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Sitting down with a book provides children with a time for quiet calmness in their busy lives. Stories can stimulate imagination and play. What better way to experience this life than books? So, how do you exactly know what books available in the market are good reads for your kids? Tanu Shree Singh tells us how!
Tanu Shree Singh runs a popular online community called Reading Raccoons, an online platform to discover kids’ literature. She is a Psychology Professor at Government College, Gurgaon, an interactive blogger, a voracious reader, and a parent of two preteen sons.
“How do you pick books?” A friend asked over a long overdue cup of coffee.”
“I, err, go to a book store, look around, buy five times more than I had planned and that’s about it”
“No! Tch. How do you know which ones are the right ones for the kids?”
“Ah, that! No. I do not.”
She obviously didn’t approve of the answer and fired a lot of what ifs at me. What if the book is inappropriate for the children? What if it is too violent? And language. There is always the inherent danger of bad words jumping out of the text and getting inside the child’s head. I ignored her fears that made a kidnapper lurking between pages a plausible threat, and went on to polish off the crumbs of the cookie that came free with the coffee.
So how does one choose?
I have always let them do the picking. My job is to just guide them to the right shelf. As parents we try to censor everything that reaches the kids. Books, however, are best left outside rules. So as long as they are in children’s section, they should pick up whatever they fancy – from comics, to books way below their age level.
Books have that ability to bend the real value of a rupee. A book is valuable if it got your little one hooked to each word, dangling by each sentence, and absolutely oblivious to the world around. It is expensive if everytime he opens it, there is a smile on his face. It is not worth the money printed on it, if the child is disinterested. Bookworms are the greatest levellers – they pick books depending on the value it adds to their lives, rather than the size of the hole it burns through your pocket. So stop stacking books in neat piles of worthless and useful books. Let them decide.
From historical fiction to graphic novels to wordless picture books, let them have an access to a wide variety of books. There would be times when they will spit the offerings back. Do not force. They will come around whenever they are ready. Till then if it is a comic they want to read for the 105th time, so be it.
Read to them. Make the bedtime reading ritual last through the years. The boys still manage to corner me into reading a poem or two to them every now and then. Be seen reading yourself. Make books an indispensable part of you. Children learn best by example!
Reading can never be forced. Bookworms are grown accidentally and never intentionally. I remember books always being a part of my childhood though accessibility was limited to library at mum’s college, annual visit to a bookstore in Delhi, and a bag full of books (mostly translated Russian picture books) that nana got for us. The reason we fell in love with books was the free-run we were given in the library. No books were ever singled out as ‘good books.’ We picked whatever appealed to us and read according to our own timeline. There were no reading goals set.
And the books stayed with us long after the last page was turned. As clichéd as it might sound, the first book that left an everlasting mark was Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. And as the younger one says, ‘isn’t it delightful that a book becomes an inseparable part of growing up? That we remember the past in terms of the books we read at the time?’ It indeed is delightful.
In the hope of building more bookish memories, I have put together this list of books we adore:
If you have a pre-schooler at hand (below 6 years)
Looking for chapter books? (6-10)
Age however, is a rough marker. These books are thoroughly enjoyed by readers of all ages. I still steal some of them from the boys’ room and re-read them over a cup of hot chocolate. And the list never stops at just five books! It runs into pages. So this summer, build your own list. This summer, let your little one dive into a library, and swim with the books. This summer, grow a bookworm.