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"Hi! I'm HOO.
Your friendly neighbourhood librarian! I love...
Thin books, Fat books...

Small books, BIG books...

SCARY books, Happy books

The only thing I love more than books is a child reading them!"

That quote from our mascot - Hoo the Hippo, just about sums up who and what Hippocampus is all about.

Hippocampus came alive in the summer of 2003, with the setting up of a Children's Experience Centre in Koramangala. The idea was to create a fun place with books and activities that kept children coming back for more and so, spread the love for reading. The collection of books for children was the biggest attraction then and continues to be so now, with new books being added every month. But, children come for various reasons - the cheerful ambience, friendly staff, fun activities on weekends, clubs, workshops and summer camps including Adventure...Science...Cooking...Nature...Theatre...Photography...and more...



In its first year of operation, Hippocampus stepped beyond giving children a fun space to read, with a program that aimed at reaching books to more and more children through the 'Read it? Spread it!' program. This was an initiative that urged children to read a book and then donate it to lesser privileged children. Over 12,000 books were collected during this program.

What followed the next year was an initiative called 'Chikku Booku Samaya' (Small Book Time) - storytime for the little ones from underprivileged sections of the society, that aimed at gradually initiating these children into the reading habit. This was in collaboration with with Dream-A-Dream, a local NGO. 2004 was also the year that the Hippocampus Reading Foundation (HRF) was set up to make libraries and books accessible to underprivileged children.

May '04 saw 'Hoophoria' - an exciting, action packed, multi-dimensional 3-day carnival for kids all ages at Palace Grounds. A fundraiser for the HRF, it was the first-of-its-kind event in India totally for children, offering an array of fun filled activities from an authentic mega Harry Potter quiz, a play for children, a rain dance with DJ Chico to learning corners where children could learn sign language, mask making, candle making, bicycle maintenance and more.

November that year also saw the staging of 'Stand up, Noah Small!' - produced by Hippocampus, directed by Vivek Madan, and written by Nick Stimson and Chris Williams. The play was a musical about a bunch of school-goers who have to save the human race. The world is in peril due to acid rain caused by greedy industrialists and Noah must prevent the apocalypse by building a space rocket! 47 children from 19 schools across the city of Bangalore auditioned and starred in this extravaganza.

Hippocampus drew the curtains on '04 with the opening of its second centre in Basavanagudi, Bangalore. Started 8 years previously by the Sringeri Sharada Peetham and the Rotary Club, it was relaunched as Shankara Rotary Hippocampus with lots more books, exciting activities, and workshops.

Hippocampus stepped into Library Transformation in 2005 when the AV Educational Society, J.P. Nagar wanted to refurbish its school library and make it a fun, active place for its children. Hippocampus helped with everything from ideas to painting the book racks in bright colours to showing the librarians the different 'How To's - to catalogue existing books, pick books that made good reading for children, transform children's perception of 'library hour', create excitement with a 'Library Day' and more...

The launch of the third centre of Hippocampus at Abhiramampuram, Chennai happened in October '05. Currently, the Chennai Centre has moved to brand new premises at Nandanam Extension.

August 2006 marked hippocampus going online with the launch of the Hippocampus Home Library. It was the next step in reaching books to children, making it possible for those who could not visit the centres to get books delivered to their doorstep!

2007 marked the launch of the Learning Centre at Hippocampus, Basavangudi. An endeavour to give children from lower income groups a space where they could read/ learn undisturbed by family situations, the Learning Centre gave these children the opportunity to discover books, use the HRF 'GROW BY Reading' program to improve their reading skills, learn using computer, and use the internet to learn more for school projects. All at a subsidized cost.

On March 1st 2008, Hippocampus presented the first edition of 'Hoo's Tales' - a carnival of stories, for the children of Bengaluru and Chennai. A celebration to revive the forgotten art of story telling, it was a magical 'FREE-for-all-children' fun fest where theatre artistes, mime artists, ventriloquists, clowns, puppeteers and traditional story tellers regaled children with stories all day long. The Bal Bhavan Activity area in Cubbon Park saw a whole lot of happy kids that day!

'08 was also when Hippocampus decided to go beyond homes and reach books to children through institutions and individuals interested in the kind of work we do. 'Hoo's Corner' was the program that was launched towards this end, to encourage housewives, preschools, kindergartens, day care centres, activity centres, community centres, apartment complexes and Corporates to borrow books from Hippocampus and subsequently issue them to their members.

Going beyond the experience centres that year also included taking part in the Bengaluru Sunfeast 10k Marathon, albeit in the 5 km Majaa Run, to raise funds and awareness for HRF.

In addition to the second edition of Hoo's tales - bigger and better and the second lap of the 'Majaa Run', 2009 saw the launch of 2 additional services - 'Book in a Bag' and 'Book Council':

Book in a Bag is a special add-on that Hoo's Corner members can opt for. It's a bag that holds a book and 2 related activities - ranging from art'n'craft to games - that Hoo's Corner associates can use, as is, to enthuse children with an interest in books and reading.

The Book Council formed in February '09 is a team of book experts who guide children looking for new books, parents wondering what their children should be reading, institutions that want to know what books to buy and, anyone else who need to talk to people who really know children's books. The Book Council is also responsible for creating and updating the suggested 'Reading Lists' for different age groups.

The 'Great Tale Chase' - a summer reading challenge for children launched in April '09 was also the brainchild of the Book Council. With a 'special points for reading books from the suggested reading booklists' this summer holidays contest was held for 3 age categories 5 to 7, 8 to 10 and 11 & above. It caused great excitement, and had children vying with each other to finish books and score points!

2009 was also the year the Hippocampus Halloween party stepped up the spook scale and became a fundraiser for the HRF. With eyeball ice-cream, cobweb pizzas, toothy and toothless witches, vampires roaming around and ghostly make-and-takes, the theme 'Welcome to the Braveyard' had the children screaming...for more!

With every year, Team Hippocampus continues to think up innovative ways to reach books to children and get them hooked on the reading habit. As Hoo says "The only thing we love more than books is a child reading them!"

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