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The Bastion of Knowledge by Siddharth Dash

By Volunteer Siddharth Dash, FHI Jaipur

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” – Ernest Hemingway

Books are and will always be indispensable parts of our lives. More so, in a child’s growth. With ‘Book-Joy’, FHI’s new initiative, we wish for children from underprivileged backgrounds to enjoy the magical worlds that books create and derive their numerous benefits, just like we did in our childhood.

My journey with books commenced with a fortunate stroke of serendipity.

A fickle-minded child whose attention could only be snatched by the shiniest hot-wheels cars and action figures set his eyes on a shiny, comically large book in a school fair. The cover had everything, cars, a brawny soldier wielding a rifle, planets. It was too alluring for him to resist. Surely, he would get to see more of that inside the book. Little did he know that a Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia would shape his life, his interests, worldview, and personality. It set the wheels in motion for a life-long journey of acquiring knowledge and knowing things around him and his place in the universe.

People who exhibit higher intelligence often tend to inherit a reading habit or have it developed in their early years. Voracious readers view the world through a dramatically different lens showing a propensity for empathy and a higher emotional quotient. Reading forms the base of the most crucial life skills required for an all-encompassing world-view.

Encyclopedias gave me the knowledge to appreciate the details of the cars and action figures I was obsessed with as a child. From tiny details like the emblems on the action figures to the history behind cars, each rabbit hole I indulged myself in was more interesting than the last. Reading encyclopedias and novels alike, helped me stitch ideas together from various fields enabling me to have a comprehensive understanding of things around me. Not to mention, the unmatched enlivening feeling that arises out of readers being transported to different realities, viewing lives through the eyes of characters in stories.

With the advent of the internet and increasing consumption of media and education on screens, books stand out as storage of comprehensive and specific information. The scope and the ease of access to information that the internet provides us might be vast in comparison to books, but to find the correct resources in the sheer volume of mostly unfiltered, unsourced information and distractions deem it a laborious if not a counterproductive effort. On the other hand, books allow for an intimate relationship with readers facilitating the internalization of the teachings and principles at their own pace. These characteristics empower readers in honing their research skills, helping them zero in on a subject they are trying to grasp.

The stories children are exposed to in books help strengthen their empathy and emotional intelligence towards others. With protagonists and various other personalities, children tend to form a bond of mentorship from whom they grasp their solutions and wisdom to various quandaries in their lives. These lessons often help them address real-world situations with more consideration and an open mind, all while being empathetic and respectful of others feelings and cultures. A reading culture among children also encourages questioning and open discussion further allowing exchange of knowledge.

The Book-Joy initiative aims to invigorate the formative years of underprivileged children by providing them access to books. Through this, FHI hopes to ingrain life skills in children, through various attributes that books help bring out in children, paving their runway for a successful flight.

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