Dec 18, 2023

Ishaan: How a passion for reading became a powerful force for change


Meet Ishaan, a 7th-grader from Austin, Texas, whose passion for reading has blossomed into a powerful force for positive change. Inspired by a visit to a Pratham school in India, Ishaan has embarked on a remarkable journey as a dedicated supporter of learning and a champion for children. His story is inspiring, proving that anyone, regardless of age or background, can make a significant impact. His commitment to Pratham USA began in 2016, when he witnessed firsthand the harsh realities faced by children in India who lack access to quality education. This experience ignited a spark within him, driving him to take action.

Since then, Ishaan has become a driving force behind the annual Pratham Readathon. His dedication and enthusiasm have helped him raise an impressive $22,000 over the years, directly impacting the lives of countless children.

Ishaan, tell us about yourself and how you first learned about Pratham?

Hi! My name is Ishaan and I’m a 7th grader from Austin, TX. I love reading. I first learned about Pratham in 2016 when my family and I visited a school that Pratham had founded in Uttar Pradesh. Seeing children my age learning in a small hut, sitting on the floor opened my eyes to how poverty affects lives, and made me realize that everyone didn’t have access to all the resources and education that I had been lucky enough to receive. I was very saddened when I learned that many children in India my age couldn’t read. I wanted to help, and later that year I was blessed with an opportunity to raise money for these children by reading! This was called the Pratham Readathon.

What role have you played in Pratham USA’s Readathon?

I have participated in the Readathon every year during the summer since 2018 after I learned about Pratham. Being able to read, connect with family, and help children in need through Pratham has been an extremely fulfilling experience. This year, I raised $5,200, helping over 208 children receive life-changing education for one year. Over the past 6 years, because of the generous support of my family and friends, I’ve been able to raise over $22,000 for this amazing cause. Recently, I have started teaching a group of kids in Mysore how to read in English over Zoom. I started about a year ago, and when I first saw the kids they struggled to understand when I read the books to them. About a year later, the same group of students were reading higher level books with minimal help from me and answering comprehension questions! Seeing their progress has completely blown me away! This goes to show the effect Pratham has on the lives of these children. In a mere year, they were able to learn how to independently read in English and comprehend complex sentences, a skill that has opened a door to so many possibilities for their future and a path out of poverty.

What is your favorite part about being involved with the Readathon?

My favorite part of participating in the Readathon was discovering so many new books. Every year, I pick a new topic to focus on. Through this, I have learned so much about different subjects. For example, last year I read a book about a girl in Lithuania during their rebellion against the Soviet Union. I learned how there were so many of these tragic and untold stories of the horrors of dictatorship. Through all these books, my worldview keeps evolving. The gift of knowledge is something that I will cherish and it motivates me to do the Readathon again every year.

How has Pratham USA shaped your personal growth?

My experience has shown me the value of connecting with others. Through the emails and book reports I send during the Readathon, I am able to engage in conversation and discussion with my cousins, aunts & uncles, and even grandparents. This multi-generational connection is something that is unique to the Readathon and a reason why I love doing it so much. My effort to support Pratham started small, but as I expanded the list of people I reached out to, it grew into something big.  In addition, It has shown me how to write an engaging and persuasive email to retain engagement, and taught me how to plan a campaign and set ambitious goals for myself. Above all, my experience with Pratham has shown me the value of education and how it can change one’s life. I have learned never to take education for granted because it opens the door to a successful life ahead.

If you could have coffee with anyone in the world to talk about education, who would it be and why?

I would love to have coffee with Malala Yousafzai, as she is one of the trailblazers at the forefront of the fight for education. Pratham is doing an amazing job in the countries it supports but there are still so many more who have yet to receive assistance. It would be very inspiring to meet Malala because she has had such a big impact and continues to use her voice to bring awareness to inequality in education.

What are your future aspirations with Pratham USA?

One day in the future, I want to teach a class in India in person. While I have been able to raise money for children’s education, being able to actually teach children and see directly the effect our efforts are having is my ultimate goal. By being on the front lines, I can help expand the efforts of Pratham to new areas. In the near term I want to start more consistently participating in the virtual reading sessions with Pratham Mysore, as I have truly enjoyed being able to connect and teach the students in real time.

What message do you have for other kids and young people about Pratham?

During one of my Readathons, I came across a poem that resonated with me:

“From a grain of sand,
Births light,
Births space,
Births infinite time,
And to grain of sand
Do all things return-“

— Glerk, Character in The Girl who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill

To me, this poem means that as individuals or as little children we sometimes think we can’t have a big impact on the world when we look at how we are like a grain of sand amongst so many other living organisms. But with passion and care, we can each make a difference no matter how big or small.

Ishaan’s story is a powerful reminder that even the smallest efforts can have a significant impact. By combining his love of reading with a passion for helping others, Ishaan has become a true champion for learning and a valuable member of the Pratham USA family. We are incredibly grateful for his dedication and commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of children in India. Thank you, Ishaan!

You can join Ishaan in creating a difference by making a donation to Pratham USA today. Donate Now.