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Putting Pain to Paper

Paro Anand

I have long believed that words spun into stories weave spells and have tremendous, yet gentle power.  They can safely convey what a lecture can never hope to.  The much-touted, much abused term ‘value education’ can be greatly enhanced through a careful selection of stories.  After working at the National Centre for Children’s Literature, National Book Trust, India, I also discovered that it wasn’t enough to take good books to children, you also had to devise pro-active methods in order to bridge the omnipresent gap between the two.        It is with these thoughts in mind that I ‘invented’ a programme called ‘Literature in Action’.  This programme seeks to use the power of stories in a variety of ways to enhance communication skills while discussing issues that impact, or should impact today’s youth.  I use the word ‘literature’ rather loosely to include stories, plays, theatre games, debates, discussions, storytelling, films, newspaper articles, art and the children’s own writings.  I have been working at Vasant Valley School, New Delhi, with middle and senior school classes through this programme and also with various age levels and schools from a variety of backgrounds.  While there have, of course, been some activities that have not quite worked, there are others that have met with tremendous success.  These tell me that I am on the right track.       One of the most evocative and enjoyable of the successes was triggered by Blubber by Judy Blume, my own novel, Wingless—A Fairly Weird Fairy Tale and the film Bend it Like Beckham.  The students just prior to this had done an exercise in groups; many of whom had had real problems with working together in a group that they felt had been imposed on them. What emerged from the film were two aspects. The first point that they got was the importance of teamwork—even if you were working with those who were not necessarily your friends.  The second and more impassioned was the issue of discrimination.  The students discovered that the word did not just pertain to episodes of slavery in early US history, but was something that was occurring around them on an everyday basis.  They experienced some soul-searching when asked to write about a time when they felt discriminated against personally.  Many were surprised to find that they had been discriminated against—it had happened to them and they had not ...

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