I have a young reader at home who has started reading short and simple stories independently. He never wants to miss his reading time which is twice a day, once at bedtime at night and another after waking up in the morning, barring one exception and that is when he is spending time with his grandparents.
There has been quite a many times when he is tired at night with drooping eyes and I ask him to stop reading after a page or 2 but he insists on finishing the whole story first and then sleeping. However, this does not mean he dozes off as soon as he closes the book since what follows next is another few minutes of book discussion and Q&As. There are days when my ‘factory of answers’ gets locked out by 8 pm. On such days the Q&A time at bedtime becomes a drag for me. Still his exuberance for books and reading fills me with delight and gratitude.
He is soon going to be 5 years in a couple of months and it has been a fulfilling experience, the efforts for which started at the time when he was 10 months old.
First of all, let me tell you it has not been easy for me, especially, when I am surrounded by non-readers in my family and these are people who do not appreciate time spent in reading and call it lazing around. Lazing and watching TV is the highly accepted norm. I have been asked, cajoled and pressurized several times to give up on my act of reading books and concentrate solely on fueling Dhruv’s body because he is thin, skinny and all that. Fueling one’s mind, who needs that? Well, these people also wanted me to give up blogging for the same reasons but who listens to them. Thick skinned, you may call it.
So, how did I do?
Definitely, regular reading and spending time in libraries and bookstores played the important role. But, since I am surrounded by normal and sane people, I had to create my own mad and crazy ways to keep my love for reading alive and to kindle the same emotion in Dhruv. Here are my 5 crazy ways which have played an equally important role in instilling love for books and reading in Dhruv –
- Letting mine and his books remaining scattered around the house at all times. I have always been particular about tidying away the toys and shutting them in boxes after play, but never ever tidying away the books in the book shelves. Infact, I did not have a book shelf in my house for a long long time. I was happy with the books strewn on the couch, the window sills, the bed side tables and many a times even on the kitchen counter. Turn your head in any direction and behold the sight of books in your eyes and heart. What a bliss!
- Every time the courier guy rings the doorbell, it calls for a celebration shriek and a jig to welcome the new book in the house. The whole event is over-hyped with lots of excitement and Dhruv’s first question being “Is it my book or yours?” and no his excitement does not cease with the knowledge that the book is not for him. After all, we are one in our ‘bookhood’ (yep, I made that word up). Promptly, the packaging is cut off, the book is taken out and the sweet smell of the pages of the book is sniffed which provides us the ecstasy similar to that of a drug addict. Crazy, I told you.
- Dropping in random references to the lines and stories from the books read, in the midst of everyday mundane and interesting conversations. The stories and characters spill out of the books and become a part of us. While watching a bull fight on TV, we name the bull ‘Ferdinand’ and start looking for someone with flowers on hats in the scene (The story of Ferdinand by Munro leaf) or when asking Dhruv for the nth time to behave in the library, I ask him to roar like a lion and be kicked out of the library (The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen) or the times talking about thieves, naming every thief as ‘Zot’ (The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo).
- Once in a few days, waking up in the morning and declaring it to be the ‘Reading Day’ meaning I will be perched in some corner of the house for the whole day reading away. The occurrence of ‘Reading Day’ does not coincide with a Poornima (Full moon) or Amavasya (New Moon) or Karva Chauth (why did I mention it, I don’t know) but actually when I reach the middle of the plot and the story turns super interesting, in short when the book becomes simply unputdownable. (The grammer prompt of wordpress asks me if I really want to use this word ‘unputdownable’ because it suggests correction for it as ‘unpardonable’.) Besides me, on such a day, sits Dhruv with all his books pulled out of his book shelf and scattered around, reading and figuring out the words and frequently prodding me to help him read a difficult word. Bread, butter & jam, milk and salad stay on the menu this day.
- Discussing what he is going to read when he becomes a big boy of 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Centre anything around being a big boy and it is sure to catch his attention and imagination. He knows the other big boys by the names Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Swamy (Malgudi days) are waiting for him to join them in their adventures and then there is Alice and Anne Shirley too. I give him the details of the characters from the books I am reading at a particular moment and update him every now and then about how the plot is moving in my book. It helps because I read children’s literature most of the times.
Okay, the 5th one was not clearly a crazy one because despite all the craziness I am an intelligent person too and I had to show it off in some way.
If you know me, you must be chuckling either ways.