‘Mo Bahi Gadi’ Spreads Love For Books Among Early Learners In Odisha, Gets Thumbs-Up From NITI Aayog

Bhubaneswar: NITI Aayog has appreciated the initiative of the Koraput administration and Bhubaneswar-based Bakul Foundation to introduced child-friendly interactive books in Odia in Anganwadi centres to improve early learning skills.

The books in Odia curated by the foundation have been distributed among 30,000 children in all anganwadi centres in the district.

Calling it, “building the foundation for the future”, the government think-tank tweeted that this initiative will “help spark curiosity and critical thinking amongst students.”

This is the first time that books have been provided to children directly in Anganwadis, which are supposed to function as pre-school for children taking admission in Class 1 in a government school.

“Unlike children going to private English medium schools, who have exposure to books in pre-school, those in government schools generally get their first books only in Class 1. As a consequence, the foundation of their reading skills is very poor,” said Bakul Foundation founder-secretary Sujit Mohapatra.

According to the annual status of education report (ASER), 2020, a 5-year-old child in private school fares better in learning than those in government schools. In rural Odisha, the cognitive skills acquired by children (till 6 years of age) largely depends on the type of training they get at home and anganwadis.

“The report has been coming out with findings that about 50 per cent of children in Grade V cannot read the textbook of Grade II,” he said.

Recognising this problem, the Koraput administration had requested Bakul Foundation to create an Omnibus combining its different publications for children in Anganwadis centre into one book that could be directly given to those in 4 to 5 years age group.

Titled ‘Mo Bahi Gadi’, the big book is a combination of five illustrated books – ‘Mu Kie?’, ‘Janicha Ki?’, ‘Pimpudi O Para’, ‘Ek Dui Teen’ and ‘Upara Tala’. The customized cover has a train with different bogies with each bogie having the cover of these five books.

“Unlike pre-school books in English which are more like catalogues of animals, vegetables, colours, numbers; these Odia books are engaging for children,” said Sujit. The books are based on learning outcomes defined in ‘Nua Arunima’, a guidebook for anganwadi workers, he added.

Earlier, Bakul Foundation had provided a set of these books to 300 Anganwadi centres in Puri through UNICEF and 50 Anganwadi centres near Paradip through Paradeep Phosphates Ltd. These, however, were distributed at centres and not to children directly.

Bakul, which started as a library movement through individual contributions and was later instrumental in setting up libraries for children in the state, started its publishing arm, Bakul Books, in 2017 after realising the acute shortage if not the absence of books for early learners in Odia. “We started with books on popular Odia nursery rhymes. Small children need attractive books with good production quality and beautiful pictures to make them want to pick up the books,” said Sujit.

Bakul works with artists to create these beautiful picture books for small children.

“Publishing for small children is not just about writing books, it has a science in itself that facilitates learning,” he said.

In addition to books for children in Anganwadis centres, Bakul has published several other books for early learners to facilitate children picking up reading skills and falling in love with reading.



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