She is opening a new chapter of Reading in the lives of children

She brings stories and the world of books to children as she believes in spreading the joy of reading with a right book. Offdhook in conversation with Ruchi Dhona, founder, Let’s Open A Book.

You left your corporate job to give back to the society so how fulfilling has the journey been?

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. There were lots of considerations, especially financial considerations. Then there was this other question of whether you are just being idealistic and if you will get disillusioned at some point. But fortunately for me, it has been a very fulfilling journey – in terms of work as well as personal growth. Thankfully there hasn’t been a single day when I have regretted my decision. In fact I get up every morning feeling deeply grateful about having figured out what my passion is and for having the opportunity to pursue it.   

India has always been a country of storytellers and we all have grown up listening to grandma’s tales. But, unfortunately reading as a passion or habit is yet to become a part of our youth brigade’s lifestyle. What do you think?

I think everyone is a reader, it’s just that the ones who are not reading yet haven’t found the right book (I think JK Rowling said something to this effect too). I’ve heard stories of adults who have taken up reading at a much later point in their lives, but when they found the right genre, they became avid readers overnight. So it is about matching the right story to the right person.  

How you make these Libraries sustain on their own? What is that sustainable solution? 

For us, the big focus on the usage of libraries first – so we are currently working government school teachers in Spiti, training them to work with children and take ownership of these spaces. Ownership is the first step to sustainability.

Please elaborate your initiative in Spiti Valley, for our readers. 

We are currently providing books to 25 government primary schools in Spiti Valley, reaching about 400 children. In 2018 we trained 10 teachers to help them drive reading habits among children. Other than that, we are working with the Public Library to help them drive reader engagement. Finally, we have advocated 20 minutes of DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read) time for the Spitian schools, where each child can get some free reading time.

People very fondly call you the ‘Library Girl’ but being a woman the path to success is not always a cakewalk. How did you overcome your challenges. Please share so that the young readers can feel inspired & motivated. 

When working on initiatives like these, it is important to have a strong sense of conviction. If you’re convinced about the idea and are ready to take it forward even if it means doing that alone, people will come to support. I have been extremely fortunate to receive support from my family, friends and colleagues who have helped out at every step. There have been people who have been supporting me unconditionally at every step. Without such support I would’ve never been able to do what I’m doing.

#BalanceForBetter is what this International Women’s Day is asking for. Since you have been working at the grass-root level, can you share your thoughts on how far we still have to go in terms of Gender Parity? 

In my work, I meet amazing women everyday who have spent their lives working for the well being of others. A whole lot of them deliberately keep away from the limelight, and just stay focused on their mission. I feel very inspired by these women and hope that someday I’d be able to also make a difference in the lives of people.   

As told to

Richa Sharma

Editor offdhook.com

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