Hippocampus Reading Foundation (HRF) is a section 12A registered charitable trust set up in the year 2004 by the Hippocampus Children’s Experience Centre (www.hippocampus.in). HRF works towards inspiring children from disadvantaged communities to read more by setting up ‘Active Libraries’ in government schools and community centres in partnership with other NGOs.
An integral part of developing such libraries is Grow By Reading, a comprehensive activity based library program designed by us. The program helps excite an interest in reading among children, which in turn leads them to become habitual readers.
We partner with organizations that are already working within the community typically in the field of education to set up these libraries and implement the program. So far we have set up 64 libraries in Karnataka and 1 library in Tamil Nadu. We are currently in the process of setting up 95 more libraries around the district of Tirukoilur, Tamil Nadu.
Reading assumes greater importance among less privileged children for many reasons. Many of them are first generation school goers and their families may or may not stress the importance of education. Very often there is also a lack of support for independent thinking and ignorance about the various opportunities available to children. Added to this is a school’s typical focus on curriculum-based learning which may not encourage independent reading and writing skills amongst children.
A library can offer supplementary learning opportunities for these children by providing access to more than just textbooks. However, a room with books is not enough. A library needs to be active with all the right stimuli to create an environment that will excite the children and guide their reading interests. Reading fluency would also facilitate reading comprehension in the classroom.
In September 2003, a pilot project was started by the Hippocampus Children’s Experience Centre to make books available to children in government schools and conduct activities and programs that would excite the children to come into the libraries and use these books. The children’s enthusiastic response to libraries and books in this pilot led to the establishment of the Hippocampus Reading Foundation.
Much of the success in making libraries active has been driven by our pioneering program called Grow By Reading (GBR), which was developed after three years of study and research into children’s learning problems, challenges faced in schools, quantity and quality of vernacular children’s literature available and the attitude towards libraries.
Thousand books and a million kids
The efforts of HRF have started showing great results. There are libraries in 37 government schools, 22 slum centres and 6 lower income private schools catering to 17,000 children in Bangalore. The library has become an integral part of these schools, with children developing an appetite for books and libraries truly becoming active places of learning. Libraries are transitioning out to run independently. The intervention is also showing results in a school for the hearing impaired and a juvenile centre, and it is a delight to see these children reading books.
A Billion Dreams
In a country with more than 200 million children in government schools, HRF’s effort and outreach is just a drop in the ocean.