Dharavi goes WOW
It might sound straight out of a fairy tale, where children of all shapes and sizes are wholly glued to books, forgetting their playstations, iPads, and PSPs.
Children at SSRVM, Dharavi hold up a puppet they made from recycled materials
Twenty-nine city mothers not only dreamt this dream but also brought it to reality through Wings of Words (WOW), an initiative that gave not only their children but even sixth-graders in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidya Mandir School (SSRVM) in Dharavi to discover imaginary wonderlands through books.
Kids group up to write scripts after a reading session
These extraordinary moms went on to help these kids, who have limited means, by hosting the first readathon, a highly popular concept in the West, in the city. “For the last three years we have been running a book club where children meet periodically after having read a book. Here, they enjoy different creative activities and discuss excerpts from the book they’ve read.
SSRVM children and WOW kids while reading The Mahabharata
From this book club flowered the thought of a Readathon by a few mothers, Jeyashree Vaidyanathan, Shilpa Mody and I,” says Tanya Pratap, an enthusiastic mother of a Std VI student, who feels reading is a dying habit. Soon, all mothers of WOW unanimously favoured the idea of a Readathon. They decided that it would span over two months, that is, from November 15 to January 15.
The colourful puppets made by the children at Readathon
Pratap explains, “Readathon participants commit to reading for this time. Simultaneously, they also look for pledgers to sponsor their reading. These may be their friends, relatives, neighbours and so on. Our pledge amount was R2 per page. The total amount collected, a whopping R1,77,000, is dedicated to a cause, which in our case was the SSRVM.”
The English medium institution provides free education. As is evident by the people behind WOW, the cause to raise the money was hardly obvious. “We are going to support English-speaking and taekwondo classes for the children of SSRVM as well as provide them scholarships,” says Pratap.
Lavaniya, a 13-year-old at SSRVM, said, “The students were kind and really friendly. They taught us how to create the puppets, which we made through recycled bottles and newspapers. They encouraged us even if we said that our puppets were bad. They were very funny.”
Encouraged by the change these children were making, Shaurya Parikh, child of one of the 29 women who started WOW, feels, “It was a beautiful feeling to see the faces of lesser-fortunate children light up with joy because of such a deed. The Readathon has made me a better person and a bookworm. I am all set for another one!”
Clearly the enthusiasm has been infectious. The WOW mothers ensured that all kids read Samhita Arni’s The Mahabharata — A Child’s View, made them write scripts from the epic by grouping the kids together, and encouraged a puppet show after their exams.
Pratap adds that they wrote to and met the kids’ favourite authors such as Jacqueline Wilson, Jeff Kinney, Leela Gaur Broome and Payal Kapadia. Though Kinney, famous for The Diary of A Wimpy Kid series, couldn’t make it, he wrote them an encouraging note, much to their thrill.