2020 was a year like no other. All over the world, the shadow of COVID-19 loomed large. Schools and students had to find and adapt to new channels and ways of learning from home. In Maharashtra, India, 53 lakh students of government schools and anganwadis were affected, and had to cope with a challenging learning environment and the stresses of COVID-19.
Pratham Books’ StoryWeaver, the State Council of Educational Research & Training, Maharashtra (SCERT), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and UNICEF joined hands to co-create the ‘Goshticha Shaniwar’ (Saturday of Stories) Reading Programme for the children of Maharashtra, to encourage learning through stories, while addressing children’s socio-emotional needs.
‘Goshticha Shaniwar’ was launched in October 2020, and for 5 months, provided free high-quality reading material every week to students from grades 1 to 8, across the state of Maharashtra. Every Saturday, one storybook in Marathi was shared for anganwadi children. A set of four age-appropriate storybooks in each of the three languages: Marathi, Urdu, and English, was shared with children in grades 1 to 8. These e-books were curated by the StoryWeaver team, and were then shared via WhatsApp with children - through Supervisors and Anganwadi Workers in the case of ICDS, and by District Coordinators (from DIETs), Block Resource Persons, Cluster Leaders, and teachers, in the case of school children. These digital storybooks were supported by posters, and interesting activities based on concepts from the stories, to encourage greater involvement.
Since the books were openly licensed, they were free to read, download, print, project, adapt and share. This allowed for projection in places that had TVs or screens, printouts to be distributed, and several grassroot level innovations like the Bicycle Library of Gadchiroli. To bridge the digital divide and reach those who did not have internet or smartphones, stories were also delivered through Pratham Books’ audio stories initiative: ‘Missed Call Dya, Ani Goshta Aika’ (‘Give a Missed call, Listen to a Story’).
36 districts of Maharashtra
1 lakh schools and anganwadis
2.6 lakh teachers, anganwadi supervisors and workers
25 lakh children
The ‘Goshticha Shaniwar’ Reading Programme has demonstrated beyond doubt the benefits of integrating joyful reading into the child’s daily routine. The implementation of this Programme has provided us with directions for newer, more innovative ways of reaching children even in the most remote areas. It has also highlighted the strengths of conceptualising, implementing, and monitoring a reading programme in close partnership with all its stakeholders.
Engaging, contextualised storybooks can play a great role in building foundational reading skills, and help children learn, grow and achieve their potential. The stakeholder network and open licensed content from platforms like StoryWeaver can help provide uninterrupted online and offline access to high-quality storybooks in multiple languages. If we are to achieve foundational literacy and numeracy for every Indian child studying in Grades 1 to 3 by 2025, we shall need to make reading a part of her timetable, every single day.
StoryWeaver, SCERT, ICDS and UNICEF are marking World Storytelling Day 2021 with an online symposium to celebrate the success of the ‘Goshticha Shaniwar’ Reading Programme.
The symposium will feature a panel discussion on ‘Reading for Joy & Language Proficiency’ and remarks from leadership from SCERT, UNICEF, Pratham Books, award-winning author Mr. Rajiv Tambe, Mr. Mangesh Gondavale, CEO, Zilla Parishad (Aurangabad), Mr. Dhir Jhingran, Founder & Director, Language and Learning Foundation. The symposium will be addressed by Ms. Varsha Gaikwad, Minister, School Education & Sports (Maharashtra) and Ms. Vandana Krishna, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, School Education (Maharashtra). The event will also include the unveiling of a book that captures the ‘Goshticha Shaniwar’ model, impact and sustainability, and caselets from the field.
Watch the symposium online on March 20, 2021 at 11 am: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icvmbmPjbGI