Umesh Malhotra

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Umesh Malhotra was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Umesh’s vision is to inspire children to read more and to democratize the emphasis and practice of reading among children. Through his organization, Hippocampus, his Learning Centers, and Grow by Reading programs, Umesh brings the joy of reading to children and their families in an accessible, positive, and contextual manner. Umesh’s research leads him to believe that up to the age of eight, a child learns to read; while afterwards, a child reads to learn. Thus, the more comfortable a child is with reading, at a younger age, the better he or she will learn for the rest of their lives. A child’s reading skills are in direct correlation to their educational absorption. Umesh also realizes that, in the information age, better jobs and opportunities are available to people with better information seeking and processing skills. Reading also provides an opportunity for children to learn values and learn about the world, perhaps especially, as a leisure activity.

Umesh’s innovation lies in the holistic strategies he has crafted for different socioeconomic segments of the country to make Hippocampus and its related Learning Centers and programming a sustainable and replicable effort. Based on the available transport of the children’s families, Umesh has created programs to best meet their needs in varied socioeconomic categories. For each program, known as the Motorcar, Motorbike and Bicycle segments, spaces have been designed for the children, including vibrant, bright, airy libraries which provide access to world class books on a variety of subjects and topics of interest. Trained librarians guide children and discuss books with them, as well as lead games and activities designed to enhance experiential learning and comprehension in a safe and engaging environment. These games and activities are important in making the books come alive for young children and help to make reading fun.

Fees from the Motorcar program and the Hippocampus library help subsidize the costs of the Motorbike and Bicycle programs and the strategies adopted for different target segments of society are contextual and replicable.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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