Stories are perhaps the largest repository of knowledge, culture and traditions in the face of human history. Stories unite. Stories connect our past with our present and show us where our future belongs. I believe that the most significant function of a story is to hand over the treasure trove of values from one generation to the next. Somewhere between the illustrations, writer/narrator’s imagination and rolling and tumbling of words, there are gems in the form of lessons that impress and mould young minds. I love stories in all shapes and sizes. Long, short, celebratory, sad, mysterious, mythological… or just logical – I have a soft corner for every single one of them.
When I was offered the role of Library Educator by The Somaiya School, I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was my chance to work with children beyond text books and the prescribed syllabus. I was given complete freedom to plan my lessons and activities. In the quest to make the library a vibrant place, I decided to schedule Read Aloud story sessions at least four times a week with the primary section of the school.
For one such session, the story of the day was Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems.
In a nutshell, hoping not to give away too much, the story is about Edwina who lives in a modern town and is everyone’s favourite choco-chip cookie baking dinosaur. Well, almost everyone’s. A little boy named Reginald Von Hoobie Doobie is cross with the people of the town because no one hears him out when he says that Edwina can’t exist. She’s a dinosaur and dinosaurs are extinct. On a day that Reginald’s frustration peaks, Edwina steps up to listen to him. He presents his well-researched information on dinosaurs to her and she is shocked by what he says. But at the end of his arduous speech, Edwina has only one solution – she just doesn’t care. She goes on to live her charming, nonchalant life. A confused yet amused Reginald finally lets go of his facts and befriends Edwina.
Mo Willems story and his bright expressive illustrations struck a chord with the children from Grades 2 to 4. One day I noticed two children quarrelling and intervened. One accused the other of calling him names. On an impulse, the first words that I uttered were – “What would Edwina do?” The child looked at me and said “She wouldn’t have cared. She would have just stayed happy and done her work”. In a matter of a few minutes, the quarrel was resolved and the children went back to their seats. I stood there, wondering what just happened. I didn’t have to give a preachy lecture to the children. I did not have to listen to “both sides of the story and pass a fair judgement”. All I did was to ask a simple question and the children were able to find a solution on their own.
This thought led to a bigger idea.
Stories have a very disarming characteristic of flowing between the gaps and influencing our thoughts, sometimes even in an inconspicuous manner. As said by Vera Nazarian, “the world is shaped by two things — stories told and the memories they leave behind.”
Today, our students are learning to question fixed norms like Moyna from The Why Why Girl. They understand the importance of hard work and optimism like little Malathi from Wings to Fly. We have explored The Unboy Boy, Who will be Ningthou? and A Pair of Twins to develop perspective on gender roles in a more egalitarian light. The session on ‘Rhinos don’t eat pancakes’ highlighted the need for listening skills in a world drowned in technology. These are just to name a few. Sometimes, I overhear conversations about the characters we have read about.
Yes, what we create in the library comes with huge responsibility.
As for Edwina, she has been in and out of the library for a few weeks now and has brought broad smiles to many a shining face.
Ms Nirupama Kaushik is the Library Educator cum Resource Person at The Somaiya School, Mumbai
भोपाल,नवंबर 24, 2017. टाटा ट्रस्ट्स की पहल ‘पराग’ द्वारा आज शहर में पुस्तकालय क्षेत्र में कार्यरत प्रैक्टिशनर्स के व्यावसायिक विकास लिए चलाये जा रहे अनूठे लायब्रेरी एजुकेटर्स कोर्स (एलइसी) के सफल समापन की घोषणा की गई.