BENGALURU: What if a book isn’t just an artefact, story or a way to learn new vocabulary? What if it could actually show you how to gain a fresh perspective? Flow India, an education and culture organisation, aims to answer these questions through its new ‘Museum in a Book’ series. While visiting a city’s cultural centre may not be advisable in light of the social distancing norms due to the pandemic, you can still move in and out of a gallery of ideas through the organisation’s series, which is designed for children aged 11-14 years.
The series kicked off in June and is different from other book-related events, which mostly tend to revolve around storytelling or reading by an author. “We wanted to reimagine cultural experiences and look at art, and particularly books, in new light in these times,” explains Arundhati Mitter, director of the Delhi and Bengaluru-based organisation. Two episodes of the series have already been conducted on Zoom so far, and two more are in the pipeline. Each, however, features an interesting collaboration with a bookstore.
The first episode – with Bengaluru-based Champaca – featured the book Botanicum, an illustrated book on the plant collection at London’s Kew Gardens. Since the idea was to help children imbibe “large cognitive thinking through a non-fiction book”, the 60-minute session involved structured activities that would help participants achieve just this. “We made the kids look in their immediate surroundings for objects that came from plants, consider ways in which plants make living more habitable, and also had them reflect on the imprint they are leaving behind on the planet,” says Shailza Rai, lead learning experience designer.
She adds, “This way, a book becomes more than just something that gives you information or helps improve your language and writing. It shows you how to look at reading as a cultural experience.”
Agrees Kavita Singh Kale, a city-based parent whose daughter took part in the event. “Usual events have just storytelling but here there were more interactive elements and a session of knowledge-sharing among the participants,” she says.
Similarly, the second episode, with Lightroom Bookstore, featured the book, Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library. Activities for this one focused on quizzes, scenario-based questions and acting challenges. And no, reading the book beforehand is not a pre-requisite. “One might just find themselves wanting to pick the book up after the event,” says Rai. The third episode, slated to take place in the coming fortnight, features a collaboration with Leaping Windows in Mumbai. Ask Rai about details and she remains tight-lipped. “All I can say is that it’s going to include a comic book and the idea of language being more than just words,” she says.