A library is a delightful potpourri of passion, wit, discovery and truth. It is a place where we can find the collective knowledge of mankind in varied forms and expressions. A sacred space of intellectual sustenance and growth; where we can connect with ourselves and humanity at large.
Children should be taken to libraries from an early age. When children are exposed to a stimulating environment filled with books, they are bound to develop an interest in reading. Libraries can be magical places for children. The presence of innumerable books in one place is a mesmerizing sight for the young eyes. When children hold books and browse through them and see others do the same, they begin to understand their value and cherish them. Libraries tell children, in their own quiet way, that books are the best lifelong companions! It is a wonderful way to initiate a reading culture in the family. When we encourage the reading habit in a child, not only do we open the doors to infinite knowledge but also contribute to creating a thoughtful society.
Public libraries in our country are scarce. However, many enterprising people have started private libraries which have gained immense popularity with parents and children. These libraries have managed to get repeat visitors because of thoughtful initiatives like book clubs, author visits, creative writing workshops, art and craft activities, read aloud sessions etc.
These libraries are quietly contributing to a ‘reading revolution’ amongst families. So let’s make a New Year’s resolution to visit some of these wonderful libraries with our children so that they fall deeper in love with books.
Let’s look at some of the prominent ones in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
F-24 second floor, Nizamuddin West, New Delhi
The Reading Caterpillar library began in 2009 in response to a lack of reading spaces in Delhi. It was started by a small community of parents who met regularly to read to their children. The founders visualized an interactive space where children, parents, book lovers, authors, illustrators, artists etc. could connect with each other.
This is what they had to say, “Reading Caterpillar is a book-lending library, a reading space, a book club for different age groups, a book hospital, and an artist space. We love book launches, workshops and readings with authors and artists.”
Reading Caterpillar has about 4,500 books at present, of which 95% are for children. The library is currently for children up to the age of eleven, but every year the upper age limit is increased by a year so that no one has to leave. There are about 100 active members and, on an average, forty to fifty children visit the library and attend various workshops through the week.
Ramditti J R Narang Deepalaya School, B-65, Panchsheel Vihar
The library began in 2008 by a group of volunteers who used to read picture books to the children of the Deepalaya School and hold discussions on them. They say that it began with the thought of putting books in the hands of all the children and model reading for pleasure to them. Their read-aloud programs remain the most popular and successful.
Most of their members are children who take pride in running the library. They have an honour roll program to encourage children to become voracious readers. They also provide support to the larger community for establishing libraries. Their second library at Sanjay colony is under construction.
There are about 3,000 titles in their collection, of which approximately 2,400 are for children and 600, for young adults and adults. The collection has around 900 Hindi and 2100 English titles.
Building No. 28, First Floor, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound, Lower Parel
This beautiful library space was founded in 2104 by a couple who ran a library management company called “The Eternal Library”. They worked with corporates to help them set up their reading spaces and finally established their own library. The library is known for one of its kind literary events, both for adults as well as children. For children, they conduct writing and reading programs that build vocabulary and inspire kids to read more.
The library has around 5,500 titles, about a third of which are for children. Older children usually visit the library every weekend; on weekdays it is the preschoolers who come in the morning and afternoon.
MCubed Children Library
Maharashtra Mitra Mandal, Princess Building, D’Monte Park Road, Bandra (West)
This local public library, which derives its name from the 3 M’s of ‘Maharashtra Mitra Mandal’, was founded in 2011 by a group of three friends who wanted to create a children’s library accessible to all.
Of the 4000+ books that they currently have, more than 3000 have been donated and a fair number were brand new. They hold regular author sessions and creative writing workshops at a nominal price in order to keep the interest going. The interiors of the library are vibrant and colourful in order to make it attractive and pleasant for children.
525, 16th Main, 3rd Block, Koramangala, Bengaluru
Hippocampus was started in Bangalore in March 2003. The library was founded by an NRI couple, who upon returning to India in 1999, felt a great need for a children’s library. They, along with a group of friends, turned their dream into a reality by setting up the library in Bangalore.
This is what they say, “Hippocampus has always tried to bring in varied experiences to children in an attempt to live up to our name and create as many opportunities as possible for new experiences. Our weekend activities range from art and craft to science and cooking. There are field trips to exciting places – biscuit factories, rock climbing, overnighter star-gazing trips…”
“A few large-scale one-off events we have done are a 50-cast, all-child musical; a three-day carnival just for children; week-long river sports trips; and my personal favourite an eight-day international storytelling festival across two cities – HOO’s Tales. Every summer we conduct The Great Tale Chase – our summer reading challenge.”
Hippocampus has over 15,000 books across fifty genres. They add between 60 and 75 new books every month. All the books are for children, except for a small young adult collection.
This space is beautifully created keeping the comfort and interest of children in mind. The library also home delivers books and holds interesting author and book events on weekends and gives book recommendations.
1/1, Ratnavilas Rd (Behind Pai Vista Convention Hall) Basavangudi, Bangalore – 560004
It is a bookstore and a library for children in the age group of 0-10 years. They aim to provide resources and tools to parents to help them connect with children and nurture their mental, emotional and social development. The store sells both new and gently-used children’s books.
They help parents identify the best children’s books and encourage read aloud to children. They also help plan fun activities that parents can do while reading picture books to children. Moreover, they hold parenting workshops from time to time in schools and organizations.
They say, “Our library gives children access to a wider range of books that are not easily available for sale in India. These books again are carefully curated and are available for borrowing both at our physical library in Basavangudi, and for home delivery.”