Westminster Working to Build Love of Reading for Children in India
More than 200 elementary school students are now benefitting from two new Reading Rooms, with an additional library project in the works
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Carter (801) 832-2682
Dec. 13, 2011
SALT LAKE CITY – Westminster’s unique environment for learning has transcended oceanic boundaries thanks to a constructive partnership with the non-profit Room to Read organization.
Students at the Devliya Kalan and Mata Ji Ka Khera Government Primary Schools, both located in the Rajasthan State in the eastern part of India, now have two new, fully-stocked libraries in their schools. Each library has more than 1,000 books written in both the local language and English. Local teachers were also trained in how to engage the students in reading-related and library activities, ensuring that the books would be put to good use.
It is estimated that more than 750 million people in the world are illiterate. Room to Read builds children’s libraries in impoverished communities where children are at a distinct educational disadvantage, with the goal of building the lifelong habit of reading and learning.
The Room to Read mission and a 2009 commencement address by Room to Read founder John Wood inspired Westminster to undertake its own literacy mission in the village of Wai in Southern India, a place where Room to Read is not yet active.
“We were so taken with the work of Room to Read, in addition to supporting their existing initiatives, we took the next steps to bring in our own Westminster expertise from our School of Education, such as reading skills development, directly to students in Wai,” said Diane VandPol, director of Westminster’s Giovale Library, and Wai-Westminster Project committee member.
Room to Read has given more than 300 books to Westminster’s project in Wai, with a promise to supply even more.
These books are part of a continuing effort to build the collection of one, local library. Those books are now rotated in and out of seven of the 21 local schools in Wai in a bookmobile-like manner. The hope is that an additional seven schools will be added to the rotation each year, bringing a love of learning and reading to each of the 21 schools in the region by 2012.
The first group of Westminster students traveled to the village in May of 2010, where they held a summer reading camp with local children. The children wrote their own stories and then acted them out. Pictures taken during the acting exercise were printed and used to illustrate the books.
Planning and recruiting for next year’s August trip will commence in January. During this trip, students and faculty will continue their work with both the library and children, doing everything that’s needed from building shelves for books to leading more literacy-based activities.
“It’s real-world, hands-on, experience,” VanderPol said. “Every student on that trip had that big, life-changing, core experience. They understood real things about power, politics and how that affects people’s access to resources. As we make these trips to Wai an annual event, our students will learn even more about collaboration, teamwork, social responsibility and what they as individuals can do to make a difference in the world.”
About Room to Read: Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, we develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond.
Westminster is a nationally recognized, comprehensive liberal arts college. With a broad array of graduate and undergraduate programs, Westminster is distinguished by its unique environment for learning. Westminster prepares students for success through active and engaged learning, real world experiences and its vibrant campus community. Westminster’s unique location, adjacent to the Rocky Mountains and to the dynamic city of Salt Lake, further enriches the college experience. For more information visit http://www.westminstercollege.edu or follow @WestminsterSLC or @WestminsterPR on Twitter.