow
Children at the government school in Patia with their new books in front of the ‘Reading Rainbow’ library
Image Credit: Jessica Patnaik

You can watch the full story of how the library was made, here:

Jessica Patnaik, who was the coordinator of the project, says that the vision has now grown into a ‘100 Libraries Project’.

“Each year, the school has a Children’s Day Fest called UNWIND where the fund raised goes towards implementing libraries in schools. We have donated 18 libraries so far but will not stop until we donate 100. Most of these projects are coordinated by the ‘Going Global’ and ‘Interact’ Clubs of SAI International School.”

The 18 new libraries have so far been created in government schools in Bhubaneshwar, with four of them being in schools for differently-abled children. For instance, a small library was set up at Sri Harsha School for the Deaf in 2013, under the ‘Silent Wish Project’, which you can see here. In 2017 alone, the school has set 4-5 more libraries as their target.

With schoolkids taking things into their own hands to help other children discover the joy of learning, one can’t help but be inspired and optimistic about the future of education!

Be a part of one of the largest global movements of children driving change in their communities. Take up the ‘I CAN School Challenge’ in your classroom. Find out more online, or reach out to Design For Change on +91-95999-16181.

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Written by Niharika Sanyal

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Niharika Sanyal is a forager of meaning, architect by training, writer by instinct, and coffee-addict by habit.