On loving books…

I wasn’t born in a family of readers, and yet I became one. I believe that in a world where curiosity matters more than intelligence, readers have an unfair advantage. And if the goal of education is for mirrors to become windows, books are the best tool, ally, and magic.

Everybody has multiples role; mine include daughter, sister, student, intern, leader, dancer, wife, mother, cook, educator, reluctant writer and relationship builder. Books have been my refuge in these roles and four career changes; first from a limited school library, then a neighborhood library, then the second-hand book

vendor – who exchanged old newspapers for used books – and finally my own library. I started with–Enid Blytons, Nancy Drew, and Comics (Commandos, Mandi and Debbie, Mandrake, Phantom, Amar Chitra Katha, etc). My move thrillers like Sheldon or Follett was accompanied by my father insisting on Vivekananda;  I read both. I didn’t love school nor did I do well in my exams, but I always read a  lot. I read Encyclopedia Brittanica like a book. I loved science and read about immunology and genetics. My Bharat Natyam Arangetram catalyzed reading mythology, culture and history.  Work took me to read about biotechnology and then finance. Books became my  solution to understand each world and answer questions. My MBA reminded me of the limits of my ignorance but introduced me to wonderful ways to master the knowledge and the internet. And finally marrying a voracious reader who reads at 4 times my speed, was humbling but another invitation to read. My library reflects my evolving interests;  books on science, history, architecture, design,    cooking, leadership, philosophy, mythology and now children’s lit. Books are bricks that built me, buddies, that have traveled with me,   and the answers that lead to more questions.Susan Cains’s wonderful book Quiet suggests that that reading is something I use as an introvert to connect with the world. Rich Karlgaard’s recent book on Late Bloomers suggested that books helped me build strengths – curiosity, resilience, compassion equanimity, insight, and wisdom – in the absence of early success. Maryanne Wolfs’s books revealed how reading brings together all the parts of the brain and the science behind the physical, neurological and physiological drama.‘Being educated’ now means having depth, but also breadth, the awareness to cut across disciplines, and finding creative intersections where innovation occurs. The changing world of work needs us to think about careers and not life-time jobs, backing up knowing who we are  with what we want to be, and growing our impact. Reading makes us capable of learning, being and doing anything we want. We see in school the distinct advantage a reader has over a non-reader –  one that grows over time. Reading is the sharp silver dagger, in the noise of blunt iron hammers, the gun in a knife fight.Neev aims to reimagine excellence in education for a changing India with a deep commitment to reading. Our third litfest (Sept 20th and 21st, 2019), second book awards (2019 shortlist is out), guided reading for K1 – Grade 2, novel study program from Grade 1 – Grade 5, Uninterrupted Silent Sustained Reading time in class, PYP reading workshop to back up PYP writing workshops (strong readers make strong writers), research opportunity (PYP exhibition, MYP personal project, DP extended essay, and other unit led work), student government (all leaders, after all, are readers!), learning journeys (covering history, geography, science, culture, arts, politics, economics), CAS (Aristotle to Tagore), Neev books and Neev times – all align with the motto – Learn to Read, Read to Learn. Our new Head of Reading has joined. But the journey is co-created; we need every student, teacher, and parent on the goal of being and building readers for life. Reading is not an intellectual decoration but a vital force; ‘as meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower’. A book lets you fly, become different people, know yourself, it soothes, it teaches. A book is a tree, a horse, a plane, a question, it opens up worlds inside your head. Don’t let this moment pass…turn that page!Yesterday I read in Maria Papovas, Velocity of Being, of a reader who looks for sentences that she loves as much as her favorite animal, a lioness, sentences that stalk her and pull her in with all their teeth. And I’m wondering which are mine…And then there’s a load of books, always waiting, like a faithful friend on the bedside table, beckoning, taunting. So much more. To read. To enjoy. To question. To change. To learn. To love.

Read always!Urdu poets believe there is a thread that connects your aarzoo (ambition), niyat (motivation), and fitrat (nature). I believe this connection is fed by reading, writing and books. I believe that I am older, wiser and more dangerous than I was because I am a reader. If there was one dua that I could be granted, it would be that all kids at Neev become readers and love books!

Kavita Gupta Sabharwal

(Head of School & Managing Trustee)

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