A book is a dream that you hold in your hands. However, many kids are unfamiliar with the sheer joy of reading a storybook.
In 2013 when Noel Benno met a young girl, Ann, at a shelter home, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that the girl, who could have asked for anything, only wanted to be given a few story books.
Noel was a college student at that time, and when he told his friends about this incident, they got together and collected a few storybooks for her. Noel recalls how Ann’s face lit up when she saw the books.
Noel and his friends were incredibly moved with her reaction, and the incident inspired them to establish Storytime, an initiative which sets up small libraries in rural schools and communities, to provide access to a reading environment to school kids from underprivileged backgrounds.
The journey has not been easy, but Storytime’s determination has enabled many children across the nation to experience the pleasure of reading storybooks. Today, people from all over the country and even beyond its borders have helped build 24 reading spaces across six Indian states, which approximately stock 13,000 used books.
Storytime has always been a voluntary movement, right from the start. The thought which started with Ann transformed into an idea that a few engineering students wanted to continue.
Many volunteers—mostly students—helped them in their cause.
Initially, they tried several ways to collect books. For example, they asked people to get rid of their old, dust-covered storybooks which were of no use to them. They also attempted passing chits at a book fair—but their efforts received a very tepid response.
Then, one of the co-founders suggested that since kids were the first-hand consumers, they could also help the team to acquire books. The team approached some private schools and requested kids to donate books. The idea worked, and the team was soon flooded with storybooks.
Now, all they needed was a place where they could stock them.
Storytime created library spaces in schools and communities for which they tied up with government schools, the nonprofit Mantra4Change, and Teach for India. They also raised money via crowdfunding and used the money to set up more libraries.
Storytime’s first library was set up at the Government Lower Primary School at Thycaud, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and since then, there has been no stopping them.
Noel used online tools like Canva—a free design tool—to spread awareness. “The designs in Canva helped to raise awareness among the youth of various communities to come together,” he said.
Storytime’s latest project in Bengaluru, in partnership with the ACTS Group of Institutions, is at ACTS Nirmala Vidyalaya, Bengaluru.
Storytime has been no less than a fairy godmother for countless children who were deprived of the beautiful world of stories. We applaud the efforts of all the individuals who came together to help bring happiness to the lives of underprivileged children.
If you would like to contribute a book or your time as a volunteer, feel free to get in touch with Storytime through their website or Facebook page.
(This story has been written by Kavita Yadav)
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