“Adults are outdated children,” said famous American children’s writer Dr Seuss. Kiara Bose Roy may just have turned 18, but though she’s a legal adult, she’s certainly very much on top of things.
The daughter of actors Rohit Roy and Mansi Joshi Roy, Kiara, an avid reader, was the first ever steward of a Little Free Library (LFL) in Mumbai, a concept known only in the West until she read about it in one of her mother’s magazines, and decided to set one up herself. It was 2015 and she was just 12 or 13 years old at the time.
Hooked and booked
The Little Free Library is a non-profit organisation based in the US which aims to boost reading habits through the free exchange of books. A small birdhouse-shaped structure is set up outside your home and you stock it with some of your own books so that passersby who may be curious or interested in reading, can simply take a book and if possible, leave one of their own books in exchange so you also have something new to read. Anyone can start a Little Free Library, but there is a certain procedure to follow that begins with signing a charter and ensuring its sustainability by keeping it fully stocked. Kiara visits her LFL twice a day to make sure there are always enough books for passersby and regulars to borrow.
“As the library has grown, I think I have grown myself,” says Kiara. “I did not fully understand its possible impact when I set it up, but over the past five years as I’ve matured, I’ve seen the good it does.”
For instance, when the library had just been set up, Kiara observed a boy about her own age coming to the library every day to pick out a book and read. “He seemed so interested and engrossed in reading books in English that with my parents’ help, I made a reading space for him so he did not have to sit on the footpath,” says Kiara. “Due to his interest in books, he has learnt English, attended college and started working recently. I might not be able to see the impact the LFL has had on everybody, but I’m glad I am part of such a movement.”
Since a lot of children in Mumbai do not have the privilege of having access to books and education, it was Kiara’s motivation to start an LFL
Kiara is a grade 12 student at Dhirubhai Ambani International School, and she has just won the Todd H. Bol award presented by the LFL organisation as recognition for her work as a steward of the mission.
“I realised the major impact an LFL can have in India over time as kids from the slums near our house started coming by almost every day to learn English,” says Kiara. “Since a lot of children in Mumbai do not have the privilege of having access to books and education, it was my motivation to start an LFL.”
Fortunately for the underprivileged children of the neighbourhood, Kiara was never the kind of child who found it hard to share. “I was most excited about sharing books even during my childhood and while I was growing up and so LFL was just an extension of that behaviour,” she says.
After Kiara set up the LFL, more such libraries began to pop up in different parts of India. Now there are two more in Mumbai, one each in Indore, Bengaluru and New Delhi and another in Tamil Nadu.
From HT Brunch, June 14, 2020
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