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READ-INDIA
     
 

In just a few months, India’s army of illiterate children can shrink by over 50 million. This is the message of hope being conveyed by Pratham and Akshara Foundation with the launch of the Read India movement.

The ‘few months’ are of course an idealised deadline, but one that’s not as unrealistic as it seems. Using Pratham’s Accelerated Reading Program, which is based on the methodology of noted educationists like Dr. A.K. Jalaluddin, a child can learn to read fluently in a few weeks. Already 1,60,000 of India’s underprivileged children in states as diverse as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have gained from the program.

Pratham places this emphasis on reading for a very simple reason: 50% of the 50 million children we talked about are children already in the 4th or 5th standards who cannot read fluently. But they should be able to. And the simple fact is that the better a child reads, the faster he or she learns. There are two reasons for Pratham’s confidence in making Read India work: the large scale success already achieved over a decade and the fact that Pratham has years of experience in bringing together the Government, the corporate sector and individuals in the pursuit of a common goal.

The second prong of the attack on illiteracy is the Library Project. Akshara Foundation will also help communities set up libraries, ranging from large ones in Government schools to small community libraries catering to about 250 families.

But teaching children to read is not the end, because libraries will not be achieving the primary aim of inculcating a sustainable reading habit among children if they do not have books that make children WANT to read. Hence Read India Books, a new imprint, from Pratham Books was launched on September 8th 2003, World Literacy Day. Pratham Books is a non-profit venture that has been set up to create and produce high quality books in local languages at affordable prices. This was set up since there is a dearth of such books in the market today and if we are to make the Read India campaign a complete success, that gap needed to be filled. It aims to provide a large number of entertaining and instructive books in many of India’s languages. Now the time is right to take Read India from being a project to a national movement. As Gandhiji helped show the world, when Indians come together, nothing is impossible.

Rahul Dravid inaugurated the Read India movement in September 2003 in Bangalore with the launch of a storybook written specially for young readers, called ‘The Why-Why Girl’ (Yaake, Yaake Hudugi in Kannada) by noted Indian author Mahasweta Devi. Kannada theatre person B Jayashree read it to a group of children at the ADA Rangamandira in the city. A charming and instructive little story, it follows little Moina, a tribal girl who goes from asking WHY everything is the way it is to understanding that learning and reading can answer all her questions. Akshara looks forward to making the Read India movement a powerful and vibrant force for change in the years to come.

 
     
       
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