There is a boy, about 14 years old. Shy lad with a soft voice and a little hunch, like he is trying to disappear between his shoulders lest someone spots him. He barely speaks but when he does, he speaks calmly with a sense of control on his carefully measured words. He once told he me his hobby was reading so I started getting him books to read. I love reading myself and I have hundreds of books that a young boy, his age, will enjoy.
Each day, I used to check with him whether he liked the book from yesterday. He would shyly nod his head. I would nudge him to narrate the story to me or whatever he understood of the story. He would drop his head down and without meeting my eye say, “Miss, samajh main nahin aayi!” (Miss, I did not understand the story). Hmm! I used to wonder, “Maybe I gave him a book that was too hard for him to understand” So next day I brought the level down one notch. Next day another and then another and another, till the day I understood that all though he is 14 and studying in 8th Grade of his English Medium school, his English vocabulary is that of a first grader. My bewilderment was regarding the mismatch between his ability to read vs. his ability to understand. I had automatically assumed that when someone can read so well, he/she can comprehend about the same level as well. But this small, sweet boy taught me that I was wrong in my assumption.
One day I asked him, “How did you learn to read so well?” Once again he lowered his gaze to avoid eye contact and said softly, “I wanted to read so I practiced reading each day.” My heart melted for him. Imagine this boy in your mind. The boy who confidently told me that his hobby was reading (English reading to be precise). The boy who in spite of the odds taught himself to read. The boy who continues to read fluently and confidently. The boy who is transformed from the shy little character into a leader when he is reading English. Yet, the same boy who barely comprehends 10% of what he is able to read.
Imagine the hunger to learn that is burning inside this child but who has not found the right mentor or the right resource to help him bridge the gap between reading and comprehending. Project Gyan Jyot is a project aimed at helping such children cross the bridge. Guess who is helping them cross over – children for whom such a bridge never existed.
More stories, more details over the coming days.