Video games,television and visits to nearby malls formed the main recreation for Shubha Majumders two children until Book Buddy happened. Every week she waits for a reader sent by Book Buddy to drop in at her home and help her children read story books and novels.
There is more to the initiative than just stories and novels. Book Buddy team also takes children for farm visits and field trips and gives them opportunities to interact with professionals from various fields. There are occasional treks thrown in for extra fun.
Book Buddy,a start-up floated just over three-and-a-half-month back allows children to borrow up to 10 books a month. In addition to providing a reader,it also provides child mentors who are experts in child psychology. Children from three to 15 years can enrol,and there were already 160 members by mid-August.
During reading sessions,children often open up and share their thoughts. This helps us identify areas the child needs more encouragement, says 34-year-old Shyam Kumar who left his banking job to float Book Buddy.
The programme was initially aimed at encouraging reading habits in children inclined to more passive forms of entertainment such as internet and video games. The idea later included a mentor,whose job was to tap their hidden talents and strengths. They gauge their weaknesses and help them overcome any deficiency in developing their personality.
Book Buddy has helped Majumders son develop a liking for classic novels. My son would usually read comics and get busy with television and games. He recently finished Around the World In Eighty Days, says Majumder.
The initiative has transformed many. Kshitij (name changed),for instance,was an introvert and spoke in monosyllables,Kumar said. We realised he is an avid sports fan. During one of his reading-mentoring sessions,we switched on a sports channel and put it on mute. Kshitij started giving a running commentary of the match, said Kumar. Now he is more confident.
His mother agrees. Kshitij went and spoke to his friends parents and invited all of them to his birthday party, she says.
Although we have many initiatives through NGOs for under-privileged children,we often ignore the needs and problems of the child next door. Nowadays parents in nuclear families are busy working and are not able to give time for all-round development of their children. Book Buddy aims at addressing a childs growth and development through fun activities, said 24-year old Kritika Chatterjee,counselling psychologist and a reader with Book Buddies.