From a quiet to an active space

Madhuri Anand

Nestled in the lush landscape near the confluence of two holy rivers, Ganga and Varuna, the Rajghat Besant School was established in 1934. It is the oldest residential school in Varanasi and follows the philosophy of the visionary educator Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Formerly, the school had just one library, but around 25 years ago, one more library was established and now there is a junior and a senior library. During the pandemic, an opportunity to work as the teacher in charge of the junior library, with classes 3 to 7 visiting it came up. For over 10 years, the junior library has carried on a practice of “buddy reading”.

Photos courtesy: Madhuri Anand

What’s buddy reading?
“The library is a social and interactive space” (Mukunda, 2015). This statement is affirmed by an activity called buddy reading initiated by the librarian at Rajghat. This is a ‘reading time’ that happens in a space other than the library and is conducted weekly – on Friday evenings. It encourages students across grades 3 to 6 to develop their socio-emotional skills through conversations around the books and not limited to simply reading. Since joining the library team, a professional development opportunity of the LEC (Library Educators Certificate Course) by Bookworm Trust helped me promote readership with modifications to existing activities in the school’s buddy reading program.

Enhancing buddy reading with library games
My initial encounter with the concept of library games was during my first LEC contact program at Goa. I realized that incorporating games into the buddy reading forum at the school would boost students’ engagement with books and bring in the aspect of play.

Genre memory game: I remember my childlike amusement while playing this game during the LEC and was eager to implement it in my work. Akin to a standard memory game, the genre memory game consists of a set of flashcards with the genre name and definition on them. It’s a great approach to introduce children to the idea of genres and raise awareness of the range of books in the library collection. I implemented this in one of the buddy reading sessions by first giving the students a task to sort picture books into different genres, which the children happily undertook. This allowed them to discover more books in the collection as well as understand the range and variety of books according to genre.

Musical book chairs: The idea of playing musical book chairs was equally fascinating. Having observed that students mostly pick English picture books over Hindi, I introduced this with some modifications. I started working towards bringing about a change during the sessions, bringing in books with the same story in two different languages. The goal was to help students understand the story in two languages, discuss, and exchange ideas about it, determining for themselves the parallels and discrepancies. Musical book chairs was organized with three circles of cushions in different areas. Two copies of the same storybook, one in English and another in Hindi, were shuffled and kept on the cushions in no particular order. The children took their positions, each near a cushion with a book on top. When the music played, the children went around the cushions in their respective circles. When the music stopped, a child holding the English version had to look for the child holding the Hindi version and vice-versa. Once the buddies found each other, they comfortably sat down and read the books to each other. Some read English and Hindi simultaneously, while some preferred to read them separately.

In earlier iterations of buddy reading, the sessions usually closed with children sharing their thoughts or enacting the story or preparing a quiz before dispersing in silence. A crucial takeaway for me from the LEC was to hold a closing circle time. Every session closed with a circle time where feedback was sought about the activity conducted.

“It is critical to recognize the act of play. It is filled with social, emotional, and interpersonal interaction, as well as pleasure” – (Sinha, 2017). After the musical book chairs, children shared that they enjoyed the games as they were introduced to new books. A few shared that they were paired with buddies they did not know and enjoyed getting to know them. Some liked the illustrations in the storybooks and understood the text in the story better through illustrations. One shared that he and his buddy helped each other improve their reading in Hindi and English respectively. This generated a feeling of sharing and understanding among them. The old students shared that playing it like musical chairs and reading was a novel twist to the activity. They were so thrilled that they expressed their desire to repeat the activity, and repeat we did!

The conversation of the games and stories from the books continued on the dinner table, sports field, homes, and classrooms. Later in the library slots, children would ask for the books that they could not pick during the sessions. Quiet reading time can become rather monotonous in a group setting and does not necessarily achieve the objective of focused reading. These games allowed me to introduce picture books (a lot of which were not explored) to the children in two languages, thus bringing more joy to reading together. It also enhanced the readership of the Hindi collection which is often low despite familiarity with the language. Ultimately, such games meshed into buddy reading sessions to serve as pre-reading activities and generate enthusiasm for the actual library slots when students read individually, by themselves.

As a reader, teacher, and librarian, I found my experience with LEC to be transformative and empowering. Through enriching activities like library games, read aloud, book posters, book talks or book sharing, sketching, painting, etc. (not just in the buddy reading slots), the library evolved from a quiet reading space to one where every book offered an opportunity to explore.

The author is a middle school teacher of English and is also in charge of the junior library at Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi. She is interested in conducting library activities for children and also reading and exploring picture books for children. She can be reached at

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