Following the success of our first three original children’s books, we’ve started work on some new stories. Earlier this summer, we organized a writing workshop for teachers at our partner schools. It’s the first step in our plan to publish ten more titles over the next four years.
At the workshops, teachers browsed board books, pattern books, picture books, autobiographies and play books. They also sang along to traditional Nepali chanda poetry. The objective of the workshop was to understand the origin of storytelling as well as the different narrative forms of storytelling in theNepali language.
Teachers were encouraged to write a story of their own. Many of them were enthusiastic about the opportunity to create a storyboard as they began to draft their own stories.
Monita G, the editor of our first books and the treasurer of our partner organization in Nepal, Kakshyalaya, met with the teachers at the workshop. She shared the method that worked best for her as she revised the stories. She wrote multiple drafts before reading each one to students in different primary grades to get their input.
In another workshop, we invited friends of the organization, including board members, teachers and authors to join us and brainstorm story ideas. The two-day writing workshop included reading aloud, browsing books, story writing and group discussions. The workshop served as a good platform for creating and sharing vibrant and fun ideas.
We ended up with three stories we think will become engaging books and look forward to publishing them in the near future.
Your support is crucial to our publishing efforts. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes with our partners in schools and the community, to bring these stories to life on the page. Thank you for helping us spread the joy of reading!
The principal at one school we work with, Kumbheswor Secondary School in Nuwakot, says his young students are hooked on the three new books we've published and distributed to our partner schools in Nepal.
“For a while now, those three books are all they want to read and see. It’s no wonder we have asked for a few more copies,” he says.
The books are varied in nature. One is a poem, another features short descriptive sentences, and the third is a traditional story. They appeal to every kind of young student:
We’ve distributed the books to all our 49 partner schools with a couple receiving extra copies. Local governments have especially appreciated the child-friendly narration as well as the amazing illustrations. While teachers have our books fresh on their mind, our partner organization in Nepal, Kakshyalaya, conducted a two-day writing workshop in Nuwakot at end of March. The workshop focused on understanding the origins of the Nepali language as well as different narrative forms in Nepali children’s literature.
Along with workshops with teachers, plans are in place to do host a “Read-Aloud Week” with students. The event will also serve as a book fair for students to choose a book to read independently or with their parents or teachers. Students are welcome to bring their parents and younger siblings to the events. Families will be joined by local leaders and stakeholders to enjoy the new books and celebrate the joy of reading.
“Read-Aloud Week” is scheduled for late April at five schools in five days. Activities will include making books, coloring and making collages, building with Legos, writing a postcard to a friend in America, dramatizing a book (students can act as Muna and Puku from our "First Snow" book), and discussing the stories they enjoy.
In addition, “Read-Aloud Week” will introduce local leaders and parents to the work Kakshyalaya and The Santi School Project are doing to promote reading aloud and the value of quality children’s literature. We’ll discuss the connection between reading aloud and literacy skills and the right of every young student to spend time with books they enjoy.
Your support is crucial to unique events like “Read-Aloud Week” that help us strengthen our relationships with children, teachers and parents in the rural communities of the Kathmandu Valley. Thank you for helping us spread the joy of reading!
Hot off the press: 1,500 copies of our first three children’s books, to supplement our teacher training programs that focus on the value of children’s literature as a literacy teaching tool and on strategies for incorporating books into the existing curriculum and school routines.
If you have been following our work for a while, you may recognize that this is an incredible accomplishment for us – the happily ever after ending of a long process, prolonged in various ways by the pandemic, that began nearly two years ago.
Research has demonstrated that listening to books being read aloud is one of the most important predictors or future academic success. Furthermore, having the chance to engage independently with books that are linguistically appropriate (in our case, printed in Nepali) and culturally relevant (to rural Nepal, using familiar local colloquialisms) is a cornerstone in the continuing development of functional literacy.
We decided to publish our own books because there is a lack of quality children’s books in Nepal. Now that we have been running training workshops for teachers for several years, we have begun to run out of quality books that we could stock on our classroom reading corners.
We’d like to give you a peek inside one of our books, Busy Bees, which was a collaboration among five teachers from two schools in Kavre district where we installed beehives in 2019, fulfilling a request from the local community.
The text describes the various chores of the worker bees and repeats a refrain of “Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee.”
Here are some sample stanzas from the book:
Roaming meadows and gardens, here they come buzzing
Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee.
Melting the wax, they build those hexagonal chambers
Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee
Flapping their wings, they fix the temperature of the hive
Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee
Searching for honey in the garden, they help pollinate many different plants
Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee
The illustrations are warm and engaging, with a bit of an anthropomorphic touch (bees using brooms to clean the hives), which students will find amusing. The phrasing relies on local (meaning more rural) word choice, to suggest activities of the bees. The book is also informative; it could be used in the classroom as a curriculum on honey bees.
Thank you for supporting our publishing efforts and the rural communities where we work. Your donation helps us publish and distribute our books as well as educate teachers about how to use them in the classroom. You make it all possible. We are extremely grateful!
Another wave of Covid-19 infections has swept across Nepal and neighboring India, leading the government in Kathmandu to issue a nationwide lockdown at the end of April.
The situation is dire. Hospitals and healthcare workers in Nepal are overwhelmed as the fragile public health system simply cannot keep up. Hospitals are running out of oxygen and beds for patients. Mass cremations of Covid-19 victims have become a common sight around Kathmandu.
A similar spike in infections last fall had ebbed over the winter and many normal activities resumed. During that time, the staff of our implementing partner in Nepal maintained a busy pace. They were able to conduct several teacher training workshops and deliver the following materials to make classroom reading corners:
One training session focused on social studies as the core of every interaction between people and the environment. Participants visited a saw mill, a community forest and collaborated to make a group book about the trips.
The second session, with a different group of teachers, was our read-aloud training. The group discussed what makes a good children's book, practiced writing and storyboard techniques, and reviewed research on the benefits of children’s literature as a way to develop literacy skills.
Before the most recent lockdown began, we contacted all of our school principals to make sure they encouraged their students to borrow books while schools are shut.
Over the long term, it's possible that the virus will continue to circulate in Nepal and the surrounding region. With low rates of vaccination and inadequate supply without international assistance for the remaining 28 million Nepalis who've not had a shot, schools may only be able to open sporadically over the next few years.
We have great admiration for the resilience of our staff, the rural communities where we work and all of the people of Nepal as they cope with this latest surge of the coronavirus. We remain grateful for the support of donors like you, who make our work possible. Thank you!
One of the goals of our read-aloud training program is to publish children's stories written by teachers participating in our workshops. We're excited to announce that our first three titles will be available in early 2021.
These three original children's books will be in Nepali with culturally appropriate Nepali settings and characters. It's important to us that all of our books are written, illustrated and published locally by Nepali authors and artists.
We were fortunate to have started developing manuscripts before the pandemic shut down schools and limited our ability to conduct training sessions and bookmaking workshops. In 2019, our partner in Nepal, Kakshyalaya, installed two beehives at two schools in Kavre that enthralled teachers and children alike.
That experience led five primary grade teachers from the two schools to work together to create a book about bees at a training workshop focused on using Nepali children’s literature for literacy instruction.
At a separate training workshop, a teacher composed a story of her first encounter with snow and how it frightened her.
Both the manuscripts were forwarded to our book editor in Kathmandu, who has a wealth of experience in writing, editing and publishing children’s literature. We're also grateful to be working with one of the most prominent children’s literature illustration artists in Nepal.
Our editor has recently polished the manuscripts and they are in the hands of the illustrator. We will share more details of our books soon.
Thank you for your support during a trying and difficult year!
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