I’m thinking of that child left behind. The one who cannot follow a lesson because she cannot read what the teacher has written on the blackboard, even though she has faithfully and correctly copied it all down in her notebook. The child who cannot ask a question in class, because she cannot read her notebook, hence can’t put a finger on what exactly it is that she does not understand. This is the child who does not know how to read.
In classes as high as 8, in children as old as 14, we’re encountering a frightening lapse of reading skills. If we make them sit in a line, it almost always seems to be the children towards the back (they seem to gravitate there), always the quietest (you’ll almost miss seeing them, and will certainly miss hearing them), yet always with that curious, desperate shine in their eyes, wishing and hoping that they could cut through the fog of their illiteracy.
One of the early partnerships we had explored for our community radio station was with Pratham, especially Pratham Books. I’d met them off and on at assorted meetings and book fairs, and their work, and their books had been sitting at the back of my mind as something exceptional. On a whim, I wrote on their website. Within a day, I had an answer. Actually, I had several. All of them positive, energetic, and gung-ho.
Now, all these weeks later, we’re looking at a concrete plan to air a regular slot, at least twice a day, that takes Pratham’s reading pedagogy to a wider audience through the radio. To those children left behind. To those children left at home.
As we hammer out the programming, train the volunteers, and learn from the process about what works and what doesn’t, I’m hoping that the content we create in this process can be used by community radios and Pratham across India. To start with, in the Hindi speaking states, since that is the language in which we are working, and later, as regional language adaptations in other states.