Muskaan Ahirwar, a 9-year-old girl from Bhopal, runs a library for children called Bal Pustakalay in the slum area behind the Rajya Siksha Kendra (State Educational Centre) in Arera Hills.
Every day after coming back from school, Muskaan sets up the library at around 4:00 pm outside her house.
Picture for representation only. Source: Pratham Books/Flickr
All the books that have been provided by the Rajya Siksha Kendra are laid out on a mat, while other children residing in the slum eagerly wait for their turn to pick up one of them.
In December 2015, a team of the State Education Board visited the slum and gave the children about 25 books to share and read with the aim of creating an interest for reading among them. They also conducted a question-answer round to understand the academic level of the children and Muskaan, a student of Class 3, won the quiz. The officials were very impressed by her knowledge and zeal to learn more. And that is how they gave her the responsibility to educate other students in the area with the help of books provided by the centre. The children then received more books on Republic Day.
Muskaan, who is a one of the most intelligent children in her class, maintains a register to keep a track of the books taken by other children and when they have to be returned. Her elder sister Neha, who is a student of Class 7, helps her in this process.
“Currently, the officials have provided 119 books to the library, which is my responsibility and I love doing this. Other children in slum area take books and return them the other day. Some stay back to read here with me and ask questions where they don’t understand,” she told The Times of India.
This way, the slum children have found a place to play, listen to stories, learn, and read together. Muskaan also conducts reading and discussion sessions where she reads a book aloud, and then they discuss it. They are now planning to ask for more books because most children have read all the books in stock. Muskaan’s father Manohar Ahirwar is a carpenter and her mother Maya is a housewife. They are proud of their daughters and said that both of them are very dedicated to their studies.