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Reading Festival in Kerala

© UNICEF/India/2006
The ten day reading festival included reading competitions, book reviews, setting up of reading corners, preparation of wall magazines and visits to local monuments and interaction with local writers.

By Thomas George & Jeemon Jacob

MALAPPURAM, Kerala, India - 24 February 2006

“I never read anything other than text books. But in the last ten days I’ve read ten books and now I want to read more and more ” says  Thachannan Anjali, a seventh grade student of  Areekode Government Mappilah Upper Primary School, in Malappuram district of the state of Kerala.

This UNICEF supported initiative in 198 Upper Primary Schools in Malappuram, Wayanad and Kottayam districts of the state aims at developing learning and language skills among children.
“I was scared to touch English short stories. I thought that I would not be able to understand English books. But now I love reading English short stories."

Twelve year old Anjali got this opportunity to be introduced to the world of books as part of the reading festival campaign now underway in three districts of Kerala. “I was scared to touch English short stories. I thought that I would not be able to understand English books. But now I love reading English short stories. It has boosted my self confidence,” she said.

Her class mate Isa Rahnam says he now uses the school library more often. He proudly shows you the wall magazine he has produced as part of the Reading Fest. “There is a change in our school. Now more students are reading books and we discuss those stories,” said Isa. 

Sudhakaran, the teacher in charge of the School agrees with Isa about the inspiring changes. “Now more and more students use the library. They seek my advice on books and reading. Even parents visit school library and search for books,” said Sudhakaran.

The ten day reading festival included reading competitions, book reviews, setting up of reading corners, preparation of wall magazines and visits to local monuments and interaction with local writers.

 

Wall magazines were produced by children as part of the Reading Festival.

Improvement of reading skills is a key component of the Quality Improvement Project in Education supported by UNICEF in the three districts of Kerala. Though Kerala is statistically the “leader” in terms of educational performance in India there are serious concerns on completion of elementary education and learning outcomes. Large number of functionally illiterate primary school graduates highlights the need for a focus on improving the quality of education. Teachers and educationists in the state defined the standards for quality in schools through a series of workshops.
The Reading Festival is an interesting programme that sensitized both parents and students about the importance of developing reading habits among children.

Krishnakumar, the Headmaster of the school said that the reading festival has brought revolutionary changes in the classrooms. “Teachers find classrooms interesting yet challenging at the same time. Children have become very demanding and teachers have to update their knowledge to satisfy their curiosity. Even parents seek our help regarding many things which they don’t know,” said Krishnakumar.
 
According to Muneera Haroon, President of the Mothers Teachers Association, the Reading Festival is an interesting programme that sensitized both parents and students about the importance of developing reading habits among children. “Most of our children are from poor families and their parents are not well-educated. So these children were not familiar with reading books or newspapers. But we have found children participating in the Reading Fest actively. We will continue the activities of Reading Fest throughout the year and have decided to upgrade the school library. We will also make sure that there is more space available for the library,’ she said.

“The ten day programme was a great success. Teachers, parents and students participated in the programme earnestly,” said Abdul Razak, Principal of the District Institute for Education and Training, the Coordinator of the programme in Malappuram district. Encouraged by the success of the programme, the district administration has started reading festivals in all schools in the district.

 

 
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