For my guest post, I am thankful to Sunaina Bhatia who agreed to do this post for me at a short notice. Sunaina Bhatia is an avid reader and a talented blogger who blogs at ‘When I stopped to smell a rose’ and ‘Mere desh ki mitti’. She is a good friend, I have found courtesy the world of blogging, and both of us share the same passion and commitment for raising readers. You have read about my reading journey with Dhruv quite a lot. Today, Sunaina will be taking you along her reading journey with her 2 children.
If you think raising a single child as a reader is a challenge, then Sunaina is an inspiration for all of us because she is doing the same with 2 kids.
Let’s give her a warm welcome.
When my son was born, among other things that I bought for him in the first six months were books. Small, colourful picture books that he started holding the day he started sitting up. It was a ‘weird’ sight for many, and some even laughed at me and considered me crazy. But I turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to all criticism and continued my ‘crazy’ shopping. I even started going to the library, a blessing in the US. Free access to countless treasures in print lured me almost every week. And icing on the cake was the library bus, the Bookmobile, that would visit every fortnight, the complex we lived in.
I was an avid reader myself as a child. I didn’t travel much, didn’t go to many places. But thanks to my parents, I was blessed to have books every now and then. From detective fiction to literature, my parents endowed me with a wealth that would stay with me forever. Books would often let me travel to places unseen and unheard of. The feeling is indescribable in words for me. It is something only a reader like myself can savour, can relate to. Needless to say, I wanted my kids to experience the same joy, the same delight.
Raising a reader is not something that happens overnight. When it was time for transition from picture books to stories, I was faced with a challenge. Children have strong personalities that is reflected in the way they play, the choices they make when they are little. It is not at all necessary that they will enjoy the same stories which we have loved. So, I would bring books after books from the library to understand my son’s (my first born) taste. After umpteen number of attempts, I finally found a book that absorbed him completely. It was titled Henry and the Dump Truck, a story of a shy boy who was fascinated with the dump truck that came to pick their trash every week. I read that book to him during daytime, and night-time, whenever he demanded. And so began our ‘reading’ time. I have read to him every day if my memory serves me right – even after he started reading on his own, because he enjoys this ‘together’ time a lot. I pick books for him even now, although he is eight and has clear interests. I don’t intend to impose my likes and interests on him but I wish to expand his horizon.
The challenge to figure out your child’s leaning is something I have faced with my daughter (my second born) as well. She has inherited her brother’s collection but she has made strong, definitive choices of her own. This reflects her taste, and boosts her individuality too. This I think is very important in raising a reader. Let them choose, and respect their choices. It is crucial in developing their confidence. So, while offering them a range of topics that are diverse and new to them, I have given them space to enjoy their princesses, monsters, Fly-Guys, Captain Underpants, and Ballerinas.
Reading sensitizes the mind. It opens up one’s perspective. It lets one imagine, it allows one to delve into the other’s shoe and look at things from a different angle. Reading together is even more important because it gives you a chance to interact, to express difficult feelings like that of anger, and loss. It also gives both the child and parent a chance to come closer by communicating the thoughts that come up while going through a story together. It tells you what is going on in the child’s mind – his worries, his concerns, his queries.
As a parent, it is so important to know what is going on with your growing child, right? And don’t worry if a book doesn’t catch your child’s fancy. It is okay. It shows that s/he has a taste. Also don’t grudge if the book that s/he chooses is not as per your taste. It ought not bother you because s/he is the reader, not you. The best that you can do is to give your child the freedom to choose. Make books accessible in your home. Give them gift of books. Read, read together. Make it enjoyable – for you and for your child.
Read together with your child
About things that are funny and wise
Tell him about things that are true
and things that are only lies
Let him imagine
Let him pretend
Give him the chance to make book his best friend…..