A Readathon Let’s Houston Kids Support Pratham’s Kids

Participants of the Readathon 2018 with Bimla and Swatantra Jain and Readathon organizer Manjit Soni and 8-year-old Ayan Nadkarni narrated his reading experience. Not pictured are Divya Khatri who played the violin in Etude Number 3 in G Major by Franz Wohlfahrt and Sharon Thind who sang the National Anthems of USA and India.

BY RITU NADKARNI

HOUSTON: The 2018 Pratham Houston Readathon Award Ceremony was held at Dalip and Manjit Soni’s residence on Sunday, January 27. It was an inspirational evening and showed what a community of readers, parents and supportive adults can do in elevating the confidence of young readers.

Manjit Soni welcomed and thanked all the young readers and their parents for their efforts and support by raising $5,600. Further motivating the team was a generous dollar-for-dollar match by Swatantra Jain, CFO of Pratham, USA, which doubled this amount and will help educate over 400 kids in India.

The famous Houston based author of books for children and teens, Varsha Bajaj, shared her journey. She kept it conversational, involved the kids by asking them to share their favorite books, encouraged them to ask her questions and shared how she tries to incorporate Indian cultural elements in her picture books and stories.

One young author (and my son), Ayan Nadkarni shared how he got on the path of writing from his deep love for reading and learning. “Don’t you learn something new every time you read?” he asked. “I write, because I want to put my thoughts together but also because I hope to help somebody learn something new in the process”, said the 8-year-old, eloquently.

Throughout the evening the kids interacted and were encouraged by community leaders Swatantra and Bimla Jain about the importance of reading and giving back. Jain shared how he visited a school in India, which reminded him of his school growing up, leading him to commit to Pratham. They inspired the kids with their journey and graciously pledged, yet again, to match dollar-for-dollar any amount raised by these kids.

The Pratham Readathon Houston Chapter is led by Manjit Soni, an active community educator who has worked at the Houston’s prestigious Village School which has held the Readathon for four years. She was untiring in encouraging the kids in WhatsApp groups, recognizing every small contribution they make and in her commitment to make the kids better readers while helping educate kids in India. She was helped by student readers/volunteers Armman Katarya, Diyesh Khatri, and Vanni Gupta.

The real stars of the evening were the kids who dazzled the adults with their talents and unlimited potential with a private concert featuring Ajit Nagi, playing the tabla, Neil Bose and Sharan Thind singing and Divya Khatri playing the violin. Divya’s brother, Divyesh Khatri, had just returned the morning of the award ceremony from Qatar, where he presented in Model UNO meetings representing the Village School.

Pratham USA aims to raise awareness and funds to support Pratham, one of India’s largest educational non- profit organization focused on eradicating child illiteracy in India. Prathan USA hosts an annual Readathon program all across USA to encourage children to commit to reading certain number of books and find sponsors who would contribute funds on their pages. The program also offers opportunities for essay writing and other creative expressions whereby readers win money on their pages.

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