BY VISHAL GULATI
Shimla, Sep 6 (IANS) Hundreds of primary students living in tiny hamlets of the picturesque Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh have been introduced to a whole new world through picture and story books, courtesy a Delhi-based NGO, to pique their curiosity and inculcate reading habits in them.
This comes at a time when little children were locked up in their respective homes amid the coronavirus scare or have now restrictions placed on them to move out in the public.
Office-bearers of NGO ‘Let’s Open a Book’ believe that providing story books will help the kids adjust to a new set of circumstances while staying safe at home.
“Since the students have not able to join classes since March 2020 owing to closure of schools, we have decided to provide story books up to Class V students with the help of the area administration,” NGO founder and Managing Trustee Ruchi Dhona told IANS.
The story books are in English, Hindi, and local Tibetan languages for children in the Spiti Valley, where a majority of residents are tribals and Buddhists.
The NGO has been working in 60 government schools in Spiti by setting up libraries that cater to 600 primary students. The NGO has so far donated 6,000 books.
It has also adopted a public library in Kaza, the Spiti headquarters some 350 km from state capital Shimla, and set up a children’s corner there.
NGO volunteer Chemi Lhamo said that the objective of providing books to students at their doorsteps was to encourage them to read while staying safe.
“Since the schools have been closed and the students are deprived of books, we have decided to provide them books at their homes with the help of local authorities and teachers,” Lhamo said.
“The basic purpose is to inculcate reading habit in them,” she said.
Currently, the books are getting delivered in Kaza, Kibbar, Guling, Langcha, and Mane.
The Spiti Valley, a mountainous paradise that straddles both India and Tibet, has over two dozen scattered hamlets, and remains cut off owing to heavy snow for at least six months in a year.
It reopens once snow starts thawing after mid-April.
Dhona believes the story books would help kids overcome the boredom, insecurity and emotional frustrations of life under the lockdown.
The NGO has also produced short videos, showcasing the tales and stories related to Spiti.
“The Spiti Valley has a tradition of storytelling for generations, which has been diluted in the recent past. We are now trying to rope in teachers and parents to reach out to the children by showcasing such videos through smartphones and laptops,” Lhamo said.
Sub-Divisional Magistrate Jiwan Singh Negi told IANS that the NGO is playing a crucial role in setting up libraries in Spiti that benefit school children.
Also, he said, reading at home is helping them adapt to living under lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Reading books is a favourite pastime of my daughter these days when all outdoor activities have almost come to an end,” said parent Dolma Negi.
Even children are developing the habit of sharing by exchanging books, she added.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at [email protected])