“Sharing the magical world of books with my daughters,
just like my mother did”
“Books are the quietest and the most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and the wisest of counsellors and the most patient of teachers.”
– Charles W. Elliot
“You know, it would be great if you could write a blog post on your experiences as a book lover and how you inculcated the habit in your daughter.” I looked askance at Rohini. Did I hear her correctly, was she asking me to write a blog post? I have a hard time writing an application – err a blog post – no way! But she insisted and assured me and here I am penning down my stray thoughts.
As for me, well I am a self-confessed bibliophile and if by way of this post if I manage to convince even one non-reading family to a pick up a book and read it to their children, my job here is done.
Let me start with my early childhood memories of reading. I remember my mother got me a set of Ladybird classics when I was in Kindergarten. Books like What Time is it, Mr Fox?, Ladybird Tales Cinderella, Snow-white and The Seven Dwarfs, among other fairytales. As I grew older my tastes evolved to all time classics of R.L. Stevenson, Treasure Island, Moby-Dick to name a few but what really hooked me on to reading were my treasure trove of Enid Blytons. I remember my first book still, Mystery of the Missing Necklace from the Five Find-Outer series. I was in class three when my mother introduced me to the magical world of Enid Blyton. She would sit me down in the afternoons, when my siblings were taking a nap and the housework was done, and ask me to read out aloud; she would explain difficult words and their usage along the way. Another great thing my mother introduced me to was the wonderful habit of consulting a dictionary. She bought me an amazing Oxford dictionary (which I still use), to be consulted when I stumbled upon a new word and she wasn’t around to explain its meaning. I devoured these books and found the dictionary very useful.
Soon I found myself reading new words and understanding their meanings simply by re-reading the sentence. It thrilled me when I could answer, in class, the meanings of new words introduced, write good essays (which were read out aloud in class), and generally have a good command on grammar and spellings.
I most definitely had to introduce my daughter Ishita to the wonderful world of fairies and goblins, pixies and brownies, wizards and giants, enchanted birds and flying horses. I couldn’t possibly rob her of the joy. It wasn’t easy because children these days are surrounded by distractions. If they are bored they have a mobile phone or a tablet to engage with. Books are a rare solution for passing time nowadays.
Then one day I came across these lines “T.V. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they’ll have with twenty-six. Open your child’s imagination. Open a book.”
It was then that I wondered to myself, “Shouldn’t my daughter have the right to enjoy the magical world of books the way I have?” And “Isn’t it boring for her to watch the same cartoons and play the same games over and over again on my iPad?” I am sure it was dreary for she was forever bored. So one day I sat her down, just like my mother did, and invited her to join my special world of books. She must have been around two years old then.
Now when she is seven, I don’t need to coax her to read, she loves reading on her own. Having said that, we cannot take away technology and gadgets from their world – so how about making their use less passive and more positively engaging?
I haven’t taken away gadgets from my daughter – the Kindle is her new friend, it has made reading so much more fun for her. She has her own special collection of books in a virtual format, that she can read anytime without worrying about carrying heavy books – especially while traveling. The best part is that she can access the dictionary anytime.
Ishita and I have started a ritual at home. To earn one hour of television she must read for one. That way she reads a book everyday. We generally sit together and read or she sits independently in her room and reads. To make it more interactive, we discuss what she is reading. It always fascinates me to get her point of view on things in the book. I can see her evolving as a person, just like I did, by way of books.
I haven’t stopped the practise of using a dictionary. Ever so often, we look up difficult worlds together and then try and use them in simple sentences for her to understand their usage and retain their meanings better. Over time she has become adept at using a new and difficult word correctly in a sentence. At seven years, she is fast to understand the meaning and application and immediately incorporates it in her language.
We do have another fun rewards programme at home where she gets a yellow star for every new word she learns and uses correctly. A little more about the rewards programme? – Well I keep that for another day!
I plan to do the same with my younger daughter Anaisha, who is two months old presently. Although, with her I plan to start as soon as she can sit on my lap so that I can show her illustrations and picture that are engaging as I read out to her.
I have rediscovered the joys of reading with my daughter. She has taken me down the memory lane of my childhood. And reading has helped us bond better. It has brought us closer as mother and daughter. And like, today, I reminisce about how my mother and I bonded over books, perhaps, tomorrow, Ishita too will.
After all the joy of reading books must be passed down to generations.