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World with No Books


photo © Radhika Atluri, Foundation Schools Director

Imagine a world with NO BOOKS. Many children who attend schools in the slums of India still write on slate with chalk.

Jaqueline Carnevali (Harvard Ed School, ‘86) worked in Massachusetts public schools for 30 years and can appreciate the need for books.  Now she is Director of Navionics Foundation helping bring books to children in need.

“We just adopted our 5th school in India in the slums of Hyderbad and will celebrate 10th anniversary next year,” says Carnevali. “We have established libraries in 3 of our schools and are in process in the others.”

In Indian slums, most of the children speak telegu although Carnevali works with one school where urdu is also spoken.  “It is very hard to find books in these languages and when we do find them, we also have to have them bound so they can survive the hands of young children.”

It is moving is to see children diligently copying  stories and poems word for word into blank essay books so they can take something home to read.  Navionics received a generous matching grant from International Rotary to support its school at Maktha and has other donors who have helped with shelving and glass windows for security and to keep out the dust and mice. But they could surely use more assistance.

“You could possibly help us by providing us with books that have lots of visuals and few words,” says Carnevali. “Or for youngest children, no words at all but wonderful pictures and photographs.  Note also that many science and geography texts have limited words.  We have purchased such books and children do enjoy them.  Some who are very resourceful have some limited English ability.”

Unless a school has a corporate or NGO sponsor, learning is oral or using only thin paper worksheets containing all subjects.

Navionics Foundation built and inaugurated its first library 4 years ago and the model has been replicated in two of our other schools.  We choose books with colorful illustrations that tell the story so children will be motivated to work hard to read the words.   Children may select the book off the shelf, but they the Librarian must record the title so that all books are accounted for-in this way, we dream of the day when we can have a lending program.

You can see little mouths moving as they follow the text, but there is not a sound. All are intently focused and many copy the stories or poems so that can read at home, even sharing the story with other family members.  Since most parents cannot read or write, it is a source of great pride to the children and entertainment to the family.

“We think this inspires parents to send children to school,” says Carnevali. “We do spend sessions making sure hands are clean, pages are opened carefully and never dog-eared.  In January of 2013, we adopted the Papireddynagar School and plans are underway to build another library.”

Government sponsored schools (what we call public schools in the USA) do not have a budget for library rooms, books or librarians.

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