The torch of bookish love was probably lit for all of us somewhere in our childhoods and this issue celebrates that by shining a light on Children and Libraries. It takes a village to raise a child, we know, and a library should occupy a central place in that village. Children need to have a plurality of experiences and influences and a library is one of the easiest ways of doing this. Every child should be able to walk into a library, pick a book off its shelves, perhaps talk to someone who loves that book, or maybe even daydream through its pages. Sadly, we are far away from that ideal in India, though we have had some excellent initiatives in recent times that must be celebrated and replicated. And so, this issue.
In Spotlight, we look back at the magical place of libraries in diverse childhood experiences that opened up the world for five of our writers. Through their reminiscences, we weave together a kaleidoscope of memories and emotional resonance that inhabits The Enchanted Room. This collaborative essay reminds us of the value of childhoods within libraries, also reflected in Library In My Colours, a collection of children’s drawings about their library experiences that bring the enchantment alive – a torrent of colour and form, of books that come alive and people who journey together. A library, through the way it is imagined, can also become a space for bringing in marginalized parts of the world. Listen to Usha Mukunda as she shares her long experience of working with children and libraries in Vivek Vellanki’s warm conversation, Open Libraries: Realities and Radical Possibilities.
In Axis, we bring you Medha Bhatt’s Bugs of the Forest Floor, an account of the nitty-gritty of an independent library initiative for children – the possibilities and the challenges and most importantly, how such initiatives can work to open the wonder of the world for children. Purnima Rao’s evocative Lost and Found is about the library card, a badge of belonging. But it is also about life, community and fraught childhoods. School student Alexandria Ang’s The Value of Libraries: From The Eye of a Book Blogger shows us how the library has met the (now, not so) new world of the internet and that the relationship of the world with the library has to be an abiding one.
We are delighted that in this issue we have two contributions in Hindi, both in Alt Shift. Lakhmi Chand Kohli’s Kitabon ka Ambaar is a reflection on place through the experience of books in a working class settlement. With this being a shrinking experience for many children growing up in these spaces, the essay signals the critical role that libraries can play. Kamlesh Chandra Joshi’s Kajri Gaay Jhoole Pe shows us how text can be used in the classroom and can transcend borders of language and culture. Accompanied by Nandini Chandra’s Crowded Readings: The Children’s Magazine in Colonial North India that provides a glimpse through the historical window into the child in the Hindi public sphere, these 3 articles together present the reading experience of the Hindi-reading child, then and now. Alt Shift also includes Edith Furtado’s A Love That Grows that presents the role of storytelling and libraries in the relationship between children and grandparents, and Navdeep Sharma’s Is There Something Odd About Me? that reiterates the idea of the library as a radical space, by examining the need for queer books and libraries to acknowledge the diversity of our world.
In addition, we have our regular features – On The Same Page, A (Small) Readerly Problem and A Library is Like… We bring these to you, this time, through children’s eyes. We hope this issue of Torchlight reminds you of your own childhood and encourages you to look at the world through a sometimes-forgotten framework – that of children’s lives.
Happy reading, listening and viewing to our growing tribe of Torchlighters!