Aarti Kumari (13) works as a domestic help. But she dedicates three hours weekly to reading. Anita does not visit a library, rather the library comes calling.
Kilkari Bihar Bal Bhavan, a unit of the education department, runs a chalant pustakalay (mobile library) for slum children who have dropped out of school. The library van, stacked with around 500 books, visits slum areas in the capital and stations itself there for some hours to help these kids read books.
According to experts, many slum kids stop going to school after a certain period because of various reasons.
Anita Thakur, the programme officer of Kilkari Bihar Bal Bhavan, said: "Many slum children stop going to school after a certain period. While some lack interest in studying, many have to work to support their families. Reading books is a good habit because every story has a moral. Besides, reading would also help them increase their vocabulary."
Kilkari Bihar Bal Bhavan officials said the library has got a good response ever since its inception. "We started this mobile library in 2009. In the first month, around 200 slum children joined us. Today, more than 1,000 children are associated with the library," said Anita.
She added: "Till now, our mobile library has visited around 25 slum areas in the capital."
On the reason for starting the mobile library, Anita said: "The aim is to develop a reading habit among slum kids and child labourers."
Anita told The Telegraph: "We mainly keep stories related to angels, ghosts and others, as kids find these interesting. We also keep rhyme books and science and general knowledge books. The books at our mobile library have interesting covers and colourful pictures to enhance the appeal."
Even though the mobile library has evinced an interest among slum children for reading, Anita admitted that it would not be able to match a normal library in terms of capacity. Sudhir Kumar, the co-ordinator of the mobile library, echoed her.
"When the mobile library visits a slum, kids come running. They queue up and start reading books without wasting time," said Sudhir.
He added said the library had a good assortment of books, including works by Premchand, Aacharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi and others.
Puja Kumari, a Class VIII student of Rajkiya Kanya Madhya Vidyalaya, Amla Chak, who resides in the Vishnupuri slum area, said she waits for the mobile library every week. "I like the ghost stories," said a beaming Puja.
Puja's classmate Shikha Kumari, who lives in the same area, said: "One day I would also write a book. People would know me by my name," said Shikha.