You read it here first! Mumbai's kids get a book club

As a blessing for our city's book space-starved kids, on the third Wednesday of every month, Meher Marfatia and Rupal Patel will conduct a book club for 10 to 13 year-olds. What's more, it's not just open to kids from NCPA members' families

"Happily, we come to the NCPA with previous experience of running a reading club for children.

Both Rupal (Patel) and I have a history of interacting with kids from different standpoints - she as a parenting counsellor and organiser of a reading club from her home called Creative Reading, and me as an author of about a dozen books for children and a writer of regular columns on parenting," explains Meher Marfatia, who along with Rupal Patel set up NCPA's Book Club for children that kicks off its first session on Wednesday.

Elaborating on how the idea germinated, she says, "Three years ago, the-then principal of The JB Petit  High School for Girls, where both our daughters study - Anahita de Vitre - suggested I start a book club for the girls.
I began doing so for two age groups: fifth and sixth-graders (the age group we are conducting the NCPA club for too) with Rupal, and for seventh and eighth-graders with the school's English teacher
Rashna Desai."

"We wanted to include more kid-related activities at NCPA. Our dance vertical and summer time events got a terrific response, so when Meher and Rupal came forward with this idea, it fit in rather nicely," shares Deepa Gahlot, Head - Programming (Theatre & Film), NCPA.

While the idea was well received, the hurdles followed a little later, recalls Meher: "When we decided to take things to a higher level by inviting the girls to read more challenging titles with slightly more complex themes, we had some conservative, parents up in arms about not sticking to conventional subjects.

But the discussions stemming from these books proved so relevant and exciting for the kids, it was quite gratifying."

She cautions that there is little point in serving kids of a reading group the same predictable fare they can find lining the shelves of most bookstores or libraries - "We believe in keeping things going in a stimulating way at all times."

To make things clear right at the start of working with a new group of children, Meher and Rupal let them know that the club will remain an informal after-school activity, meant to feed an existing interest in reading.


What sets the club apart is its convenience, as Rupal reiterates - "All that parents have to do is make sure they procure the required book in time and encourage the kids to finish it in time."

Parents shouldn't expect to change non-readers into eager bookworms overnight. As part of these sessions, kids will read the same book and then meet to discuss it.
The idea is to expose children to different genres of reading that they might not have easy access to in local libraries or bookstores.

Besides, every child having a say and sharing his/her take on the book and its characters, will be free to suggest how they would have wanted the story to end, enact their favourite part of the narrative, design their individual book jacket, create a new attention-grabbing back-of-the-book blurb, engage in similar literary-related activities and games to bring the title to life, or critique the book.

There may be an occasional writing exercise pertaining to some theme in the book they could further explore and, whenever possible, a film version of the story will be introduced.
Guest speakers and Meet-the-Author sessions will be arranged when possible. The first batch of young bookworms gets to choose the name of the club!

Meher's experience in children's writing will be crucial in title selection: "Writing for children does equip one with a better idea about what they want and how to fan this further.

But as far as selection of titles goes, there are a few things we are going to keep in mind - content of the book being age appropriate, getting them to read different genres and exposure to different authors."

Rupal's comments about today's kids and their reading patterns should be fodder for city parents: "It's very individualistic. There are some kids who read everyday, others who pick up a book when they have free time and there are a few who read only schoolbooks."

One of the purposes of this book club is to develop and increase the love of reading, she says. "A non-reader will of course not turn into a bookworm by coming once a month, but we would like to expose them to the joy that reading brings!"

ON Every third Wednesday of the month starting January 18
FROM 5 to 6.30 pm
AT Sunken Garden, NCPA
FOR Rs 1,200 per child (fee payable in advance for February/ March/ April). Those who register with fees for these months are invited to attend the inaugural session

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