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OUR LIBRARY...thIS ABILITY

During the first few months of the year, we planned to focus on books about characters with disabilities…seen and unseen, with a focus on their abilities. 

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The planning and selection of the books to read aloud across the next 3 months was done by Kamakshi who works in the library with us during the younger elementary sessions. Kamakshi brings a deep awareness and sensitivity on disability, disability rights and along with her experience of working with the Chetana Trust, a passion for the need to focus on ‘ability’ and for books to me accessible to ALL children.

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When I looked at the first book on her list, I wasn’t too sure about how we could use it, but she thought that it would be a wonderful way to open out the theme. When I went home I relooked at the book which I had on my shelf for quite some time and realised that this book held a host of possibilities and promised to give us the start we needed. 

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So we began our theme ‘thIS ABILITY’ with OUR LIBRARY by Raviraj Shetty, illustrated by Deepa Balsavar, published by Pratham Books. The book shares all the usual library happenings but is far from the quiet library with a big SILENCE sign. Rather it highlights a warm inviting space, nudging the reader to explore all the possibilities that a library can be.



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One thing we had to keep in mind was that most of the children were unlikely to be exposed to children with disabilities. So as we planned our session with ‘OUR LIBRARY’ we were a little apprehensive whether the children would be able to pick up on what we wanted them to. 

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I shared this book with grades 5-8, while K shared it with grades 2-4 at the Abacus Montessori School library. 

We opened the book out by talking about our library in school and other libraries that the children were familiar with. Who are the users? What is special about each library? 

What is the same/different? 

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I then began by reading aloud the first two pages, but not showing them the illustrations yet. 

‘Ishaan whooshes, to his corner at the far end of the library…’ 

When I asked the children why Ishaan would whoosh into the library, they give me all the possible meanings for the verb, but not what it means in this book. As I turned the book around and show them the illustrations, there was a moment of silence as they took it the impact of the word. 



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The next page spread showed Abir and the words on the black board that seem to ‘jump, slip, hop and dance’. This brought a lot of sharing about dyslexia, number dyslexia and the children  seemed very aware of about dyslexia, freely shared about what they knew or experienced. The older children seemed to know a lot about dyslexia and ADHD and I was enlightened that Percy Jackson has both. Don’t you just love the connections they make? 




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As we went through the book, we spent time on each page. Children noticed that there were many adults accompanying the children to the library. Some of the children seemed to be propped up or supported in some way.


The details in Deepa’s illustrations helped the children look a little closer at how the library in the book welcomed all children to reading with a little thought…

A ramp right at the entrance, braille books, art and craft, wordless books, participatory story time, tactile books, a communication book, scope for activity and busy corners, as well as quiet corners for those who need the calm.

The older children shared about Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking and about disabilities like Down's syndrome, OCD, ADHD, ADD and even Tourette's Syndrome. They were familiar with braille, sign language and tactile books.



A child with a special needs sibling shared how the adults were there to support the children, also giving them the scope to meet other adults, something that they do not get a chance to do given the responsibilities of a special needs child. 

I love books that prompt sharing like this means that our library is a safe space that gives children the ability to share and learn.

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One thing that we were sure about was that we did not want to point out or name the disability, rather facilitating the session in a manner in which the children could express themselves in their own way, sharing whatever understanding they got from these pages. 


We loved the honest portrayal of the children and adults who frequented this library which had been set up in real life by the author. I was glad that I shared this little fact as it highlighted the fact that this is a library that really exists(ed), and why we need spaces that make books accessible to all children.


We hope that as we go across the next few months, we facilitate sessions that help children become aware of others with disabilities seen and unseen and most importantly be able to see their ABILITY.



Our Library is available on Storyweaver and in print at Indie bookstores like Kahani Tree in Mumbai and Funky Rainbow in Bangalore.


Read the book on Storyweaver HERE




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