Children Libraries in India


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Children constitute around 40% of our population under the age of 18 years. Despite the right to study, there is a decline in reading and math skills. 51.8% of Std 5 children cannot read a Std 2 level text. Almost 41% of children drop out before they finish Class VIII. Among various reasons for this drop out, lack of proper learning environment is the most impacting factor. Children library system in India has been a subject of neglect at both central and state level. There are some scattered initiatives in the private sectors in the development of children library and promoting early reading habit in children. We have yet to see any concrete effort in this direction. The Right to Education Act 2009 mandates that each recognized school must have library facilities. There continues to be a significantly large proportion of schools without library facilities. We need to prioritize this sector by strictly implementing the norms and bringing in further legislation to support and encourage every single effort to open children libraries. Children library can play a crucial role in preparing future knowledge citizens of India. The long term outcome of inculcating early reading habit among children is that children become
knowledgeable, active, alert and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.

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Children Libraries in India

  1. 1. CHILDREN LIBRARIES IN INDIA Aman Kumar Jha INTRODUCTION Children constitute around 40% of our population under the age of 18 years.1 Over 250 central and state statutes concerning children guarantee them a number of fundamental rights including Right to Education that was made constitutional in 2009. Despite the right to study, there is decline in reading and math skills. 51.8% of Std 5 children cannot read a Std 2 level text. 72.5 % of Std 5 children cannot do a simple division problem.2 Almost 41% of children drop out before they finish Class VIII, and 50% drop out before reaching Class X.3 Among various reasons for this drop out, lack of a proper learning environment, absence of teachers and poor quality of teachers are the most impacting factor, particularly lack of children libraries with adequate literature and reading services. While both Central and State governments have made library mandatory in all educational set up particularly in schools through constitutional obligation, primary and upper primary level government schools have inadequate children’s literature. Children in most villages and slum communities do not have access to libraries. Public libraries in India have been developed for mixed age group of people wherein children hardly get a suitable environment and literature to read. Many surveys have concluded that reading habit among children has been on decline due to lack of proper encouragement and learning environment. There are some scattered initiatives in the private sectors and their focused approach in the development of children libraries in India has given a ray of hope. We have yet to see any concrete effort in this direction. Library system particularly children libraries in India has been a subject of neglect at both central and state level. India is yet to enact a central legislation on libraries to encourage states and central government for mandatory implementation of the libraries dedicated to children. In
  2. 2. India, library is not in the concurrent list of the Constitution and hence there is no hard core planning for setting up children libraries. Though public library development is a state subject under the Constitution, the legislative framework in many states is not flexible enough to provide the required legal support and financial backing to libraries4. The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has made several commendable recommendations to reform the library sector in its report. Its Community Knowledge Centres would play a crucial role in the development of libraries for children in rural areas. NKC’s further recommendations towards making school libraries open for rural population is a step in the right direction. This will optimize the resource utilization by the local children as well.5 Prior to NKC, several commissions & committees were set up to reform library sector and their recommendations were submitted to the government stressing the need to constitutionalise library system in India. But no concrete steps were taken by the decision makers to prioritize children libraries in India particularly in rural areas. Many countries have constitutional provision of having a national library for children and young adults. Russia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Australia, USA, Canada and the European countries have well established children libraries both at national and local level. Central Government Initiatives Central government has tried to encourage its centrally funded schools to promote learning and reading culture among children and to have appropriate libraries for students. A functional school library with an appropriately selected set of books has been made a must for every school in the 11th Plan under Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). 11th Plan Working Group Report on SSA and Girls Education however, emphasizes on the capacity enhancement for libraries at elementary school level but the fund allocated seems insufficient to run these libraries smoothly.
