Rahamot Ullah is the Principal of Kishalay Girls’ School and College in Dhaka. “I have always aimed to be a friend to all my students,” he says, distributing a bag of chocolates to several of the school's tenth grade students.
In addition to running the school’s operations, Rahamot Ullah is also an avid writer, having penned many poems and articles on education issues in his native Bangladesh. It wasn’t until recently, though—when he came across a newspaper advertisement from Room to Read in 2010—that Mr. Ullah thought to combine his passion for teaching with his creative pursuits.
The ad was a simple one, like dozens more placed each year in periodicals across the ten countries where we work, but it struck a chord with Mr. Ullah. “Room to Read is seeking submissions from authors for Bengla-language children’s books,” it said, and upon reading those words, the principal began preparing his submission almost immediately.
When he heard back from our team, it was not good news. They explained to the principal that the greatest need in Bangladesh for children’s literature lies in books designed for very early readers. His stories, while captivating, were clearly written with more mature students in mind.
Not one to be dissuaded easily, Mr. Ullah worked hard to produce new stories that were more appropriate to the reading level described by our team, and in 2011 he submitted his work again. This time, he was elated to find that his stories had been selected.
The first step for Mr. Ullah after getting the good news was to attend an orientation for all new writers and illustrators working with Room to Read. There, he learned about how our Book Publishing program supports literacy across Bangladesh and how to write with a gender lens. He also learned that his book, once finished, would be distributed to hundreds of school libraries in rural villages, which for some students, would be their only option for reading material outside of their government textbook.
Next, Mr. Ullah attended a three-day residential workshop to revise his manuscript, a unique experience partially because of the company he shared it with. Other first-time children’s authors included a police officer, several university professors and a handful of journalists.
After the workshop, each author’s final manuscript was sent out into the field to be tested by students in nearby schools, while their creators awaited a final decision about which ten books would be published in 2011.
In the end, Mr. Ullah got the answer he was looking for, and his book, In the Land of Angels, was published late last year. Using rhyme, the book teaches children about colors through the familiar backdrop of Bangladesh’s countryside. “I am happy to know that a new generation of learners will be reading my book,” he says of his latest pursuit.
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