At the most basic level, writing is empowering which truly begins with a pencil and paper. Vidya Gyan was surprised and saddened that children in their networked rural government schools were not writing much. Why? Because, at least in part, the children had limited or no access to notebook, pencil, and eraser.
The Pencil to Power initiative is the recognition of the fact that the skill of writing is as critical as speaking, reading, and listening for the holistic development of children in grades 1-5. Yet, many children were missing out on developing age appropriate skills: writing letters and numbers; practicing math problems, and expressing thoughts through stories and/or sketches.
Vidya Gyan’s pilot in July/August 2017 included the distribution of about 9000 notebooks, 5000 pencils, and 2500 erasers to all children in about 25 schools. Our overarching goal is to have the teachers engage children in “writing,” a lifelong skill that is critical for survival in the later years. It is unfortunate that the skill of handwriting is being extinct globally for assorted reasons. For example, it is the lack of basic writing tools in the schools in India and relatively easy access to technological tools in schools the United States which allows children to use their fingers on a keyboard.
Going forward, Vidya Gyan also envisions to engage schools and communities in the United States to bring back the focus on “writing by hand” at the elementary level. A group of local children were engaged in writing about Diwali, India’s Festival of Lights in October, and another group writing their thoughts on, “I am Thankful for…” celebrating Thanksgiving.