Early Reader Bird Catches The Bookworm

Books are a different world altogether. For me, it has always meant an alternate universe, lots of colours, different creatures and humans. For children, it symbolizes wonder, curious energy and lots of wild imagination. My childhood was brimming with words, a splash of colours and lots of friends in it. Truly, books were and are my best friends, to date. 

I speak to a lot of parents on a daily basis. Most parents complain about their children’s lack of interest in reading and prefer the screen to it. Visuals seem more fun these days for kids since it is instant stimulation and no imagination. They can see all characters as it is. Books on the other hand fuel imagination. As a child, if you have read books (especially comics), you would only find limited drawings/sketches. 

Mostly only the main character will be shown in drawings and the rest of the characters left to the imagination of the child. For instance, an Akbar Birbal story book would have maybe three or four “Navratnas” (nine gems/valuable courtiers) in Akbar’s court. Everyone who has read these stories would inevitably remember Akbar and Birbal alone. But in this visual generation, children will remember all faces thanks to a wider screen for stories. As a result, imagination is slowly running dry. 

I resonate with this thought I read on a bookmark that was given to me with a book at a bookstore: “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

There must be an optimum balance between books and screen time (lesser or least time for the latter). I can give several examples of books apart from the above mentioned. Indian mythological tales, Enid Blyton, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Nancy Drew and the new age children’s books like The Wimpy Kid’s Diary and many more, have fuelled imagination of generations.

10 Reasons Why

There is no specific age for introducing books to children. Children as young as six months can read books. At every age, books can be read in a different way. At six months, the baby may not process what he or she is reading. It will just be the pictures and colours in the book. They will browse picture books till they are two years and you can read out stories to them too. After they turn two, you can start reading out stories aloud to them. 

Just like children have a routine from brushing teeth, bathing, meals, school etc, it is good to have a nap time routine for books (no e-books or any digital books, please) as well. 

Surprisingly, children start drawing and colouring also quite early. Books open a new avenue for imagination and freedom to experiment with colours and shapes. And where do you think they form images of these? Through books, of course! Ask any child who reads to draw, you will find them doodling stick figures at early stages and later human figures and animal figures by the time they are seven. Besides this, they learn to draw their emotions as well. 

Books help children in connecting with various characters – animals/humans/any object in stories. Pictorial graphics help the child imagine these characters and relate to particular personality traits as well. A good way of making them articulate their emotions easily is to help them learn story telling and encourage them to narrate their own stories. 

Story weaving is a popular technique used in preschools these days. A book of their choice is chosen by each group of children. There will be at least three to four groups like this. Based on the story, word(s) are assigned to each child and they have to build sentences as they sit in a circle. The last child in the circle will narrate the entire story using words used by all the kids. A wonderful method to enhance vocabulary too. Older kids can narrate their own stories to the class too.
Children can engage themselves reading books any time of the day. They can never get bored (as most kids complain these days) reading. On days children do not have friends to play with, or they go to a party where there are no kids, books are their best friends. Whether it is while travelling or those rainy days, books are the best buddies. Years later, children will have rich memories of books they read while growing up. The doodles done in them will remain forever!

This is for older kids. Once the reading routine is set, children learn a lot of new words. They can start writing diaries. With an enhanced vocabulary, they even write their own stories, reviews of books in the diary. Essay writing will be a breeze thanks to the reading habit. They will remember quotes from various books they read.

A book reading time minus all gadgets is the best for connecting with your child. Your child will not only feel important if you do this, he or she will use that time to narrate their favourite stories to you. Such moments are priceless!

Research has proven that reading enhances “language growth, emergent literacy and reading achievement”. In other words, cognitive skills can be tapped in the formative years (0-6 years) through reading. Oratorical skills, emotions and last but not the least, knowledge increases by leaps and bounds through reading.

Reading is a skill you learn, which remains till your last breath. Books you read help you in all walks of life! You will always remember books you read in your childhood till the end of your life. You can build memories with every page you read. I still have books with my doodles in them and even remember when I drew them.

Thanks to my love for books that was inculcated during my childhood, I have done the same for my son who is turning 8 this year. I began reading him books ever since he was 6 months old. Now he loves books and says they are his best friends! He doesn’t even mind re-reading books and narrating characters giving it his own twist.

Gift your child this best friend and you won’t ever regret it! Someone has rightly said “A book is a gift you can open again and again” just like good memories.

Follow Priya Rajendran

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