  3. 3. Central Schools, Navodaya Vidyalayas and Public Libraries set up by Central Government have a dedicated section of children’s literature including textbook in their libraries for children between the age group of 5 to 15 years. These schools have appointed professional librarians to inculcate reading habit and provide information services to children. Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation (RRRLF) gives financial assistance to Central/State Government sponsored children library or government run public library with children section. Government has established Jawahar Bal Bhavan in remote areas enhancing creativity among children in the age-group 5-16 years especially from weaker sections of the Society to supplement the learning system. There are more than 100 Bal Bhavans spread all over India. More recently, the Right to Education Act passed in 2009, mandates that each recognized school must have library facilities, with Library providing access to newspapers, magazines and books on all subjects available. There continues to be a significantly large proportion of schools without library facilities. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2010, only 63% of rural schools in India comply with RTE norms on the availability of library books. State Governments Initiatives Till date 13 Indian States have enacted Public Library Act. Among them are: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Manipur, Kerala, Haryana, Goa, Mizoram, Orissa, Gujarat and Rajasthan. However, these states do not conform to standard legislation and therefore follow a varied pattern. The remaining states and territories maintain state libraries, district libraries, and their branches either directly through a government department, or through a system of grants–in–aid to private libraries. There are 28 State Central Libraries in 35 States and Union Territories and only 30 thousand rural libraries in around 6 lakh villages in the country.6 This means only 5% villages have access to libraries. Moreover, one can hardly notice good children literature in these libraries. Public Library
  4. 4. The Public libraries in India particularly national and state central libraries have introduced children section dedicated to children’s literature. The National Library, Kolkata has a separate division for the children with 28,000 children books, which are not lent out. The Delhi Public Library has a separate children section in all the service units including mobile vans. Membership is open to children of age 5-15 years and children can borrow two books for 14 days. There are many state public libraries and their branches, which provide library services to children, however infrastructure and resources in district and rural public libraries are in an extremely poor condition. School Library Currently there are more than 10 lakh recognised schools in the primary and upper primary level and 1.5 lakh in the secondary and higher secondary level in the country. 7 Government claims that no schools to be given recognition without a proper library infrastructure in place. However, if it is assumed more realistically that a collection with 500 volumes, 1000 volumes, 5000 volumes and 5000 volumes constitute primary, upper primary, secondary and higher secondary school libraries respectively, then only 3.22% schools have libraries. 8 This means 97% schools are either without a library or do not have adequate library infrastructure. According to 6th All India Education Survey report ‘as the stage of school goes up corresponding percentage of libraries also goes up, i.e. primary, it is 40%, the respective percentage of libraries for upper primary, secondary and higher secondary are 80%, 80% and 90%’. Private schools in comparision to government fare better in terms of library services for children. They however, need to maintain a high standard in the library even after affiliation from agencies like State Boards and CBSE not just on paper but on actual. Most private schools have benchmarked the libraries for children in the country as they maintain separate libraries for different age groups of children with rich collection of children literature and organize various activities to promote reading habit among them. The conditions of library
  5. 5. services in private schools however vary, as there is no school library standard available from the regulatory agencies. The condition of government run libraries in primary and upper primary schools is extremely poor. Most of these libraries are managed by non-professionals. Teachers are made library incharge. In such schools, hardly any library activity takes place. Books are under-utilised. Use of reading materials is basically seen among secondary and senior secondary level of students and teachers. Initiatives by NGOs Private initiatives in setting up and promoting children libraries have been a tremendous success in the country. Some of them are running children libraries under public private partnership programme. Many of them run these libraries by arranging private funds. And this model is becoming increasingly popular in the country as many new NGOs are joining this fleet and encouraging children to inculcate a reading habit. The work of few NGOs i.e. AWIC, Infosys Foundation, Pratham and British Council are commendable. THE ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS FOR CHILDREN (AWIC) works towards the promotion and development of children literature in India. AWIC held National Convention on Children's Libraries in 2005. The two-day convention focused on the role of NGOs and local bodies in establishing libraries and the creation of a National Children's Library Board under the aegis of National Child Development Programme. AWIC Children's Library Project runs 114 libraries in Delhi and across India with each library being provided free books by the project. BRITISH COUNCIL LIBRARIES - in India have introduced separate section on children’s literature for kids between age group of 5-15 years. The collection basically includes stories, plays, poetry, children's encyclopedias as well as books that are subject-specific, which help children in their school projects or assignments. The library stacks a good collection of pictorial books a large number of learning support materials in the form of audio-visuals.
