JCB Literature Foundation’s Qissa Pitara: 44 DIY Libraries for Marginalized Children

JCB Literature Foundation’s Qissa Pitara: 44 DIY Libraries for Marginalized Children

JCB Literature

The ASER 2022 Report noted that the percentage of Class 3 students in both government and private schools who can read the text given to second graders dropped from 27.3% in 2018 to 20.5% in 2022. The last time this proportion was close to this low was in 2012, at 21.5%, making the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic quite evident. Longitudinal surveys have shown the direct correlation between the lack of reading fluency and school dropouts, over the years.

As a response to the alarming situation, and the Foundation’s vision of promoting the art of literature within India, the JCB Literature Foundation, a leading not-for-profit organization, in 2022, started its Qissa Pitara Programme, an initiative to create DIY Libraries to bring the joy of reading to children from marginalized communities across India, fostering literacy, free-thinking, and imagination among children.

The Qissa Pitara Project, launched in August 2022, is gaining momentum across India. With 44 libraries active in states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Assam, it’s impacting over 8800 children, with 30,000 books in circulation. Through partnerships with education-focused organizations, the JCB Literature Foundation has created vibrant reading spaces in schools and community centers, promoting literacy and empowering young minds.

Since the Qissa Pitara libraries cater to children who are often first-time readers, dedicated librarians are chosen from the communities and trained to manage the spaces. Currently, 43 librarians across its locations manage the curriculum across the 44 libraries. Through various activities such as read-aloud sessions, storytelling, art and craft activities, and interactive workshops, they encourage children to explore diverse literary genres, express themselves creatively, and develop critical thinking skills.

Each library has a diverse array of books, sourced from leading children’s book publishers from across the country, which vary not only in terms of genres but also languages to account for differing regions, communities and local contexts that the children come from. Therefore, whilst each library is similar in its intent, it is also uniquely different, tailored to address the local needs and issues of the communities they cater to.

Speaking about the project, Manish Tayal, Director, of JCB Literature Foundation, expressed, “In the context of India, where socio-economic disparities often hinder access to even quality education and resources, the provision of literature through DIY Libraries holds profound significance. These libraries transcend mere book distribution by becoming dynamic hubs of intellectual exploration and personal growth for marginalized children.

In a nation where literacy rates and reading levels vary widely across regions and communities, DIY Libraries represent a beacon of hope. Granting access to a diverse array of books and educational materials, especially in languages and mediums that the children understand, ignites the flames of curiosity within young minds, encouraging them to explore, question, and learn. For many children who lack access to traditional libraries, these libraries serve as vital platforms for knowledge acquisition, supplementing formal education and bridging the gap between academic resources and underprivileged communities.

Moreover, the impact of DIY Libraries extends far beyond the acquisition of knowledge. By providing a space where children can freely engage with literature and ideas, these libraries nurture resilience, confidence, and a thirst for learning, equipping young individuals with the tools they need to navigate life’s challenges and pursue their aspirations.”

While talking about the impact of this project, Archana, from the Green the Blue Trust, Vadodara, an implementation partner of the project, expressed, “Through engaging in word games, children enhance their vocabulary. They express their creativity freely through drawing, sharing their creations with friends. They eagerly participate in reading activities, finding joy in expanding their knowledge and fostering mental and emotional development.”

Looking ahead, JCB Literature Foundation is committed to expanding the reach of the Qissa Pitara Project, establishing new libraries in existing regions and forging partnerships in states where there is a need for such initiatives. Moreover, the organization plans to focus on programming to conduct regional fairs for children and circulate their stories in newsletters or magazines, celebrating their rich oral storytelling traditions.