Zahra is a creative reading promoter and volunteer who joined the Read with Me program through the “One Teacher, One Library, One Classroom” campaign in March 2019. She has been travelling to Bashagard villages in Hormozgan province with her book backpack ever since. Her keen observations and detailed reports, tell of an incredible progress in the covered classrooms.
Below, we have shared one of Zahra’s reports. We believe that documentation and sharing experiences is an effective tool for overcoming the hardships of education.
Bashagard Villages, Hormozgan Province
One Teacher, One Library, One Classroom Campaign
Promoter: Zahra Shavandi
Report Date: December 2019
In my previous trip, I had visited “Zamin-e Hasan”, “Do Gonvir” and “Tisur” villages, installed classroom libraries and held reading aloud sessions. In December 2019, I travelled to the region once again.
First Village – Kahkan
Kahkan is a village with a population of 70. 20 of the population consists of children and young adults, while only 13 of them are students. A few children have been transferred to Sardasht to continue their studies. In 2013, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 destroyed most residential cottages. The government has since carried out construction projects that have changed the face of this village.
The last 30 kilometers leading to Kahkan is a dangerous sloping dirt road, a road children have to pass every day to study in the city…
On my last visit, I sensed a joyfulness behind their reserved expressions. Most of them had never read any book besides their school textbooks. After reading aloud “Elmer, the Patchwork Elephant”, two of them asked me to leave all my books with them, so they could read-aloud together. I sincerely wanted to grant their wish, but I had other villages to go to. I gave them three books and promised to return with more.
This time around, as promised, I travelled to Kahkan with a book display filled with books. On 9 December 2019, I had arranged to visit children in their elementary school. From the beginning of the week, the school had been closed due to heavy rainfall. But, 8 of those 13 students came to school to receive their books regardless. The school has one classroom in which 2 preschool students, 1 third grader, 3 fourth graders, 2 fifth graders and 5 sixth graders study.
“In the past few months, children have been talking about your reading aloud session with such excitement. I am so curious to find out how a reading session can be so appealing.”, their teacher told me.
I was amazed at how children remembered the story of Elmer down the smallest detail. In the short conversation I had with them, they said they wished I could visit them more often. I told them that I’m the luckiest person in the world, because I have found such kind little friends in this village. Even though we live far away, books are what bring us together. So, I asked them to read a book aloud whenever they miss me. With this background, I read-aloud “Frog Finds a Friend”…
I asked children to draw something they would want to give to their best friends. In the meantime, I instructed their teacher about reading aloud methods and its follow-up activities. In the end, we installed the book display the Read with Me team had prepared for them.
Second Village – BobolAbad
BolbolAbad is located in the center of Bashagard county and is in relatively better shape in comparison to the deprived surrounding villages. It is known as “The Smoke-free Village”. No one in this village smokes cigarettes or any form of recreational drugs.
In my previous trips to the region, my main goal was to focus on the most deprived areas, which is why I always passed by BolbolAbad without making a stop. This time, I received a message from a teacher who invited me to their school for holding reading aloud sessions. The school had 4 teachers and 4 classrooms and had 91 students in total.
I divided the students into two groups and held two separate reading aloud sessions.
The first group requested “that colorful book” which is how I ended up reading Elmer. Compared to the other villages, these children were much more creative, sociable and confident. According to the teachers, they arrange a lot of artistic activities in which students have to cooperate. Children were excited to share a custom of their village, similar to Elmer Day: “Every summer, we gather around, wear new colorful clothes and celebrate our health and happiness in this smoke-free village.” This summer, they celebrated their 33rd smoke-free year.
“What would you like to look like, if you were Elmer?” I asked them to draw their responses while I read-aloud to the second group. The second group was less talkative at first, but half-way through “Something from Nothing”, they showed the same level of enthusiasm.
The first group returned with their imaginative drawings.
“I love rainbows. I always go up on the hills and look for one after a rain. If I were Elmer, I would be a purple rainbow, different from all the other seven-colored rainbows.”
“No two things are alike in this world, like the mountains in my drawing. I am an Elmer myself, different from the rest of my friends. I am happy to have so many friends.”
“If I were Elmer, I wanted to be a colorful tree, different from the other trees in the forest.”
The school principal allocated a small room used for artistic gatherings to installing the Read with Me book display. Thereupon, in a one-hour meeting, I talked about reading aloud methods and follow-up activities to the teachers and principal.
I unfortunately had to cancel my trip to this village because of heavy rain and unreliable roads. I had promised to bring them a classroom library. So, I gave the book package and book display to a local boy, who is studying in a boarding school in Sardasht. This boy is originally from Dehvast and has become a very active teenage librarian in “Omid Read with Me Library”.