Last year in Education Guardian Professor Sugata Mitra appealed for volunteers in the UK to read stories over the internet to children in Hyderabad. "When I last visited India, I asked the children what they would most like to use Skype [the internet telephone service] for. Surprisingly, they said they wanted British grandmothers to read them fairytales – they'd even worked out that between them they could afford to pay £1 a week out of their own money," Mitra said.
He had already recruited one woman to spend a few hours a week reading fairy tales to the children, with her life-size webcam image projected on to a wall in India. He appealed to Education Guardian readers to volunteer. And some 200 people stepped forward.
"Many are retired teachers, who are now regularly on Skype teaching children in the slums," says Mitra. "The children are forming relationships with them, and the teachers, many of whom were upset at the thought of having finished their careers, have realised they're more important than ever."
For even more warm fuzzies, you can read 'They are like whirlwinds, brimming with confidence'Retired teacher Val Almond volunteered to read to children in India in response to a request in Education Guardian. One year and many stories on, she shares her experience:
Last March I read an article in Education Guardian that called for volunteers to read stories to Indian children for one hour a week using Skype. I am a retired teacher and I still love working with children, so I applied and have been working with children in Hyderabad since last summer.
The first problem was to find suitable stories to read as I was told the children liked books with pictures. I decided to read fairy stories and have read many of the traditional fairy stories like Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and Goldilocks and The Three Bears. These went down well, especially when I managed to show them how to make a beanstalk and a 'Jacob's ladder' out of paper.
I love how the internet helps make the world smaller and smaller and shares good stories, too.