Changemakers: How one teen’s love for reading is starting a literary movement in Delhi

15 Mar

By Rajveer Sardana

BrainGain Magazine

It struck me as unjust that these stories weren’t available in Hindi. That their magic was lost for some children because of the circumstances of their birth.

Little faces stare up at me, bursting into cries and requests “One more story bhaiya! Please!”” I cannot resist them. I reach into my backpack and grab another book. Welcome to the Indian Book Project.

I have always been captivated by the power of literature. I fell in love with books when I was five years old. I have floated down the Mississippi river with Huckleberry Finn, and embarked on quests to Mordor with Frodo and Samwise. Literature, to me, is entrancing, empowering and utterly magical.

I was surprised when I realised that some of my favourite children’s books were not available in Hindi. It struck me as unjust. My love for literature had been born with Where the Wild Things Are and grown with the Giving Tree. In the tradition of oral storytelling, my mother would read me these tales, full of vital lessons in morality, growth, and development. In those moments, I would always lose myself in the world of words.

I wanted to share this special magic of words with others. So, I began to volunteer at a major educational NGO in Delhi called Khushi. I worked with students on reading, writing, grammar, and basic English vocabulary. Then, I approached the director with an innovative idea,I wanted to translate children’s books into Hindi on my own, so I could share these important universal tales with my students.

That’s how the Indian Book Project came into being. I picked my favourites – Are you my Mother? and Goodnight Moon – and painstakingly began translating them, word for word. It was more challenging than I expected, and much, much more rewarding as well. I discovered a newfound respect for language, in all its diversity, as I struggled with tenses and idioms. It was a pleasure to communicate these stories to the children at the NGO, and watch them experience the same thrills as I had.

I decided to conduct read-aloud sessions to make the stories truly come alive, and create a more performative and participatory atmosphere. It was a hit. The children listened with rapt attention and waited with bated breath for their turn. I realised that this project was necessary to expose them to aspects of the world that they haven’t had access to because of the circumstances of their birth. Inspired by the success of this project, I now intend to install a book-exchange system in my neighbourhood, to continue to circulate literature, and invite more budding enthusiasts into the charming world of reading.


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