  6. 6. INFOSYS FOUNDATION - The Foundation donated 10,200 sets of books to Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Kerala under its Library for Every Rural School project. Each set had around 200 to 250 books on various subjects. Infosys also set up more than 10,150 libraries in rural government schools in these states. Full-fledged libraries that can be accessed by underprivileged students have been established in Hubli and Bangalore. PRATHAM - has taken the lead in real terms by establishing an extensive network of more than 2400 libraries across the country with a membership of 425,497 children in rural areas. Read India campaign has created the largest nationwide impact and is already producing impressive results. In 2008-09, the campaign reached 33 million children across 19 states. It covered 305,000 out of the 600,000 villages of India and mobilized 450,000 volunteers. Libraries are equipped with books in English and regional languages for varying age groups of children. Their volunteers have innovated different ways of developing reading skills among children. CONFEDERATION OF INDIAN INDUSTRY - In order to make school education attractive and make study a fun experience, CII, under its education programme launched a library project in Bihar. The objective was to assist children learn through pictures and stories and reduce drop out rates and absenteeism. Libraries were set up in over 100 select rural schools in Samastipur district as a pilot project. Along with books, games and toys were also provided to the schools. This model has been successful. CHILDREN TOY FOUNDATION - aims to help set up toy/game libraries across India. It has a modest, yet impressive network of over a hundred such libraries all over the country. The Foundation has drawn up some ambitions future plans such as the setting up of a Play Park, Toy/Game R&D Centre, International Toy/Game Bank, organize Toy/Game Workshop, etc. AKSHARA FOUNDATION - has a good network of children libraries to encourage and sustain a reading habit among children in slum communities, government schools, and NGOrun schools in Karnataka. In Bangalore, there are a total of 52 libraries and in North Karnataka
  7. 7. there are 370 libraries. Various activities like story hours, painting, games, etc are organised to promote reading habits. DR. B.C. ROY CHILDREN’S LIBRARY - the largest children library set up by Children’s Book Trust, New Delhi. Any child between the age group of 5 to 18 can take membership. The library has a collection of 40,000 books on science, history, religion and mythology, literature and fiction. Members can borrow books. INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR CHILDREN - Upcoming centre in New Delhi, also known as Shankar’s Centre for Children will include the dolls museum, an art gallery, an amphi-theatre, library, conference rooms, and hobby rooms covering varied activities exclusively for children. It is intended to be a meeting ground and a visible symbol of goodwill amongst the children of the world to converge into a creative assemblage. It is to be endowed with facilities and tools to develop functional, creative and artistic skills amongst children and attract and host young talent from the world over. There are many such libraries functioning either as an independent unit or as part of big libraries. But they are available in a very small proportion (libraries to number of children or books per child). However, quality is much better in terms of management and utilization of resources in these libraries. CONCLUSION Child is the precious wealth and future of the country and library provides knowledge, that helps future generations learn, innovate and recreate knowledge that ultimately leads to overall economic empowerment of a nation and ensures the creation of better living conditions for all. India has been a place of learning from time immemorial and to sustain in today’s knowledge economy we need knowledgeable and innovative citizens to help India become a knowledge superpower.
  8. 8. Children library can play crucial role in preparing future knowledge citizens of India. The long term outcome of inculcating early reading habit among children is that they become knowledgeable, active, alert and enlightened citizens of tomorrow. We need to prioritize this sector by bringing more attention from all sections of the society. Government must focus on bringing dedicated legislation to encourage children libraries in India. Public libraries and schools must provide library services to children having no access to reading materials. We need to open Bal Bhavans in every village and slums so that children’s literature could reach to every underprivileged child in the country. Children below 10 years of age and students of primary schools require to be facilitated with separate libraries full of children’s literature, toys and games. Government should invite local donors, volunteers and encourage public private partnership in the setting up of children libraries. Library cess should be introduced and tax free donations be encouraged to promote children libraries. And most importantly, efforts to be given to the maximum utilization of children literature to instill the reading habit among children and to become enlightened citizens of tomorrow. References: 1 Pairavi. State of Child Rights in India. Viewed on 2 December 2012. 2 Pratham. Annual Status of Education Report 2011. Viewed on 29 November 2012 3 India. Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Education, Annual Report, 2010. 4 National knowledge Commission. Report of the Working Group on Libraries. Viwed on 2 December 2012. 5 India. National Knowledge Commission. NKC Recommendations on Libraries. 7 December 2006. Viewed on 2 December 2012. ( 6 Das, Anup Kumar and Lal, Banwari (2006) Information literacy and public libraries in India. Viewed on 2 December 2012. ( 7 India. Ministry of Human Resource Development. Annual report 2005-06 8 Patel, Jashu (1939-) and Kumar, Krishan (1942-). Libraries and librarianship in India, Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 2001