During one of the sessions at the Young Readers' Club, we were trying to decide which book we must choose to read and discuss together next, the book Artist and Me by Shane Peacock and illustrated by Sophie Casson, fascinated many. The book is inspired from Van Gogh's life. The most common reason they gave was that they liked drawing and hence wanted to read about the great artist. There was however one hand that meekly went up. This child was evidently uncomfortable with the book. When encouraged to share freely, he revealed that the fact that Van Gogh was bullied and laughed at, made him feel uncomfortable.
The question arose if we must read this book especially when one of the members of the Young Readers' Club was uncomfortable. Ideally, we would drop a book that makes someone uneasy for whatever reason. But, this time the group chose to do different. As a facilitator, I had read the book earlier with a different group of children and had seen how much they had enjoyed reading this book, especially the ending. Revealing what was so special about the ending would be a terrible spoiler here. Safe to say the ending was packed with meaning and profound impact. Assured that things aren't so bad as it may seem and if when we begin reading the uneasy feeling doesn't disappear, we would simply drop the book, seemed to help this child a bit. The other children were very supportive and understanding.
Keeping an open mind
The last two years has transformed the way we connect. Children seemed to adapt even faster to the new medium, ofcourse there needs to be room for a lot of interaction. They begin being skeptical and once the ice is broken, they begin to share their work of art or craft or small Lego toys that they may have built with their friends online as they catch up for a few minutes.
It was hardly surprising when all of them were supportive. Together, seated in different cities across India, we began to read the book. Multiple perspectives were shared. We discussed why people bully. We watched Van Gogh ignore all the taunts and remain focussed on his work as the protagonist who was also one among the bullies.
The child who was reluctant to choose this book, participated eagerly in the group discussions. The ending brought a big smile on his face. Perhaps a feeling that he himself had overcome a bully.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the Young Executives' Club program offers soft skills development course for the 12-14 age group. New batch starting in May. Need more information? Please fill in the contact form below and we will reach out to you asap.