The power of reading

HEALING FACTOR

Sometimes a story told in an appealing way can do wonders. Experts from India and abroad came under one roof to discuss the use of books in soothing grief of the children under trauma.

The three-day conference ‘Reading is Healing’ was organised by Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC) and Indian section of International Board on Books for Young People (Ind.BBY) with an aim to spread the use of books and reading as means to heal people, especially children affected by trauma in various forms. Eminent international and Indian speakers from 15 countries shared their views on therapeutic role and effects of books on children to facilitate emotional growth and healing.

Ira Saxena, convener of the conference, said that the concept of reading and telling stories for healing children who have gone through trauma is very new, but has a lot of potential in it. “We have firm conviction in the potential of storytelling and reading to revive hopes among children who have undergone trauma, be it due to man-made disaster or natural calamity,” she said.

The causes of trauma can be different kinds of fears, complexes and adjustment problems as a result of natural calamities, man-made disasters and psycho-social traumas, both at schools and at home.

Various speakers from Pakistan, US, Uganda, Africa, Japan, Italy and Greece discussed the global importance of literature as a tool for therapy, presented details of some successful projects based on this concept and introduced techniques to calm traumatised minds through reading.

Fauzia Azia Minallah, a speaker from Pakistan, elaborated on the use of art and picture books for children in crisis in Pakistan. Speakers from Greece, Fissas C Kritkou and M Tsiantis, highlighted the importance of therapeutic tool of storytelling for dealing with trauma associated with bullying behaviour, while poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar threw light on the magic of poetry to heal.

“Pakistan is going through turbulent times. Whether it is the growing menace of militancy or the recurrent natural disasters such as quakes and flood, have put thousands of children in crisis situation. Since 2004, we have been using art activities and book reading sessions as an integral part of healing for earthquake victims in the camps of Islamabad,” said Fauzia during the panel discussion ‘Using Books to Heal’.

During the conference, sessions of story making and storytelling were organised for children of various schools. On display were picture books and other books from India and abroad in different languages. Posters related to aftermath of nuclear bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities of Japan were also displayed at the event.

“The concept is based on empathising. For instance, if a child has lost his parents in some calamity and if he reads a book in which the protagonist is undergoing the same situation, he would think that he is not the only one to experience that pain and suffering. The challenge is to identify those books,” said Ira. She added that the concept was used on children who were victims of Gujarat riots and tsunami.

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