Built on a fantasy of white walls with sketches of playing children and tiny shelves stacked with colourful books, each row having a slate for a sign board- The Learning Ladder makes for an interesting store. Taking cue from Eklavya, an education reform project in Madhya Pradesh, the Learning Ladder Project was founded by the Comet Media Foundation, Mumbai. Today, the Learning Ladder is a well established resource centre for teachers, parents, NGOs and all educational organizations. So, if you are an academician; an NGO that provides educational programs to children; a school that is looking at diversifying the choice of books or simply a parent looking for innovative methods of study and absorption of knowledge for your children, Learning Ladder maybe a good place to visit.
What is unique about Learning Ladder is the kind of books they keep. The shelves in Learning Ladder proudly display books by several lesser known publishers and authors who experiment with innovative styles. These are books that one will not readily find at a large bookstore, not because they lack quality but because they offer lower profit margins and bookstores don’t find them attractive enough to stock. Today, Learning Ladder boasts of 2,500 diverse publications which are constantly updated. Meenal Bhatted who runs the “On Cloud Nine” activity club for children in Mumbai says that the Learning Ladder is a wonderful Idea. “I own a library myself and I find here a variety of books, very affordable and unique a combination hard to find elsewhere. Learning Ladder also has a very good collection of Hindi books which I don’t find even in well known stores like Crossword or Landmark!”
With a team of just 8-10 people, Learning Ladder is a project that has done good progress from when it started. The inspiration to start a centre like Learning Ladder was the absence of an appreciable range of good books for children of all backgrounds. Chandita Mukherjee, a founding member of the organization says that when children are made to learn about new things, they are often challenged with unfamiliar settings. For instance, most books depict the English alphabet with things that children in India have never seen. A letter like ‘K’ for ‘King’, for instance, uses the sketch of a European King, a figure unknown to children here. Chandita says, “There are hardly any play materials that help children identify with their own culture while they learn. We overlook these little things, but they are very crucial to a child’s learning process. There are also several brilliant children’s writers and artists in India creating some great work every year! The idea behind Learning Ladder was to to provide a platform for them.”
The team at Learning Ladder strives to communicate the purpose of the store to all its customers so that their goal of transforming the system of teaching and learning continues beyond the store. Suresh who is one of the team members believes that there is great scope for change through the store as the material they have to offer at the store is always varied and enriching. Supporting this, Meghna Bhansali, a visitor at the store says, “Learning Ladder has great books and strong educative material. The collection is worthy of appreciation and I am looking forward to interesting workshops that Learning Ladder conducts for kids.”
What the shop has to offer?
- Children’s books
A collection of books that use contexts familiar to children in India, as well as some classics that have been integral to Indian literature.
The advantage: Exposure to literature of this kind will help children understand the subject better as all references made in the books are around them unlike books from international publishers that have examples which are otherwise alien to Indian children. These books will encourage children to think about who they are and their relationships with the people and environment around them.
The toys at Learning Ladder are mainly made by traditional crafts persons from organic materials like wood, lacquer, bamboo and cotton fabric.
The advantage: Apart from the pleasure of play, they provide an opportunity to the child to establish a personal connection to the region and craft tradition of the toy. These toys also have various pedagogical strengths:
- Principles of physics (balance, torque, centrifugal force etc.) are grasped intuitively
- Mathematical and strategy-making skills are encouraged
- Spatial skills and hand-eye coordination are strengthened
- Fantasy play and story-telling abilities are developed
To help in the deep understanding of mathematical and science based concepts, learning aids are the best bet. They get a chance to personally experience and experiment with them. Learning Ladder offers set processes with the aim of setting independent inquiry in motion.
The advantage: The aids dynamically personalize the process of understanding and the knowledge acquired becomes the child’s own. They also understand the application of these concepts to a far greater extent.
The Learning Ladder has a selection of resource books on a vast range of topics of interest to teachers and parents. These books have a good mix of ideas, both fresh and time-tested, reflecting various viewpoints.
The advantage: These books can help parents and teachers make teaching and learning a creative, interesting and satisfying endeavor for both adults and children. A variety in the collection provided is a plus and Learning Ladder is looking at sourcing more such books so look out for a good collection.
Some of the publishers at Learning Ladder
If you are looking for some publishers in particular, you may just find them here:
- Children’s Book Trust
The Learning Ladder also acquires its learning aids from some interesting sources:
- Navnirmithi (Powai, Mumbai)
- Vikram Sarabhai Community Science Centre (Ahmedhabad)
- AID India (Chennai)
- Prayatna (Bangalore)
Reaching Learning Ladder
The location of this learning centre is rather secluded in a building inside the narrow lanes of one of Mumbai’s most commercial areas which is a disadvantage for people who are looking for a quick purchase, but then the collection is probably worth the trouble. The ambience of the centre also inspires teachers and parents to get experimental and innovative but if you are someone who isn’t from Mumbai, then, with a simple e-mail you can receive the database of books from which you can make your selection. However, these lists are not accompanied with synopsis considering the large numbers so you might have to do your own research.
Learning Ladder relies on the word-of-mouth for its promotion but you can find them at educational fairs in Mumbai and select school exhibitions. But the best way to reach them would be on their e-mail address: [email protected] or on 022 23869052.
Address: Comet Media Foundation, Topiwala Lane School, Near Grant Road Railway Station (East), Lamington Road, Mumbai 400 007.
Contact Persons: Suresh Dhadve or V P Jacob
The author is a student of St.Xavier’s College, Mumbai. She can be reached at [email protected].