Natalie Haynes: Grannies for all – a scheme that makes kids read and my heart sing


Related Topics

The secret truth about reading aloud to a child is that it is a completely beneficial experience for all involved. The child gets a story read to him or her, and the reader gets to read a book, safe in the knowledge that she is not avoiding work, or cleaning, or anything else, but is, in fact, busy investing in the next generation.

Not only that, but once you have your confidence up, you can do voices and everything. Count Olaf (from Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) is my particular speciality, though I also do a good Hermione, which comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me.

So now I am wondering how old you have to be to volunteer for the Granny Cloud: an initiative which pairs grannies or quasi-grannies with schoolchildren in India, via the net. It has been set up by Professor Sugata Mitra, who also set up the Hole-in-the-Wall computer scheme (putting PCs into the poorest parts of India: children with no experience of computers became expert in using them at incredible speed). Mitra realised that children worked best with non-interfering encouragement, and the idea of the Granny Cloud was born.

His scheme means that a virtual granny can be reading the pages of Not Now, Bernard (one of my favourite children's books, since it conclusively proves that your parents don't have your best interests at heart, and indeed don't even notice if a monster eats you) in the UK to a bunch of school children in Pune. The granny invests in the kids, the kids know someone thousands of miles away cares about them: everyone wins.

This whole idea makes my heart sing. I always associate grandparents and reading, because my grandmother worked in the children's department of Hudson's bookshop (now a Waterstones) in Birmingham, and every weekend she would bring me a new book. She never read to me aloud, as her first language was Flemish, and she was always conscious of her accent in English (though Flemish-Brummie is one of the finest accents, to my ear).

The book reps soon found out she had grandchildren, and would bring treats for us: for years, I had a tiny Puffin bookcase filled with my favourite books. As so often with treasured childhood possessions, I have no memory of what happened to it. Perhaps it went to live on a farm, like the hamsters.

Though I don't have children myself, I am now a complete sucker for other people's kids in search of a reader. I am incapable of stopping before the end of a chapter, even when it's past my bedtime, let alone theirs. So here's to the Granny Cloud, fighting the reading drought wherever they go.

A postscript to Operation Bootleg

Is film piracy ever right? My head says no, but last week The New York Times profiled "Big Hy" Strachman, a 5ft 5in, 92-year-old World War II veteran, who developed an unusual hobby after the death of his wife. Big Hy has spent the past eight years copying DVDs for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is certainly one of America's most prolific pirates: he's winding down his operation now the soldiers are returning home, but he has sent almost 4,000 boxes of DVDs so far. He paid for the postage and discs himself (some $30,000), and accepted no payment. He destroyed the master discs as he went along, to try and limit his lawlessness. He's only come out now, because his operation is coming to an end.

Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, said he thought the studios hadn't known about Big Hy's mass piracy. I hope they do a good thing, rather than the legal thing, and issue a statement saying that while they in no way condone Mr Strachman's behaviour, and will prosecute anything similar, they'd like to cover his postage bills for the past eight years.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
David Cameron revealed his decision not to remain as Tory leader beyond 2020 to the BBC's James Landale last night  

Could the BBC be any more left-wing? First they employ loads of Tories, and then they're caught chillaxing in Cameron's kitchen

Mark Steel
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world