What would you call a house with a lavishly appointed living room — spic and span with not a speck of dust on any surface, excellent colour coordinated furnishing, beautiful artifacts and wall décor, an impressive home theatre system…and….not a single piece of reading material, not even a newspaper anywhere in sight?
I would call such a house a museum. Oh how I would love to mess up that room with some books scattered all over the place to give it the feel of a home!
Please allow me to deviate a little here.
When the boys were growing up, we only had a 12” B/W TV. And that was the time when colour TVs came into the homes of neighbours and friends of the boys with alarming regularity. We were in no mood to spend all that money to buy one and so we continued with the tiny set, much to the chagrin of the boys. And then one day there was this salesman at the door selling World Book Encyclopedia at Rs.19, 000 per set. I didn’t think twice before buying a set on easy instalments. I lovingly covered the volumes with cellophane sheets before allowing anyone to even touch them! It occupied pride of place in our living room. The entire housing society called me crazy for spending such a huge amount on books, but I was one happy crazy woman and the kids were happy too since they could get their school projects done sitting at home and even offer their friends the reference facility. After all, they could watch their programmes on the small TV just as well as on a colour TV, couldn’t they?
And I am also the kind of nut who chooses her dentist based on the reading material in the clinic 🙂
Coming back to the post, there are parents and parents and children and children. Let us look at some, me and mine included.
I was unlucky to visit the museum…er…house of an acquaintance during her favourite TV serial. ‘Please give me ten minutes. I missed the last episode and it is at a critical point,’ — all told without taking her eyes off the screen and with a touch of impatience. I sighed and looked around for something to read and then sighed some more. I don’t need to tell you why.
When the serial got over, she told her young daughter, who had been watching the serial along with her, to go and study as she had some work with aunty (me), before turning to me with a bright (plastic) smile. The girl ignored the admonition and continued watching after quietly changing the channel to Nick Jr.
Well, so much for the serial junkies.
And then there are those who force their children to read books chosen haphazardly or which are unsuitable for their ages as Seeta had pointed out in her comment on the previous post. It wouldn’t hurt such parents to consult someone who can advise them on the kind of books to get for their children. And since they weren’t able to read in their childhood, they could catch up with their own reading now. Better late than never, right? Today the choices in children’s books are mindboggling. There are even cloth books, which can be washed when soiled. Such books can double up as toys if the little one is not too keen on ‘reading’.
Ok, so you don’t watch TV, are a reader and you have loads of children’s books lying around the house and you tell them stories too. And yet they don’t want to read. Sounds frustrating? You bet it is. I have been there.
When the elder one was hardly a year old, he would pore over the colourful picture books for hours. I used to carry books and old magazines on our train journeys to keep him engaged. He had begun reading by himself when he started school. So I was lulled into complacency thinking that the younger one – who was six years his junior – would follow in his brother’s footsteps. I have heard that siblings sometimes are so different from each other that they could be from different families. So it was with my own. He was as reluctant as his elder brother was an avid reader. He loved stories no doubt, but was happy to listen to them. I tempted him with the most colourful picture books but beyond a cursory look at them, he left them severely alone.
However, I was persistent if nothing and tried every trick in the book.
I took them to the wonderful B.C.Roy Children’s library in Delhi where in those days children could spend the whole day browsing and reading. While the elder one spent ecstatic hours reading all the books he could, the younger one — then five — was content playing with the toys in the play area of the library or chatting with the librarian, the soft-spoken, grandmotherly Ms.Kamaljit Kaur. When I fretted, she smiled. ‘Don’t worry. He will begin reading soon,’ she gently told me. I nodded doubtfully as I sadly lacked the insight she had from years of observing children.
He was all of seven when he picked up a book on his own. It was a picture book and I was in the seventh heaven! ‘Now, it is just a matter of time before he begins reading books fit for his age,’ I exulted to myself. But my joy was short-lived as he soon lost interest.
So where is Chacha Chaudhary in all this, you ask? I am coming to that.
They say that sometimes a ray of light comes from an unexpected source. In my case, it came from a little girl in our housing society. A great fan of Chacha Chaudhary comics, she lent her friend a few and got him hooked! What an experienced librarian, a frantic mother and dozens of children reading books in our living room couldn’t do, was accomplished by a young girl, not much older than him.
I would have been very happy had he read the comics in the original Hindi. Now, Pran is a great comic story writer and his characterization of Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu are any child’s delight, but the English translation leaves much to be desired. I protested in vain for him to read other comics, the Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Spiderman…but to no avail. Chacha was sneaked into the house and promptly lapped up. I was sorely tempted many a time to banish them from the house, but the incident from several years ago was still haunting me and so I stopped myself. (What incident? Well, you have to wait for that one.)
The long and short of it is that he had started reading and I am happy to say that he has not stopped since.
Moral of the story: Make every effort to turn your children into readers, starting with telling them stories and reading books to them. But don’t lose heart if they don’t instantly pick up a book and become avid readers. It might be a gradual process or there might come a miraculous moment to make them turn to books. But no matter what, please don’t use TV as a substitute for good old books and stories despite the many dada-dadi stories that are aired, despite the cartoon characters who take hold of their little minds, despite the distraction factor that often makes it a surrogate nanny. And most of all, don’t fret it they don’t read story books. As long as they interested in reading, it is fine. Let them choose the genre as they grow older. I know of kids who like to read only sports related books or books on general knowledge or autobiographies.
And oh, before I forget, let me thank that little girl who is now a lovely young mom, and Chacha Chaudhary. Are you reading this, Little Girl?
Do you know someone who turned into a happy reader from being a reluctant one? What made them change?
Homepage image courtesy: http://www.en.wikipedia.org