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Stuff that dreams are made of

Look up biographies of any of the famous scientists or engineers and you will invariably have come across a common theme: their dads made sure that had access to an encyclopedia. Having interacted with many accomplished academicians, scientists and engineers myself, I find this to be the trend even to this modern day: if the environment is conducive, people carry their dreams from childhood to adulthood and try their best to realize it.

The dream imparts meaning to their lives, fuels them ahead and gives them something to believe it. And it is essential that you acquire this dream as early as possible in your life.

I became an electronics engineer because I wanted to. I am not yet an expert and only time will tell how good I become at my job. But I love the feeling that you get when you get to do the things that you always wanted to do.

I realized that one of the ways I can help kids achieve the same feeling later on in their lives is to help them acquire a dream. A dream in which they see themselves as becoming someone particular - taking up a particular role in the human society and excelling at it.

Its easy for kids whose family are well off, to gain access to such materials. But it is even more important for the lesser privileged ones to gain access to these materials and have and inspiring dream strong enough to steer them away from the evils of the society.

So I decided to buy lots and lots of encyclopedias and give it to my friend Anushri who has been a Tech for India fellow for over an year now.

We raided Landmark @ Infinity mall, versova and picked up encyclopedias on all kinds of topics - general science, technology, biology, wildlife and most importantly astronomy (every kid would want to be an astronaut!). We made sure that all of these had lots of photos and illustrations - it wouldn't matter if the kids haven't learnt to read yet, they can always look at the photos and be excited. Dorling Kindersley is one of the best publisher when it comes to illustrated encyclopedias (wiki | India | Catalog/UK Shop)

Return to innocence - we couldn't help but be mesmerized by the glossy illustrations ourselves

A suitcase full of encyclopedias.
(surprisingly inexpensive, the whole thing cost only 5800 INR)

Anushri with some of the books
Anushri maintains an awesome blog here. Looking forward to reading her posts in the coming months on how this experiment goes. I hope it achieves the desired results - for that we will have to wait for 20 years as the kids she is working with are currently in 2nd and 4th grade. 

I also gave her my old digital camera which she can give to her students turn by turn for 'show and tell' assignments - they take the camera home, shoot pictures of anything they like and come back the next day and tell a story about it as they flip through the photos on the digital projector.

Richard Feynman - one of the most awesome scientists of modern times - too had a set of Encyclopedia Britannica when he was a kid. In the following video he relates to how his father was instrumental in inculcating scientific curiosity in him.