Umesh Malhotra is inspiring children to read more and improve their ability to absorb their education. With the belief that reading at a young age is critical to build information processing and analytical skills, Umesh has created a range of programs to address the educational needs of both rural and urban children.
He started out by setting up Hippocampus - a library in Bangalore - as an experiential learning space for children to become readers for life. Through a combination of activity-based programs, colour coded books, games and quizzes, the library becomes a space for teachers, and children to share and learn together.
Having seen the joy of reading transform childhood experiences in education and learning, Umesh decided to take Hippocampus to the next level: where every child could read and learn and grow at the same speed. In 2007, he created GROWBY Reading, a unique and highly simplified process by which he has extended his idea all across the country. By providing a way for school librarians and teachers, and civil society organisations to categorize, track and incentivise reading, the GROWBY program colour-codes books towards representing levels of achievement. Allowing for self-tracking, the program helps learners assess their own reading outcomes and advance level by level till reading becomes a lifelong habit for the child.
Offering a comprehensive training package, as well as how-to modules, Umesh has worked with librarians across the country to colour-code and categorize their books as per the GROWBY chart. Strategically partnering with Room to Read, the program has become ubiquitous with libraries across the country, having become a standard part of any school library. It is now present in approximately 450 government and low cost private schools and is available in six different Indian languages. Children not only enjoy going to the library but also build reciprocal and meaningful relationships with adults in the school system.
Umesh hasn’t stopped with this. His thirst for increasing the capacity of children to learn and grow led him towards starting the Hippocampus Learning Centre. A kindergarten program aimed at ensuring that children are at the appropriate learning level for their age, Umesh has developed a unique curriculum designed for and delivered by local staff. Piloted in 2010, the focus is on providing affordable quality education. With over 100 Hippocampus Learning Centres in rural Karnataka, Umesh hopes that this community centred model of kindergarten education can be replicated by both the government and other private players in the sector.