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In Nepal, Community Engagement Turns One School Library into a Hive of Activity

March 01, 2013

Literacy Nepal

Three siblings are huddled over a book. The eldest is narrating. Her sister—also working diligently on a homework assignment—nods slowly, occasionally requesting that her older sister repeat a paragraph. At just two months old, the youngest is peacefully sleeping in his cradle.

Pratikshya, Pragya and Pragyan start most days this way, even though the youngest participant isn’t likely to remember. Next door, Santosh and his father are ensconced in a similar scene. A few houses down, Ganesh is reading his mother a story while his sister listens in.

Pratikshya, Santosh and Ganesh are all students of Shree Jana Jagriti Lower Secondary School, located seven hours from the capital of Kathmandu. All three of them admit to reading at least one book before school each day, something that’s become a regular occurrence in the community since the doors of the school’s Room to Read library opened in 2001.

“After we established the library,” says Manoj Subedi, Room to Read’s School Libraries Program Associate, “we helped the school with the awareness campaign about the positive impacts of reading and worked on motivating them to use the library frequently.” At first sight, parents sitting with their children reading might not seem like a major event, but it is exactly this kind of activity that helps children develop a lifelong habit of reading.

The school’s chairman, Dev Bahadur Rana Magar, saw a stark difference in the community after the literacy awareness campaign. “Members of the local community rarely loaned books before because they assumed that the library catered only to the students,” he says. “The awareness camp dispelled that and introduced them to the library’s various resources.”

Som Bahadhur Mauarati has a son at Shree Jana Jagriti. “I was surprised to find books to suit my level,” he says. “Earlier I asked my son to loan books for me, but now I visit the library on my own whenever I have free time.” He is currently devouring a book about yoga in his spare time.

And it’s not just the adults of the village who are benefitting—the library has been a hub of activity for students like Santosh, an 8th grader, for over a decade now. Santosh says the storybooks in the library helped him to be analytical thinker.

“I am reading Ghost’s Flute now about a cowardly boy,” he says. “The main character believes that ghosts gather in the bamboo groove near his house to play flute at night because he doesn’t realize bamboo ‘sings’ in a slight breeze. He soon realizes his mistake and becomes more practical after discovering the truth.” The moral, says Santosh, is not to jump to conclusions. As Santosh discovered, some of life’s greatest lessons can often be found on the pages of a book.

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