Children in over 70,000 government schools in Bihar are now enjoying reading hundreds of colourful, well-written, and well-produced storybooks – thanks to Pratham Books and its novel mission to see “A book in every child’s hand”.
In our country, children are expected to learn to read and comprehend simple text by the end of their first year in school. Textbooks in early school grades require children to read fluently by the end of class two. However, available evidence indicates that a large proportion of school children are still struggling to recognise letters and decode words after 2 or 3 years of formal schooling. This makes helping children learn to read one of the biggest challenges in India today.
Pratham Books, a children’s book publisher with a difference, is addressing this challenge in style. The organization is a not-for-profit trust that was set up in 2004 with the objective of publishing high quality, low cost books in Indian languages and giving Indian children the opportunity to read interesting books that they can identify with, in their own language.
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Last year, the government of Bihar introduced Bodhi Vriksha Karyakram, a programme to improve reading levels in early grades of school. However, for reading skills to actually improve, children need many, many books that stimulate their imagination, expand their minds, and evoke enough interest to keep them reading. In an extremely foresighted move, the Bihar government utilised 2% of the funds provided by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to buy storybooks and other such resources for students of standards 1 and 2.
The Government invited publishers including Pratham Books to participate in ‘Pustak Melas’ held in 37 districts of Bihar from November 2008 to January 2009. The schools were encouraged to attend these Melas and buy books for their students. In what could be the biggest investment in India’s history towards making books other than textbooks available to young children, this programme spent Rs. 30 crores, and reached no less than 6 million children! In just 7 weeks, truckloads of books, approximately 400 tons, were distributed across thousands of government primary schools in Bihar.
The Bihar government’s initiative is a simple, efficient model that can be replicated in other states. Efforts like these immensely improve reading levels among young students, and bring us closer to making India a reading country.
You can get more information on Pratham Books at http://www.prathambooks.org/.
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