Storybooks open new windows for Spiti tribal children during lockdown

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Nothing could have been more meaningful to the children of the Spiti tribal valley of the Lahaul Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh during the Covid-19 lockdown than having free access to story books sitting at the house in scattered villages.

Hundreds of elementary school students in these remote difficult terrains have been introduced to the new world through picture and story books in Hindi, English and even Tibetan by a Delhi-based NGO, Let’s Open a Book. , over the past three years in their school libraries. The Spiti tribes also include many Buddhists.

In Covid-19, volunteers from this NGO ensured that students had the books on their doorstep to attract their attention constructively, with limited outdoor activity under the new circumstances.

“We coordinated with the local administration and school teachers to distribute the books to the children at home,” Ruchi Dhona, founder of the NGO, told The Statesman.

“There was a very good response. Children are curious to read and share the books we provide them with for variety. The books would sort of overcome their boredom, ”Dhona added.

Dhona, 34, has a business administration degree from Calcutta and worked in the corporate sector for the first few years.

“However, when I visited a few years ago and saw the schools there, it immediately occurred to me to work for the students at the school. And there couldn’t be a more lucrative option than to instill a habit of reading among them, ”she said.

The NGO, which registered in 2019, has, however, been working on the ground in Spiti since 2017.

“I gave the idea of ​​setting up a reading corner for the students of their schools, which was well received by the teachers. So far, we have covered 60 schools, of which 53 are primary. Our main priority is the primary level because it is at this age that the child develops a habit, ”said Dhona.

She said the NGO “Let’s Open a Book” has since provided a diverse collection of 75-100 story books to each school in Hindi, English and Tibetan addressing various age groups, given their language skills.

“We select each book after careful consultation and review, need and value. For the beginners we have provided picture books, ”she said, adding that all the books are from Indian publishers and are given to school libraries free of charge.

She said that initially the NGO bought the books with their own resources for school libraries, but gradually many donors came forward.

“We are also working with the local administration to revive the public library at Spiti’s headquarters in Kaza, which is not currently fully used,” Dhona said.

The first objective of the NGO ‘Let’ Open a Book ‘is to cover the 69 primary schools in Spiti for reading corners, and then to expand. “At the same time, the volunteers of the NGO, including a local Chemi Lhamo, also organized training for school teachers to encourage children to adopt reading habits in an interesting way,” he said. she declared.

The NGO also produced short videos, presenting the tales and stories related to Spiti


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