School's out, summer reading is in!
It is summer in India and school is out! Textbooks have been put away and traded in for fiction with mythical and fantastic worlds waiting to be explored. Anitha Ramkumar, an education consultant in Hyderabad, is promoting reading for pleasure through her literary summer camps at Treasure House, Hyderabad. The camps are a first of their kind. We spoke to Anita for a little glimpse into what these programs are like.
Hello Anita, please tell us a little about yourself...
I have a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from India. When I chose to change my field, I did a degree in Early Childhood Education in America. I have class- room experience working with children. I am extremely passionate about children’s literature and reading to children.
My engineering background helps me put together all the parts of a service. I can identify a need and design a service that meets children’s needs.
Literary summer camps are a fairly new concept even for urban areas like Hyderabad. Why do you think they are necessary? What is unique about your programs?
Our world is organized in such a way that most information is derived from reading. Unfortunately reading is often related to academics. The assumption that reading is purely for knowledge is wrong. This program is meant to help children enjoy reading for fun – to help them chose it when they want to relax, or choose it over other options during their leisure time.
What do kids learn from your camps?
We make reading engaging and fun. When a child is having fun, learning follows. A child who reads is a child who is curious. A child who builds an image of a world, through the words in a book is using her imagination. A child who is exposed to different points of views from cultures around the world is expanding her universe. A child reading a book is a child whose mind is active and engaged.
Curiosity; imagination; thinking out of the box; openness to new ideas; aren’t these characteristics of a child who will be successful in life? Isn’t this something every parent wants their child to learn?
How much reading do you expect them to do before and during the program?
There are no strict numbers, because every child is different. So are their interests. When we prescribe with numbers, we are setting limits. There is a recommended reading list for each program. A wide range of books feature in each list. Children are invited to make a selection from this list.
How do you assess their performance? Is there a test or book report requirment?
There are no assessments. We look for red flags, like visual perception or pattern recognition problems that hinder reading and comprehension. We provide support based on the child’s needs. When a reader comprehends and retains what they read, we get them to try a more varied selection suitable for that age. When some children need to be motivated to finish a book...we read a chapter or a page together, this hooks them and then we encourage them to read independently.
We ask children to keep a reading log. This can be detailed like a book report or a scrap book or as simple as a few sheets of paper stapled together. They make an entry when they like something they have read. We keep the reading log as creative as possible They can draw or illustrate their logs. They can write about something that they were reminded of in the real world. We recommend a minimum of ten entries. The ten entries can be from the same book or from different books. After ten entries they get a reading certificate.
My child thinks reading is homework, how can your program help with that?
Unfortunately because of the educational environment they are in, some children are conditioned to view reading a book as work and stressful. In such situations participating in one summer reading program, will not change much. Being a part of a creative, learning place is important Treasure House is a children’s library and experience center in Hyderabad. They offer a year long membership. They also have quality programs and workshops that provide positive learning experiences.
How much interaction is involved? How do you guide the conversation?
The program is designed to be interactive, as far away from the classroom model and as informal as possible. The kind of interaction depends on the age group. There is story telling, games, hands- on activities etc. The children share their reading log with their group, they learn from each other as well as the facilitator.
My child is too shy to talk in a group, how will you get him/her involved?
Not talking in a group does not necessarily mean that a child in not involved. If the child talks it certainly makes the teacher’s life easier, she knows exactly what is going on. An experienced teacher will do things that will draw out all children to express themselves.
What is the most significant change in children's literature you've noticed in India?
Quantity AND quality. I wish I were child now! Children’s book publishing is not just as a business venture anymore. Passionate people are getting into writing for children. This really makes a difference.
Can you give us an overview about the structure of your programs?
I run four programs under the Summer reading umbrella. The details are here at the Treasure House
What books will they be reading?
Here is a sample from the Mythology series, the kids will be reading Mythologies from several cultures:
Mythquest series by Anu Kumar,
Gind By Harini Goplaswami Srinivasan,
Sita's Ramayana by Samhita Arni
Fun In Devlok Series by Devdutt Pattanaik,
Groovy Greeks by Terry Deary,
Roman Mysteries By Caroline Lawrence,
The Odyssey by Homer, Retold By Geraldine McCaughrean
Will the kids get to interact with any literary celebrities?
Yes, we have children's book authors involved. For the 6 - 9 age group, I approached Sandhya Rao and Sridala Swami. Sandhya Rao is a well known name in the children's literary world in India. As the senior editor of leading the children's publisher, Tulika, Sandhya Rao has written several children's books herself and is an award winning writer herself. Her book My Mother’s Sari has won awards in India and internationally.
Sridala Swami is a published poet, her first collection of poems – Reluctant Survivor was published by The Sahitya Academy. She is well known for her children's publications through Pratham books - Phani’s Funny Chappals, The Flyaway Cradle and Kabadiwala.
For the Mythology book club, I approached Anu Kumar and Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan. Anu Kumar is the author of the fascinating series, Mythquest, which sheds light on mythical characters that play critical roles in the great Indian epics. Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan is popular for Gind, that takes the reader through a magical, mythical journey with a Vanara as he rescues a princess.
Hatchette India, publishers of Mythquest series has been most supportive. They also sent us some goodies to distribute to the children attending the book club symbols in Hindu mythology, their meaning told in a story form.
How do the kids continue with what they’ve absorbed during your camp?
This really is a small moment in a lifetime. Good memories and experiences stay with us as we move forward, We belive our reading camp children carry forward and return to reading based on their experience at the camp!
What is the registration process?
For the SUMMER READING 2012, I am associated with Treasure House, the children’s library and experience center in Hyderabad. Registration is through them. You can get registration details from Treasure House.