Imagine a full-fledged library run totally and successfully by a small group of children from a remote village with all of being under seventeen years of age. Seems far-fetched? But, a look at the Children’s Library at Chagaletti, a small village about 22 km from Bangalore in North Bangalore taluk will prove you wrong. A revolutionary concept that has worked wonders for the children, parents, teachers and the entire neighbourhood of villages, it is a library for the children, by the children and of the children.
An initiative of the Child Rights Trust (CRT), the library was set up in 2010 and within a short span of 8 months was awarded the Best Community Library. “As a director of CRT, I have always been interacting and working with children and when there was a suggestion by them to have a library in our village, I decided to go ahead with their request provided they take the ownership of managing the show. I attended a 3-day workshop by the Hippocampus Reading Foundation where the whole process of running a library scientifically was explained. I then trained the children and they took it up from there”. says Mr. Nagasimha, the man behind the initiative.
The library was started in a room in his house with a small collection of 200 books and was entirely managed by 6 children (5 girls and 1 boy) who were aged at that time between 10 and 17. The entire management of the library including borrowing, returns, inventory and maintenance was taken up by these children. Today, it is an institution that has over 4000 books and 200 members from almost 50 neighbouring villages.
Role model institution
The library has not only grown exponentially but has had a positive effect on the reading habits of the children in the village. With more and more books being added, there is a keen interest in the parent as well as teacher community. “We support the library in all their educative initiatives and special events that are held to increase the awareness among the children. The library has benefitted the entire community as children have become voracious readers now with less time spent on watching TV” says Prasad, a parent whose children visit the library.
The books are graded and matched with the profile of the children on a regular basis to ensure that children are reading books relevant to their age. Witnessing the phenomenal success of the Chagaletti library, similar libraries have been set up in cities including Bellary, Kolar, Gadag, Chamrajnagar, Chitradurga and Dharwad under the guidance of these children.
The institution has attracted the attention of several NGOs from India as well as abroad and they have taken cues to replicate this model in their cities. “The right to participation is a key element in the overall growth and development of children into responsible citizens. The success of this library goes to show that young children can be groomed not only to take ownership but also to be resourceful leaders” says Mr. Nagasimha.
“We never had access to a library and this was the motivation for us to run one. While there were initial challenges in motivating the children, we overcame them by organizing games and fun activities so that they visit the library and inculcate the reading habit” says Veda who was one among the 6 children to run the library. “I was ten when the library started but with the help of the other 5 members, I enjoyed taking responsibility of running the place” says Karthik who was also a part of running the library from the beginning. The children today are also spreading the word by transporting books to the nearby village schools which has resulted in the development of a mobile library.