EDITOR'S PICKS / NEWS & VIEWS / People of Jaipur

Tale of a storyteller

A unique approach towards education and fostering creativity

“With kids anything and everything is possible. We just need people who are keen on doing it.”

Rare it is in today’s fast paced world to find time to pursue one’s hobbies and even rarer are our hobbies for the betterment of society. Dr. Shweta Singh is one such individual who has not only reached the pinnacle of her career as a dentist, but also as a much sought after storyteller to young children. Oh and let’s not forget, she is a mother too. This is the story of this remarkable woman, who through her hourly sessions of enacting tales and puppetry, has brought smiles to the faces of many many children from all corners of society.

booknook-shweta-sharing-her-story

There was always something that inclined her to the creative side of her. And story-telling was one such art she really admired. Her journey started by taking under her wings the daughters of a security guard and a couple of other children, conducting hourly sessions, and imparting knowledge through fun and instructive stories. She worked with recording studios to develop interactive stories on an online platform for a friend’s organization in Pune. She personally has used these online tools for storytelling sessions with her own son and noticing her son’s enthusiasm and interest she realized the power and importance of storytelling to nurture and educate young children.

“This is online, why not have something offline.”

And thus BookNook was born. It has been over a year since she has been working in this field, and there is absolutely no looking back for Dr. Singh. She had previously worked at the Safdurjung Hospital in New Delhi, and now shares a clinic here in Jaipur with her husband, also a dentist. She is a great epitome for diverse career trajectory, where one takes up what ones heart wants, in this case it is the love for creativity and children. Sketching and illustrating had always been her hobbies, and she soon realized channeling her energies and skills towards interactive storytelling is significantly more rewarding and enjoyable, both for her, and for the numerous kids who have benefited from her sessions.

JaipurCityPost team stuck a conversation with Dr Shweta Singh about her observations (mentioned below) of children.

Nurturing children’s mind

Mind is an adventure. And a child’s mind is a different escapade and to mold them, storytelling is the best experiment. They have pliable understanding and to instill moral values and responsibilities this is an illustrious option. The kids are all ears in her story-telling sessions; keep up with immense creative-storming.

Children of Jaipur

Children of Jaipur have come a long way confining themselves to electronic gadgets, restricting their freedom and enjoyment to flat T.Vs and slogging and shoveling their faces in thick textbooks. Their behavior is more open-minded to several aspects of life and even to their parents. The parents have encouraged this form of learning and considered feasible and fun at the same time. Keeping kids away from anything gloomy in life is what every parent would pine for!

Safety has been another ongoing concern in the busy cities of Jaipur. But the parents have been extremely supportive with the concept of story-telling that they’ve readily accepted to give their children this frame of knowledge by any means, which involves even dropping their kids off all by themselves.

Ways of storytelling  

Shweta uses innovative and unique ideas such as story boxes to reach out to the younger children. There is a dedicated box for characters, their vehicles, their problems and so on. The children pick up illustrations from these boxes and connect them to develop their own stories. This enables the children to start thinking and imagining creatively from an early age. She divides her time between two centers, committing an hour daily, five days a week. She conducts sessions based on age groups with not more than ten students per batch. On top of that, she holds regular workshops, and is in great demand to do many more, but is sadly constricted by a lack of manpower.

The ever energetic Dr Shweta Singh enacting a character in a story to children

BookNook had a humor month going on this February, with ninety minute sessions each Saturday catering solely to funny stories such as Noddy. Dr. Singh believes developing humor in children is of great importance. Theming was a major ingredient of her story-telling and it formed the base to what she wanted to convey. Her mode of narration varied from puppet shows to picture stories. What started as a simple activity transformed into a wildly creative experiments, for the imagination and enthusiasm of kids know no bounds.

“If I had a magic pencil, I would just let it do all my homework.”

Dr. Singh started developing stories by taking inspiration from books, but now stories are developed as per need and demand. There is no fixed curriculum at BookNook. The kids absolutely love going there, since the education imparted here feels hardly like school work. As she describes, kids look forward to her sessions all week, and once they’re over, the kids just don’t want to go back home! Try imagining mustering such enthusiasm for school or college. Dr. Singh has done what educators all over the world have failed in doing, making learning fun. And as she says, learning through stories ensures the children remember their lessons even months after learning them. It’s quite surprising to hear young kids wanting to go to learning centers with such zeal and passion, but then again, not all centers are run by such a creative and passionate soul.

We are optimistic that BookNook could reach heights, if enthusiastic volunteers approach to develop and enact stories. We regularly complain about our education system, yet hardly do anything to ameliorate the situation here in India. Small steps such as BookNook help enable young children to break free from the rote learning prevalent here and hone their minds for out of the box thinking from an early age. This venture by Dr. Shweta Singh may be a small effort towards inculcating creativity into education, but the potential this idea has is extremely exciting. As more and more people sign up to aid such organizations, the shift from copying and following to creating and leading is inevitable. Everyone says learning is boring, everyone but the few dozen students enrolled at BookNook .

We leave you with an intriguing story of a man popping out of an oven…

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