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The first teacher in his zone to have done the Library Educator’s Course, to have set up a library in his school, to have initiated Bal Cabinet in his school recognised for his artwork and then engaged by the Rajkiya Shiksha Kendra (RSK) to illustrate its children’s storybooks, Santosh Dhanware wears many hats.

Currently teaching Grade IX in the Government High School, Kharsanaiya, District Sehore, Santosh Dhanware is alumnus of 2020 batch of the LEC offered by Parag. His journey as an active school teacher is not a new one. His constant efforts to better schools and the children have been part of his 22 years of service. From winning community’s trust to children’s trust, Santosh has brought much positive energy and transformation to the role of a teacher.

The library space his school initiated is a model in itself. “The most important thing I learnt was how do I envision a library. In my understanding, all the 6 elements of a library that are important, have been kept in mind while setting up the library.”

An effective element evident in the library is the place. Santosh has been putting efforts to establish a print rich and comfortable space for children. He wanted children to understand library as a silent place where they can joyfully read in peace. “We modelled silent and joyful reading for the children; wherein teachers and I would take up our corners and read books

A first-of-many-kind

leisurely. The choice for minimal furniture was also a deliberate one to let children feel free using that space as and how they like. A book in hand is important. But our children sit, lie down while reading.” When children read pleasurably, they also learn to read effectively faster. As was evident, the space with least furniture gave it a warm, cozy atmosphere wherein children felt free.

A first-of-many-kind

Hailing from an arts educational background, Santosh holds a master’s degree in arts. His perspective on the use of art is reflected in the library he has set up and the school premises. “Walls should speak and pictures do speak to us and open doors of thoughts for us,” he strongly feels. With this thought, he deemed it important to paint walls. Such efforts were useful for one, they attracted a lot of parents who now believe that the school has a learning environment fit for their children and two, children started talking amongst themselves and learnt the language better.

Many of Santosh’s work has been acknowledged and

well received at the state level by the RSK, wherein he is invited to illustrate for some of their books too. Some of the books he has illustrated are Five Fingers Make a Fist, Six Friends, Poshu and Kitty in the Space.

As far as the collection and selection of books is concerned, the library stocks up books from the RSK, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) and big books from Room to Read and Eklavya. Books written by the Big Little Book Award (BLBA) winning author, Prabhat, also find place in his collection. But Santosh feels the need for a wider variety of publications in the library. Picture books are a good hook for young children and he has been stocking these up regularly. But more non-fiction books and books on themes like environment need to be added to the library, Santosh feels.

Santosh vouches for all the library activities he grasped as part of his course journey. Read-alouds, book talks, creating oral and written texts are a regular part of the library work. Santosh finds joy in conducting these activities with children and with his staff teachers too. While some of the activities were already a part of his work in library, like picture book reading, or Jhalak (showing the cover of any new book and putting it in display to make children curious to read it), Santosh feels that during the course, he learnt more nuances of the process along with learning new activities. “Book talks were so important to ensure the collection of books that we have gets utilized. Importance of sitting in a circle, visibility of a book for all children, right expressions, where to stop and ask etc. as part of the read-alouds was important learning.”

As was evident, children were excited to read out stories they had already read and were also enthusiastically choosing a book for themselves. Grade III-V children were forthcoming in sharing their writings, drawings, stories and poems.

All these texts by children find space on the walls of the library and also a community newspaper शाला का समाचार पत्र. The school brings it out and disseminates monthly. The objectives of starting the newspaper were many- from giving a medium to children’s creative expression, to enhancing their writing skills to also providing evidence to the community that their children are learning.

A first-of-many-kind

A first-of-many-kind

Santosh also shared an anecdote in reference to the picture on the right. This wall painting in the library has the words abhinay, drama, big book, sangeet, kahani, padhna, natak and seekhna. He was asked by his staff, why ‘seekhna’ (learning) was painted last in this picture. He was quick to respond that seekhna is an ongoing process which is achieved by all the rest of elements preceding it- role plays, stories, music, reading all are centered on learning.”

A first-of-many-kind

Santosh with his positive energy, smiling countenance and hope is a source of light in his school and an inspiration to the community of teachers. May his tribe grow!

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