‘Ghoda Library’ trots up to Kumaon villages. And children are loving it | India News

NAINITAL: It was just good old-fashioned horse sense — to trot up ponies laden with books for children in the remote hills of Uttarakhand with little access to either roads or libraries. And the kids seem to be loving both — the reading materials that come right up to their villages and their four-legged “librarians”.
In parts of Kumaon, for instance, it is a common sight these days to see ponies with a placard around their neck that says ‘Ghoda Library’ surrounded by excited children who pick books of their choice from the horse’s back, sit around in a circle on the green grass and read loudly together.
The initiative, begun by Nainital resident Shubham Badhani, 29, himself a librarian by training, is slowly picking up. A few others have evinced interest in the project that aims to instill reading as a habit among impressionable children, many of them poor and deprived.
“I thought, why not a moving library on horseback,” said Badhani. “There are these remote areas with schools that often remain closed. Road access, too, is restricted.”
Local communities quickly bought into the idea, saw what his team was trying to do and readily offered their horses for the service. “Our volunteers not only distribute books, they also organise reading sessions that draw children and parents alike,” Badhani said.
With the issue of horses resolved, two NGOs, Himotthan and Sankalp Youth Foundation, pitched in with books and funding.
The volunteers go from village to village, identifying kids who want to read and let them keep the books for a week. They make a second round after that to collect the books, giving new ones for them to pour over.
“That way we can cover a wide area with a limited number of books that we have as of now. We rely on donations and are looking for investors to fund our drive,” one of the volunteers said. “Right now we have books for children up to 15 years of age. Once we start getting funds and more logistical help, we will increase our distribution area and get books for all age groups.”
What has made the effort even more gratifying is the keen interest village women have shown in studying. “Due to many factors, they are almost barred from studies. They, too, participate in our activities and we hope to encourage them,” Badhani said.
The villagers are grateful. Nathu Ram, 32, a resident of Talla Jalna in Nainital district, smiled, “We all take part in the reading sessions. It helps us gain knowledge. We leave our work early for this.”
A little distance away, Pushpa Devi, 30, said, “I have four daughters. Jyoti, my second child, is the most involved. She loves the ponies. And the books, of course.”
Asked about it, Jyoti, who is in class 5 at a local government primary school, simply said, “Earlier I just played after school. Now I read. The ponies are also very sweet.”

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