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Meet the young bibliophiles

RASHMI GOPAL RAO Nov 13 2017, 21:20 IST
A child looking through the interactive reading tools available in the children's library at Chagaletti near Bengaluru.

A child looking through the interactive reading tools available in the children's library at Chagaletti near Bengaluru.

Imagine a full-fledged library run totally and successfully by a small group of children, all of them under the age of 17, from a remote village. Seems far-fetched? But, a look at the Children's Library in Chagaletti, a small village in North Bengaluru taluk will prove you wrong. A revolutionary concept that has worked wonders for the children, parents, teachers and the entire neighbourhood of villages, it is a library for the children, by the children and of the children.

An initiative of the Child Rights Trust (CRT) that is working for the cause of children, the library was set up in 2010 and within a short span of eight months it was presented with the best community library award by the Hippocampus Reading Foundation. "As a director of CRT, I have always been interacting and working with children and when there was a suggestion by the children of our village to have a library in the village, I decided to go ahead with their request provided they take the ownership of managing the show. I attended a three-day workshop by the Hippocampus Reading Foundation where the whole process of running a library scientifically was explained. I then trained the children and they took it up from there," says Nagasimha, the man
behind the initiative.

The library was started in a room in his house with a small collection of 200 books and was managed entirely by six children (five girls and a boy), aged between 10 and 17, at that time. The entire management of the library including borrowing, returns, inventory and maintenance was taken up by these children. Today, it is an institution that has over 4,000 books and 200 members, including those from neighbouring villages. The library has not only grown exponentially, but has had a positive effect on the reading habits of the children.

With more and more books being added, there is a keen interest among parents and teachers. "We support the library in all its educative initiatives and special events that are held to increase the awareness of children. The library has benefited the entire community as children have become voracious readers now, with less time spent on watching TV," says Prasad, a parent whose children visit the library regularly.

The books are graded and matched with the profile of the children on a regular basis to ensure that the children are reading books relevant to their age. Witnessing the phenomenal success of the Chagaletti library, similar libraries have been set up in cities including Ballari, Kolar, Gadag, Chamarajanagar, Chitradurga and Dharwad under the guidance of these children.

The library has attracted the attention of several non-profit organisations from other states of India as well as abroad and they have taken cues to replicate this model. "The right to participation is a key element in the overall growth and development of children into responsible citizens. The success of this library goes on to show that young children can be groomed not only to take ownership but also to be resourceful leaders," says Nagasimha.

"We never had access to a library and this was the motivation for us to run one. While there were initial challenges in motivating the children, we overcame them by organising games and fun activities so that they visit the library and inculcate the reading habit," says Veda, who is a member of the team that runs the library. "I was 10 when the library started but with the help of five other members, I enjoyed taking responsibility of running the place," says Karthik, who is also a part of running the library since its inception.

The children are also spreading the word by taking books to the nearby village schools. This has resulted in the development of a mobile library.

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