Nayi Dhara, one of India’s oldest Hindi literary magazines, in collaboration with Pratham Education Foundation and Rekhta Foundation, has produced a series of audio stories for children, KAHANI TRAIN. KAHANI TRAIN is an innovative initiative to engage young children with language and literacy.
It is alarming that of the 26 million Indian children who enter first grade each year, half will reach fifth grade unable to read or write. This problem has been further exacerbated by school closures during the pandemic. Early years are the most significant period of growth and development in a child’s life. Strong foundations in learning in these years are building blocks for higher order skills that have a significant impact on later life outcomes. When children start out with low literacy and numeracy skills, they end up struggling to keep up year after year, and the benefits of later education are lost to them.
National Education Policy (NEP)-2020 has recognized foundational literacy and numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning. To this end, the Ministry of Education, Government of India launched NIPUN Bharat Mission for FLN with a call for attaining foundational learning for all children in grade 3 by 2027.
Stories are a joyful way to stimulate a young mind and the benefits of it are seen not only in developing language skills but in improving understanding across all subjects. Research shows that listening to stories strengthens comprehension, helps hone communication skills and fosters imagination and creativity in children. Once a child’s curiosity is piqued by a story they hear, they are more likely to pick up a book to read, ask questions, and actively engage in their own education.
In its pilot phase, KAHANI TRAIN offers 40 Hindi stories for children between the ages of 5 and 10. The stories are a curated mix, diverse in their subject matter and cultural milieu, and will be disseminated through Pratham’s summer camp programme for children, where over one lakh children will benefit from them. The stories will be available for teachers and social workers to engage in discussions and to use as remedial tools.
For Nayi Dhara, the initiative is a part of the year-long celebration of the 100th centenary of Nayi Dhara’s founder, the well-known author, Shri Udaya Raj Sinha. Dr. Pramath Raj Sinha from Nayi Dhara said, “Growing up in a family of Hindi literature stalwarts, stories were a part of my foundational learning. With Nayi Dhara’s latest venture into stories for children, it is coming full circle now, combining my passion for education and my belief that stories can be a vital link in effective early education.”
KAHANI TRAIN series of Hindi audio stories will be disseminated by Pratham state teams in Hindi-speaking states for use with children from Std 1 to 8. Volunteers, mothers, guardians, and community members will all have the opportunity to hear and discuss an exciting new story every day. Speaking about the initiative, Dr. Rukmini Banerji, CEO of Pratham Education Foundation said, “For a long time, I’ve had this dream that every child in India should be able to listen to one story every day. Today, it feels like Nayidhara, Rekhta, and Pratham coming together will make this dream come true.”
Mr. Sanjiv Saraf who is the driving force behind the Rekhta Foundation’s efforts in promoting the cultural legacy of the country on a global platform says he is pleased with the launch of KAHANI TRAIN. “With this initiative Rekhta is venturing into the intriguing world of children! We intend to acquaint children with the rich cultural heritage of our past by imparting meaningful content and creating a holistic language learning experience. We hope children enjoy this as much as we enjoyed creating it for them.”, he said.
Set up in 1950, Nayi Dhara is one of the oldest Hindi literary magazines that has continuously been in print from Patna. With a mission to promote quality Hindi writing, Nayi Dhara has been a literary home for stalwarts of ‘Hindi Sahitya’ such as Mahadevi Verma, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’, Rahul Sankrityayan, Ramavriksha Benipuri and Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’. The tradition of bringing high-quality Hindi literature in a variety of genres continues to this day with over 10,000 literary works having been published so far by over 3,000 authors.
Nayi Dhara is now available on digital platforms including its website, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channel. Nayi Dhara digital offers Hindi literature lovers a host of offerings in the form of webinars, podcasts, videos, literary posts and other media.
Nayi Dhara was founded by the well-known Bihari author Udaya Raj Sinha and is now helmed by his son Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and trustee of Ashoka University and founding Dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB).
The Rekhta Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the Urdu language. Toward this end, in 2013, Rekhta (http://rekhta.org/) was launched and has become the world’s biggest and most promising citation site in Urdu poetry and Urdu prose. Apart from this, festivals like Jashn-e-Rekhta were also organized to bring diverse colors and flavors of Urdu to the world. The Urdu language soon became the centerpiece of this festival, celebrating its rich cultural heritage.
There have also been two new websites launched through the Rekhta Foundation under the names of ‘Hindwi’ (https://www.hindwi.org/) and ‘Sufi Nama’ (https://sufinama.org/). Just like Urdu, these initiatives were also taken to promote Hindi literature and Sufi traditions respectively. Hindwi is a feature-rich website dedicated to Hindi literature, whereas, Sufi Nama is an attempt to offer mysticismand devotional literature through a rich collection of unique Persian poems and prose. Having seen the unending success of the Rekhta website, the Rekhta Foundation is now working to develop similar websites for the other Hindustani languages, thus ensuring their preservation in due course.