In India, even in the remotest corner you can find a school, but that's the end of the story. There may be students, but no teachers. There may be classrooms, but no benches. Children in these schools have never come across good books that they can read and cherish. Even text books are not available to these kids.
In my earlier days when I worked in a non-formal education project, I have seen the thirst for knowledge among the kids of very poor families. They may not know how to read, but still they adore the pictures, they could relate to them and when the teacher narrates the stories from the book, she is a heaven sent blessing to the children. Whenever I used to visit the NFE centres in the fishing hamlets, I used to take Tamil books, comics, translated stories of Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens and leave it with the learners. The books became very popular that the adult learners in our centres started to fight with their kids to get hold of them!
I often marvelled at this thirst for knowlege, and wondered how we could ever quench this thirst.Recently, I came across an initiative with a very challenging title: "A Book in Every Child's Hand" now that is a gigantic vision, given the staggering size of India. However, when I heard Rohini Nilekani speak at the TEDx Gateway Mumbai 2012 partnered by Franklin Templeton Investments, I was inspired to note that in this day and age there are still few souls who want Every Child to enjoy the joys and experience the thrill of the winged words.
"A Book in Every Child's Hand" has succeeded to a great extent in putting several million books in the hands of children who otherwise would never have the opportunity. The books are translated into most of the Indian languages. By putting the books on the open platform of Creative Commons, the organizers have literally opened up the flood gates of "Creative Collaboration" so much so that many of the Indian language books were translated into French, Spanish, German and other foreign languages! This highlights the universal appeal of this project.
You can listen to the inspiring story of putting books in the tender hands of every child and opening up a new world of hope and joy at this link: Rohini Nilekani. I am going to start digging out my books, fill up my backpack and visit the schools that I work with. I am sure you'd like to join as well. Believe me, the joy and satisfaction you get when a child comes in contact with her first book is unparalleled.