Towards a Better World, One Word at a Time!

“A river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but its persistence.”
An entire world of such a river which embodies not just persistence, but power as well is FalakNaaz. When I entered my classroom in the narrow lane of Jamalpur over a year ago, there was this girl sitting in the remote corner of the class. Gazing at me through her curious eyes, she said, a tad bit shyly, but rather wryly, “Aapki ye activities kab khatam hongi? Mujhe padhna hai.”
I was furious. Here I was working day in and day out to make her a better reader, but she simply thought I was some jester and she was ‘due’ to get an ‘actual’ teacher.
I quickly reached my bag, grabbed an Enid Blyton and put it in front of her. I asked her to read it. She was struggling, my God she was struggling. Other than a few high frequency words and few letters she found, all I could hear was confusion in the form of sounds. I asked her to stop reading and said, “Aapko padhna hai, to padho ab.” It was her turn to be furious. I could see the turmoil in her eyes. I gauged my first mistake.
English was not a measure of intelligence, but a language that I chose to teach these bunch of kids to make a world outside Jamalpur accessible to them. In this process, I forgot to tell them ‘Why’ are they learning these sounds and what significance the blending of these sounds has in forming words. The very next day I could see a Frankenstein in the making. Her hand shot up for guessing the sound of the day as soon as I wrote it on the green board, she was the first one to form new words using the word-families. She made consistent efforts to break sounds, blend them and experiment with different onsets etcetera. Without me insisting, she approached me, the fire still in her eyes, “What is this? C – r – e – a – t u r e (as in toore)”. I said, “C – r – e – a – t u r e (as in chur)”. I kind of gave her that one for she was able to get the “C – r – e – a” right.
I was now curious to know where did she come across such a word, for the leveled stories which I gave them seldom had words of such complexities. She pulled out a copy of ‘Moral Stories’ from her bag which she had from her second grade and showed me the word. She had finished reading three quarters of a page that was hardly with any illustrations. I was impressed, but I didn’t show it. “You can do much better”, I said. Weeks after weeks went by and her ocean of sounds, blends and diagraphs was ever expanding. She kept on asking for books, soaked them in her mind and returned them. Until a day came (just recently), when she said, “Bhaiya, that book?”. I was perplexed about which book had I promised. She pointed towards my bag. That cue was enough. I removed that Enid Blyton children’s classic and handed it to her.
There were drum rolls in my ear and it was my moment to rejoice. She started reading the book in front of the class and read it with such intonation, phrasing and gestures, that I was in lack of words to say the best.
She might not have got all the words right, but, to be able to read more than 90% of what she read, accurately, was the biggest deal for me. This is the story of my FalakNaaz. Even today she says, “Aapki ye activities kab khatam hongi? Mujhe (pointing at a big fat book) padhna hai”.



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