North Chennai is known for its sportsmen, but a 48-year-old resident is on a mission to encourage the growth of literary giants in the locality, kindling a passion for Tamil language, in particular, among students in schools run by the Greater Chennai Corporation, and cultivating a reading habit among youngsters, in general.
E.D. Elango, who is in the business of printing office stationery, is passionate about Tamil language and literature. “I have seen several talented children in Corporation schools, especially blessed with oratorial and writing skills. But they lack facilities and, hence, I thought of starting small,” said Mr. Elango
He started Vada Chennai Tamil Sangam five years ago to promote the language. “Whenever someone expresses interest in becoming a member, we don’t take money as membership fee. Instead, we ask them to donate books worth ₹1,000 to Corporation Schools, on their birthday or any special occassion,” he added.
Now, advocates and social activists, too, are part of the sangam, that hosted a literary event in north Chennai last year and distributed books to 350 schoolchildren. “Even I donate books to schools, and office-bearers of the Sangam, too, do the same. Till date, we have given away books to over 15 Corporation schools and many government libraries and reading centres run by youngsters across the city,” he said.
He pointed out that children, these days, read Tamil in textbooks, merely with the intention of scoring marks. “Reading will improve their knowledge,” he said.
G. Prithiviraj, advocate, Madras High Court, and secretary of the Sangam, said, “Inspired by Mr. Elango, I have also donated books. Many parents struggle to make ends meet but try to ensure that their children get education and send them to Corporation schools. They will not be in a position to buy them books, and, the school library is their only refuge. That is why it should be well equipped,” he said.
P.K. Ilamaran, president, Tamil Nadu Teachers’ Association, and teacher at the Chennai High School, Kodungaiyur, said Mr. Elango had donated 100 books to his school. “North Chennai has produced several dignitaries. Every division should have a library to help children learn about subjects other than those taught at school. Ideally, every park should have a library or a reading centre,” he said.