A library for slum children thats run by a 9-year-old

What started as an experiment has become a resounding success. Rajya Siksha Kendra empowered a local 9-year-old girl to run a library in the slums with an experimental 25 books. Today the library is 119 books strong and a success among the slum children.



9-year-old Muskaan Ahirwar is no ordinary girl. At an age when young girls like to play with toys and organize imaginary tea parties, Muskaan, true to her name is spreading smiles in the lives of other slum children.  You may wonder how, well, Muskaan takes on the role of a librarian and her library is called Bal Pustakalay.

Muskaan lives in the slums of Arera Hills in Bhopal. Her father Manohar is a carpenter and her mother Maya, a housewife. Every day after returning from school, at about 4pm Muskaan sets up the library for the slum children outside her house. The students eagerly wait for her to open the library and as soon as she does they surround her to listen to her stories and read the books. “We play here, learn hear and read lot of books about freedom fighters and great Indian kings and many others,” one enthusiastic reader said.

The idea of a library in the slum was conceptualised in December last year when the local branch of the Rajya Siksha Kendra realised that while many children go to school but they do not bother reading once they’re back. They first gave about 25 books to children to share and read. The library now has 119 books.

To create an interest among the children, the members of the Siksha Kendra held a quiz competition among the kids. Muskaan won the quiz and was one of the most enthusiastic participants the Kendra members had met. She was then given the responsibility of educating other students in the slum. “I love doing this. Other children in slum area take books and then return other day. Some stay back to read here with me and ask questions where they don’t understand,” said Muskaan.


Many wonderful initiatives are seeing the light of the day across the nation. From experience we can say that empowerment initiatives work well when they have a strong local connect. For example, had this library being run by an external entity the success rate may have differed. Not only is Bal Pustakalay a success due to Muskaan’s involvement, but it is also giving young children like Muskaan an opportunity to grow up as responsible citizens. We hope to see many more Bal Pustakalay in the days to come.

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