On a random day, among the many vast sections of the State Central Library in Thiruvananthapuram, you can find young people, you can find children, and you can find older men. Whom you see very little of are women past a certain age. The librarians and others, trying their best to promote reading and bring people back to books, thought that along with the many initiatives they do for young children, there should be something for these little seen women. On Women’s Day, therefore, KA Beena, a writer, announced the forming of a group ‘Penvayana Kootu’ – in English, Women Readers Group.
“We have been doing several programmes in the library to promote the habit of reading. ‘Read in Spring’, for instance, was done to encourage the reading of English books. There are programmes for people in all categories. But we thought perhaps the women would need a reading group exclusively for themselves, for they might otherwise be reluctant to express themselves in a group with all sorts of people,” says PK Shobhana, state librarian.
Some of the older women members of the library had also expressed interest to get more exposure. “Women in the age group of 50 to 60 years, and some of whom began writing at this age, expressed their wish to get more exposure. That’s another reason for launching the group now,” Shobhana says.
Women members and women who are in the family of male members can be part of the group. The plan is for the group to meet once a month at the library, read and discuss Malayalam classics, and also write book reviews. “We are also planning interactions with writers,” Shobhana says.
She feels that fiction reading would help people to develop the habit and stick on to it. “We find that a lot of the younger people – students going for PSC Coaching or civil service exams – visit the library during their preparations but stop once the exams are done with. Fiction reading would encourage them to keep coming back. That’s the thought we had for the women’s reading group too,” Shobhana adds.