Books, My Friends – A Reading Improvement Program
ChildFund India’s ‘Books, My Friends’ campaign aimed at helping children experiencing marginalization, aged 6–14 years improve their learning abilities by discovering the joy of reading at an early age. It helped them read, imagine, and learn better in a fun and enjoyable way through the medium of books. The campaign also provided a wealth of books in the hands of children who need them the most.
All 14 states
In Partnership with
MacMillan Publishers Ltd., Pratham Books, Bajaj Electricals and BPL Techno Vision Pvt. Ltd
Research shows that children who develop a habit of reading at an early age have better comprehension skills, vocabulary, imagination skills, sharp memory and confidence. Also, reading habits are directly related to the performance of children in academics. However, in India, there are millions of children who are deprived of books, which prevents them from achieving their full potential and contributing fully to society. The socio-economic status of a family plays a significant role in this. Often children imbibe reading habits from their parents, thus the literacy level of parents also impact children’s reading skills. In 2010, ChildFund India conducted a baseline study in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh and the Daltonganj district of Jharkhand, which showed that only 25% of children perform at the desired school level, which was coherently related to their reading skills.
As part of the Reading Improvement Program, ‘Books, My Friends’ was initiated to improve the academic and intellectual performance of each child in our target areas. Children were supported for qualitative improvement of academic performance and also for other life skills such as listening, speaking and so on. The following were the key areas of the campaign:
- Providing access to books
- Creating a supportive environment by engaging parents and communities
- Removing barriers such as lack of electricity by distributing solar lamps to needy
- Sparking discussions at the local, state and national levels to improve children’s reading levels
The campaign was launched in 2014 to introduce the joy of reading to over 115,000 underserved students in 14 states and many more over the subsequent years. Under this, ChildFund India distributed more than 40,000 reading bags comprising age-appropriate multi-lingual captivating reading books. Also, we conducted activities around books such as storytelling, skits, painting competitions, reading aloud, etc. to make the books come alive for the children. Community libraries were set up in rural government schools and mobile libraries were introduced in semi-urban/slum areas, providing a dedicated space for reading.
Parents and communities were involved in the campaign to create a supportive learning environment. Parents’ clubs were created to help children enjoy reading. School management committees, ChildFund community animators and local partners came together to organize programs to sustain the joyful reading environment. Besides, we helped families to overcome the problem of poor electricity supply and enabled children to read anytime and anywhere by providing solar lamps and their chargers to nearly 40,000 children, which indirectly benefitted around 1,92,000 community members.
Furthermore, advocating for the issue, we ignited a larger conversation around children’s reading levels by organizing events and discussions at the regional, state and national levels, wherein lessons and best practices from the campaign were also shared. We intend to take this forward as we are working towards solarizing a number of government schools with libraries in some of our implementation areas and transforming them into model schools, starting with one school in Udaipur district and another in Daltangunj district. Also, through corporate partnerships, the mobile libraries will be solarized.