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Monday, 5 September 2016

The Library Lion in a Narrow Kolkata Lane..

Last week, I paid one more visit to the KMCP Urdu Medium school. I had some other plans in mind this time and decided to do what I do best - tell them a story. It is difficult to choose an English language story of their level and that too, something to suit their palate and understanding of life. Gully boys coming to school with the hope of a midday meal will never find Dick and Jane stories interesting although, these books can do well to hone their English vocabulary. Dick and Jane are two rich kids who have a car and get stuck in snow storms - at the most - snow storms being their most monumental form of hardship.

But for boys who have to wade through hip-deep waters to come to school for days during the rainy season in Kolkata, for boys who have to brave the sweltering heat through the day in little rooms with no proximity from each other, hardships are a totally different story.

I rummaged through the collection of books and finally chose Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. There are two reasons I chose this book:

a) It is highly imaginative - the children, I was sure, would be fascinated to learn about a Lion visiting the Library.
b) Secondly, the Library Lion spoke about rules or the breaking of them. I had a hope that I would be able to communicate to them effectively, the meta-cognitive thinking process of bending rules rather than breaking them. In other words, I wanted to convey the concept of breaking rules creatively to these children.

I took a few scraps of wasted coloured and bond paper and taught them first to make a Lion paper-craft. Children growing in the underbellies of a city usually have a stronger survival instinct and their ability to learn is much faster and higher more often than children brought up in affluence.

The scheme worked well. As per my expectations, they learnt the craft swiftly and reproduced ones of their own in no time.

During the story-telling session, when I was taking them through the pages and through "gates" of inference, the children pin-pointed some inferences that almost jolted me off my chair. I almost thought that probably they have already heard the story, but as I flipped the pages further, the glee on their faces said that they hadn't read the story before-hand.

Some of the new words they learnt that day were:

1. RECEPTIONIST ( I changed Mr. McBee to this word so that they could relate to it)
2. MANAGER ( Miss Merriweather had to become the manager of the Library-again, a diplomatic transformation of the alien to something familiar)

I think it all worked as I left happy faces behind because, who doesn't want to listen to a story after all!