‘Punchi Angelo’ to inspire kids

Saturday, 18 August 2012 01:34 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

School children will soon be reading ‘Punchi Angelo’ and ‘Siryuvadil Angelo’ – a well-illustrated booklet in Sinhala and Tamil narrating the story of the young days of an affable cricketer – Sri Lanka’s vice-captain, Angelo Mathews.  

Leaving cricket aside for a while, Angelo Mathews (he had a match that evening in the current SLPL) spent time with school children last Monday afternoon as he is the brand ambassador of ‘Room to Read’ – a global non-profit organisation promoting literacy and gender equality in education.

“It’s my story that is used in the book. Hopefully it will be an inspiration for the little ones,” he told me after he spent time with the children, colouring a picture of a cricketer and chatting to them about cricket.

Among the children brought in to meet Angelo was the girls’ cricket team from an outstation school.  Naturally they were interested in discussing cricket with him and asked him a few questions which he gladly answered. Later, they rushed to him get his autograph.

Angelo launched the cover of the book and got a glimpse of the contents. He seemed quite happy with the illustrations done by Aruna Keerthi Gamage, himself attached to ‘Room to Read.’ The text is by Dayan Senevirathna. The theme of the book has been summed up as ‘Little Angelo’s Big Day in Cricket.’

The book done in collaboration with the International Cricket Council (ICC) is being launched to coincide with the 2012 WorldT20 tournament which is to be held here in September. This is the second time that ‘Room to Read’ is tying up with a young cricketer to promote the habit of reading. In India, up and coming Virat Kohli is their brand ambassador.

Post tsunami

With their global office based in San Francisco, ‘Room to Read’ has been active in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami.  Within days after the tsunami, ‘Room to Read’ founder John Wood appeared on CNN pledging their support for those affected and kicking off a $200,000 fundraising campaign to rebuild schools and make longer-term infrastructure improvements.

The Ampara district was selected for the rebuilding programme with the first school being built in Karaitivu, a fishing village on the eastern coast. The programmes have been extended to the Mannar district after the war, where they are actively engaged in improving infrastructure in the region.

They are mainly involved with building schools, setting up libraries and publishing children’s books. In a bid to closing the gender gap, they have launched a girls’ education programme in the district. A reading and writing instruction programme has also been started to improve the quality of literacy and learning.

In the school library programme, ‘Room to Read’ works with the community, getting them to contribute to the project by providing labour and materials. The completed library is owned and operated by the community and the Education Ministry. ‘Room to Read’ provides three years of initial training along with ongoing support to get the library up and running.

The libraries are stocked with locally relevant books designed to capture the imagination of young readers. Last year 1,212 libraries were established in Sri Lanka and the targeted figure for this year is another 255.

Children’s books

Commenting on the dearth of books, ‘Room to Read’ says that one of the greatest challenges of early adoption to the reading habit in developing countries  is a lack of high-quality, age appropriate children’s books in the local language. “Our book publishing programme is committed to providing children with materials that will inspire them to read, expand their minds, and develop a lifelong love for reading and learning.”

The themes selected by them to develop books revolve mainly round basic vocabulary, simple math and health issues, accompanied by beautiful illustrations that bring them to life. The books are also fun and engaging. The stories speak to children’s interests, allowing them to expand their minds, nourish their imaginations and explore worlds they never knew existed.

‘Punchi  Angelo’ and ‘Siryuvadil Angelo’ is yet another effort in that direction.