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Prateeksha Darabdhara
Date of Publish: 2017-06-27

The 100 Story House



It is rightly said by Frank Serafini that there is no such thing as a child who hates to read, there are only children who have not found the right book. Jemimah Marak of Araimile, Garo Hills in Meghalaya have decided to help children find that right book. In the 21st century where we are all busy collecting fortune for ourselves, Marak, a real-life hero, has taken teaching to a completely new level. Professionally an English and a Moral Science teacher, she aims at instilling values in the young minds of our society through storytelling. In the midst of news of militancy and killings, she stands as a ray of hope. She and her husband James Nokseng G Momin is the proud owner of The 100 Story House, a self-made library, that is located beside her mother’s terrace garden.

A treat for the young readers of her locality, this library runs on books that are donated by her family, friends, and also some publishing houses. Appreciation flows in the form of planks, bags and other decors. “One lady gave wood planks for shelves; a friend gave us a bean bag. A person who works at the Post office ordered five books for us after he found out that we have a children’s library,” she said. Publishing house like Scholastic, gave them some hundred books for the noble cause.

The colourful and homely interior of the library makes it more welcoming for the children unlike the conventional look. This place appears very lively with radiant curtains and open spaces. With walls of bamboo and bright coloured bean bags, it is a perfect fusion of the old and the new interior design. Keeping in mind the target audience, the space is also rich with indoor games like puzzles and maps. It is not only with the décor, but the functioning of the library is also a fusion of the old and new style of teaching. They believe in a teaching-learning process that involves the oldest form of education, storytelling. Recalling the times when Jemimah heard stories from her grandparents, she says that the best way to pass down knowledge and education is through storytelling. It imparts the value that you wish to disseminate to a child. “You have to catch them young”, she replied when asked about why she chose young minds as her target audience. It is indeed true. You have to catch them young. In today’s era of globalization, modernization, westernization and terrorism, you have to help them mould their paths from an early age.

Many a times, the back story of a misbehaving or violent person is his disturbing childhood. Lack of guidance at this age deviates them from their goals in life. But with people like the Maraks, their lives are sure to get a new meaning and a new direction. The efforts made by The 100 Story House to improve the quality of students in the locality, is commendable. Some children of her locality were lagging behind in studies due to some reason or the other. This made the couple to pull up their socks and to do something for these children and what they came up with is beyond appreciation.

Not only raw materials like books or the infrastructure, but they also provide them with something that is even more valuable- her company and time. They believe that one of the reasons for the children lagging behind is because their parents do not give them enough time. They have no one to guide them. They hold the opinion that if adults play their role well, children will create a beautiful story. With the guidance that the Maraks provide, these children develop a keen interest in reading that in turn helps them in their overall development. Through this initiative, they urge the parents to make time for their children. “Buying them knowledge and wisdom in the form of books rather than mobile phones or tablets would create a generation of smarter kids and better leaders of tomorrow.”

The 100 Story House does not only serve as a library for children, but is also a tuition centre. It provides academic lessons to almost 30 students. It is also a counselling centre for the young and the old alike. As a certified career counsellor, Jemimah Marak also conducts career counselling. It is a place that ‘combines all her desires and plans’. This library does not receive any government funds as it is not registered yet. “The office of the District Forest Officer in charge of wildlife gave us a carton of books and CDs recently”, she said with much satisfaction. This duo has plans to publish illustrated Garo folktales for children in English. They also want to initiate coaching classes for surrendered militants who might want to appear for board exams.

Their aim is to mould the children towards a brighter world and they strongly believe that storytelling can be the perfect medium. They also believe ‘catching them young’ will do the trick. It is a herculean task to hook the young minds to books. “We sprinkle a little bit of everything: storytelling, drama, audio books and educational videos. This is our secret ingredient for making children interested.” Well, their secret is now out to all.

Prateeksha Darabdhara

( Prateeksha Darabdhara is an independent journalist. She has done M.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism from Tezpur University )

(Photographs courtesy: Jemimah Marak, Facebook)



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