19th June is Reading Day and the week is celebrated as Reading Week in Kerala. ‘ Read and Grow ’ is the slogan
P N Panicker is known as the Father of the Library Movement in Kerala. The Government of Kerala observes 19 June annually as Vayanadinam (Day of Reading) with a week-long series of activities at schools and public institutions to honour the contributions of P.N. Panicker to the cause of literacy, education and library movement.
Kerala today occupies a top slot in the country’s literacy scenario. This ascent has not been quite easy and smooth; among those who gave their “blood, toil, sweat and tears” for the lofty cause, the late PN Panicker stands foremost. He knew the power of the written word and what the power knowledge of the written word would give to a people. He literally trekked through treacherous terrains for “miles and miles”, driven by the noble mission of spreading reading habit among the ordinary folks in his native state.
Shri. P.N. Panicker was a legend in his own life time. It was a life-long devotion to the cause of literacy and sustained work in the field that made him so. And his loving memory is honoured in several ways by the people of Kerala in particular, and now the country at large. Several institutions, organizations and movements have come up to commemorate his monumental contribution not only in wiping out illiteracy in the state but also steering the state to the path of social, economic and cultural development. In short, he is considered as one of the principal architects of modern Kerala.
Born in 1st March, 1909 in Kuttanad, in the erstwhile Travancore state, the young Panicker showed a keen interest in reading newspapers and books. Not only did he read them himself, he also read the daily news to groups of illiterate people of all ages. In a small room given by the local co-operative society in his village, Panicker started a reading center called Sanadana dharma Library.
This was the little pebble which was to have a major ripple effect. An admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, Panicker was inspired by the Mahatma’s words that “illiteracy is a cause and shame of the country and t should be wiped out as early as possible”. Social historians of the state are of the opinion that the cultural revolution following the social emancipation movements initiated by Sree Narayana Guru, Ayyankali, V.T. Bhattathiripad and others was the outcome of Panicker’s library movement. He walked through the state contacting men and women every where, generating awareness. The idea, inspiration and leadership for making Kerala the first totally literate state of the country came from Panicker and his KANFED. The state-wide popular movement called Sakshara Keralam through a time-boundintensive campaign involving thousands of voluntary workers achieved success on 18th April 1991.
It is good to have a special day or week which reminds us about the existence of such a habit as part of us. Long live reading.