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Why India Needs the Bandana Sen Library Awards

Bandana Sen was a pioneer in the field of children's libraries in India, and the awards in her memory inspire school librarians to carry on her work.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   13-11-2019

BrainGain Magazine
Librarian par excellence: Late Bandana Sen leading an interactive book activity in a school library.

The library at the American Embassy School in New Delhi was always a beehive of activity with Bandana Sen energizing the hive with her love for books. Sen, who exuded elegance with her gorgeous sarees and exquisite silver jewelry, spent close to four decades managing libraries at the American Embassy School in New Delhi.

Under her watch, the American Embassy elementary school library expanded to over 30,000 volumes. More significantly, it was a happy sanctuary where a bustling Sen challenged students to read, develop their power of imagination and critical thinking.

Sen also spent another 12 years setting up libraries at Pathways Schools across the National Capital Region.

To encourage world-class libraries in India, OneUp Library, Bookstudio and Learning Lab launched the awards in memory of Sen.

“I feel the role of a librarian is often diminished to that of an administrator. They are not even eligible for national awards for teachers,” Dalbir Kaur Madan, director at ONE UP Library, told Quartz India.

However, there seems to be scientific consensus: school libraries make a powerful difference. Saying you don't need a librarian because you have the Internet is like saying you don't need a math teacher because you have a calculator.

Kaur instituted the award with the help of an independent jury in memory of her friend and mentor Bandana Sen, who believed the library to be the heart of an educational institution.

During her lifetime, Sen helped create world-class libraries and reading programs across India, nurturing a love for reading in thousands of children while mentoring an entire generation of librarians to carry on her work.

“After her death, it seemed like an appropriate tribute to her to institute the Bandana Sen Library Awards for librarians, whose job often goes unnoticed and who can have a huge impact in shaping a child’s mind,” added Kaur.

Sen was well-known for organizing interactive read aloud activities in her library and fomenting lively book discussions and clubs.   

“Research suggests that if a parent reads out aloud to their children for 15 minutes every day, up to the age of three, a child can develop a subconscious vocabulary of 157,000 words,” said Madan.  

“A research in the US says that there can be up to a 30-million-word gap between kids born into a family that reads or where parents read aloud to the child, and those who don’t,” she added.

The 30-million-word gap study in question by Betty Hart, a former preschool teacher, and Todd Risley wasn't published until 1992.

Something about that figure, 30 million words, has held people's attention. Not only was it big, it seems actionable.

This week, Bandana Sen Library awards were awarded to two CBSE and ICSE board schools across the country for excellence in best practices in nurturing learning environments.

There were 100 school entries from 15 states spread across India, the organizers said.

Shri Ram School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi won the Rs 100,000 cash award for its junior library while Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai received the award for its senior library, along with a trophy for the use of the winning librarian/library teacher.

The jury appreciation awards for programs centered on reading, were presented by educationist Abha Adams to Shiv Nadar School in Noida for its senior library, Abacus Montessori School in Chennai for its junior school library, and Shikshantar School in Gurgaon for its junior library.

At the award ceremony, Madan said this marked the beginning of a conversation on the need for futuristic libraries, celebrating the unsung champions — the librarians.



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