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Simran Adnani
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2019 SEEN Young Changemaker: 5-Year-Old Simran Adnani Is Promoting Literacy Worldwide

Published August 1, 2019 by

Simran Adnani of Troy is spreading her love of reading to kids in Metro Detroit and as far away as India.

By Alana Blumenstein

Simran Adnani is showing us all that you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference. Even though she’s only 5, Simran has always had an innovative mind. “She has this inclination toward community service and helping people,” says her mother Teena Chopra of Troy. “Every day she comes up with something new.”

Surrounded with books since an infant, Simran learned to read when she was only 2. “Most times my family reads to me,” Simran says. Her love of reading was reinforced at age 3 when she and her mother attended an event held by Little Free Library, an organization that gives out free library structures for book sharing. At the end, there was one extra library — given to Simran to keep. From there, her book collection continued to grow.

literacy in Metro DetroitSylvia Jarrus for SEEN

Simran Chopra, 4, of Troy hangs onto a library she took home from a Little Free Libraries event last summer. Simran has been reading since she was 17 months old and loves to read to other kids.

When Chopra read “I am Martin Luther King, Jr.” to her daughter, she could not have predicted where it would lead. Simran was instantly inspired by MLK’s ideals of inclusivity, moving her to follow in his footsteps.

Through reading, Simran found heroes in many historical figures, including Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi. She saw the world through her books, which made her wonder if kids in India had the same resources as her. When her mother informed her that many do not have access to books, she decided to change that. “We were brainstorming ideas, and we started this campaign,” Chopra says. “We fundraised books through her school and the society and our community.”

literacy in Metro DetroitSylvia Jarrus for SEEN

Simran Chopra places books into her new library during a Little Free Libraries event at the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit last summer.

The campaign Bridges with Books raised $250, which the family used to open six Little Free Libraries in remote villages in India. When Simran’s aunt, Anita Chopra, traveled to India to work in the community, she personally distributed the books. “It was very, very exciting for them to have all these books,” Teena Chopra says. “We are actually going to India in November, and we are going to meet them.” With the funds raised, Simran also created a library in Sri Lanka and at her local temple in Sterling Heights.

Class in India receives books from Simran AdnaniCourtesy Teena Chopra

A class in India receives books from Simran Adnani.

But Simran’s work doesn’t end there. Her mother, who is a specialist at the Detroit Medical Center, found a new group to help. With the support of Children’s Hospital of Michigan CEO Luanne Ewald, Simran donated 150 books to premature children in the ICU. Chopra explains that when children are read to early on, it improves their development. “It was a small thing, but it made a difference,” Chopra says of donating the books. “And we want to continue doing that.”

Simran Adnani at Children's Hospital of MichiganCourtesy Teena Chopra

Simran Adnani at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Simran attends The Roeper School, which enforces a philosophy of kindness, inclusion and community service. When the family moved to America, Chopra explains the transition was tough at first. “But Roeper completely opened arms to us,” she says. “Being at Roeper has also been, I think, extremely empowering for her.”

Amber Webb, one of Simran’s teachers, shares the same feelings. “Simran is a bright child with big ideas,” she says. “Her learning and application goes beyond the classroom walls in many ways.” Of her school, Simran says, “It’s the best ever!”

Simran Adnani

Simran’s work in the community is far from over. With her new nonprofit, S-I-M-R-A-N (Science, Innovation, Math, Reading, Art and eNgineering), Simran hopes to empower a larger audience through literacy. She aims to organize community engagement, peer-led STEAM events and book drives. To Simran, the sky is the limit. “She’s a role model,” Chopra says. “Because people feel inspired that at a little age, she can do this.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Amber Webb.

Simran is a 2019 SEEN Young Changemaker. Read more about the finalists:

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