A mobile library is changing the lives of children in this remote village in Uttar Pradesh. This library does not move in a van or a car. A team of 45 dedicated volunteers carry books to different areas of the block, which is about 20 kilometres from Amethi district, and the adjoining areas on bicycles or on foot.
Reeta, who is in her 20s, is a volunteer with the library. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, children see her with a bag full of books. She sets up her library under the open sky, a tree, a makeshift roof or, at times, in the home of someone kind enough to give her some space.
In an era where city children just can’t seem to get enough of television and computers and don’t give reading a side glance, these resource-starved village children are growing up to love books.
Older children get library cards to take the books home. The younger ones sit with their respective librarians and read.
Reeta says that in “just two years, there has been a stark difference in these kids’ approach towards books and education. They want to read and write, despite knowing at the end of the day that they have to work in the fields. They have begun to take school seriously.”
The children get to read storybooks, books on science, English, history and various other subjects. Most of the books are in Hindi but, on demand, the librarians get them a few English books.
Vidyarani, a book lover, says: “Reeta didi has been coming here for the last two years. She inculcated the reading habit in me. Before that, I didn’t even know how to write my name.”
Each library has 400 to 700 books but the librarian carries 100-125, which are circulated. The NGO Pratham provides the books and pays the librarians an honorarium of Rs 500 per month. Sanjay Tiwari, a Pratham volunteer in Gauriganj, says: “We also give books free now and then."