Rashmi Sathe found out that there was no library for children in Nagpur, where she moved after marriage. So she came up with her own Reading Rabbits Library.
Once upon a time Rashmi Sathe, the story teller and linguist met Rashmi Sathe the mother. The story teller wanted to give the mother the best books. The books she wanted could not be found easily, and she was sure that others too would want them. Hence the mother and story teller in Rashmi Sathe joined hands to change this. Two years back was created ‘Reading Rabbits’, a library which is making Nagpur’s kids rush to this nook and go back enchanted.
Rashmi Sathe has a background as an educator. She used to teach French in an international school. She is certified with a diploma from Alliance Francaise de Bombay.
When a woman becomes a mother lot of things change. Pregnancy brings out a new aspect in life for each woman. Rashmi also had to take a break when she got pregnant.
As the Indian market for kids is brimming with new toys, books and clothes, it can be confusion for parents not knowing what to get for kids. There are parents who end up buying all, and in the process cluttering home and kid’s minds.
Rashmi Sathe being in the field of education knew what to buy for her kid – that was not the problem, but finding the books easily, was. She remembers, “When my daughter was born, I was introduced to a range of children’s picture books when I was in Bombay at a bookstore. Sadly, I couldn’t find them here at Nagpur. I started buying books for her. We had a collection of more than 300 picture books by the time she became 2 years. I searched for a good children’s library here but sadly there was none. I didn’t have the heart to just throw away or donate the books. Moreover, all my friends loved the books and thus I thought why not start lending them?”
Her daughter’s collection and the lack of libraries in Nagpur set the foundation for ‘Reading Rabbits’. The reading habits caught early in childhood set the course for imagination, and light the spark for creative thinking. I was introduced to the habit of reading by my father who had bought some books for me. Later in school and college the libraries were my favorite haunt to borrow books of my choice. As buying books were a luxury then, it were libraries that fed my habit.
“In the small town of Nagpur where there were no libraries and hence very little exposure to kids literature, I started on my own. We have over 2500 books exclusively for kids in the range of 0 to 14 years. It’s also the first library catering to kids in Nagpur.” Says Rashmi about adding an essential feature for the town.
Storytelling sessions by her in the library are another unique feature. “From the age of 2 or maybe earlier, stories are the one thing that attracts a kid. My daughter is always in for a good story and she can make some too.” Rashmi is a certified storyteller from Reader’s Nook Mumbai where she conducts story telling sessions, apart from at her own place in Nagpur.
Initially she had to face the challenge of getting people to know about her library and getting people there. She marketed through local newspapers and put up stalls at PTMs in schools. Slowly word caught up and when kids came there once, there was no looking back.
She fondly ponders “The journey has been extremely satisfying. Seeing the kids’ smiling faces when they tell me that they loved so and so book which I recommended makes my day. One of my kids sources her library fees from her own pocket-money. Isn’t that amazing?”
In the world of books what to read next is always the next big question. I remember in the old libraries it used to be “read the back of the book and select.” The worst time was in school where for the weekly one book, I could just see the names of 10 books and I would have had to select. This is why I have to appreciate how Rashmi makes life easier for the little readers and their parents. “Our usual day starts with cataloging the books, arranging them on the shelves.
Then I keep reviewing and researching for new books in the market. Evening are mostly spent by recommending books and chatting with my readers.“
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
Richard Scarry’s books.
Any Julia Donaldson book.
A Sick Day For Amos McGhee.
Totto-chan – the little girl at the window.
Moin and the monster, and its sequel Moin the monster songster.
History Mystery series by Natasha Sharma.
We the children of India – The preamble to our Constitution by Leila Seth
Wonder by R. J. Palaccio
The Gita for children by Roopa Pai.
“Interacting with little kids and seeing their joy after reading the books which I recommended is the biggest joy!” says Rashmi.
Reading books is not the only thing that Rashmi does. Being a voracious reader having a book to read definitely tops her list of taking a break. But, she says, “I’m learning to play the keyboard and dedicate half an hour to practice every day. I visit my hometown of Mumbai during summer and Christmas vacations. We take 2 family vacations during that time.” Which sums up how she recharges herself.
Motivating herself to come up with new ideas for Reading Rabbits is her key hobby these days. “I keep scouting for good ideas on the net. We sometimes have a Scrabble evening or a play-date at the library. We organize an Annual Meet-up of members and their parents in December every year where we play only literary games, etc. We often chat on whatsapp groups and keep posting about book activities which they can do after reading the book.”
Well we must say that Reading Rabbits is definitely a place where kids are learning and loving it too, with so much to do.
“Believe in yourself and your dream. Research the market for any key ideas which you may not have taken into account. Don’t be disturbed by profits or losses. If your product is good, customers will come to you.” Is what Rashmi’s advice would be for other women who want to take their dreams forward.
Cheers to reading and getting the tots to read!
Images source: Rashmi Sathe.