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Read and Grow


Reading is central to our lives. Books open up worlds remote to us that are beyond our wildest imagination. They bind us to different thoughts and cultures and help us grow. Reading is a hobby with a purpose. How early can the love of reading be awakened in a child? A child is never too small to be read to. Even the infant in the womb learns to recognise the stimulus of the mother's voice and reacts to it. So start him at the earliest.

Trust a Child's Intelligence

Here's an example that demonstrates how the cognitive process of a baby evolves. A mother would play a game with her six-month old baby, who had barely learnt to sit up. She had given names to his pipsqueak toys and would hold them out in front of him and make up stories. At this stage, a baby cannot even babble and you can't really make out if he understands anything at all.

One day, the mother put all the pipsqueak characters in a grocery bag and mindlessly asked him to remove 'Simba', least expecting any reaction. Imagine, the surprise and joy when the baby struggled through the bag as big as him and finally pulled out the right toy. Just to overrule a fluke, she continued with the other characters. And one by one, he pulled out all correctly!

A baby's cognition is always two steps ahead of what you may expect. By the same token, read to a baby or a toddler whatever you can without wondering if he will understand. He will be fitting the pieces of the jigsaw well as his keeps growing day by day. Never underestimate a child's grasp and understanding.

Books are Toys

Today, there are children's books in the market designed with great care by experts. You just have to scout around bookshops and you'll find the right ones to suit your child's age and temperament. For the two-year olds, there are the 'pop-up' and 'textured' varieties that are colourful, dynamic and interactive. These are good as an introduction. Hardboard books are like toys and can take a knock or two. They can also be wiped clean of any mush the baby messes it with.

Reading is a Game

For kids of three and four, there are the large print, read-aloud books peppered thickly with lovely illustrations. Text-heavy books with few pictures can be the parent's armoury to introduce stories and characters to children. In fact, children love being told stories with dollops of action. They love it when the characters are enacted and dialogues intoned. Such 'story games' are more interesting and productive than the cartoons and videos that they may see, and more enjoyable too. It also allows time for bonding with the parent.

A few tips on reading

  • Do not limit yourself in the choice of books just because they have no pictures or have slightly difficult words. You can get around this by replacing difficult words by simpler ones as you read.

  • Alter and adapt scenarios and story situations, if you feel they will not be received well. There will be enough time for the children to grow up and discover the classics or stories for what they really are.

  • With text-heavy books, even if you are narrating the story, let the book be the take-off point, where you go back from time to time. Let it be a prop to fan his interest in books and reading.

  • Make it a bedtime ritual. You can smooth out your child's rough edges by telling him stories with morals and good thoughts at night.

  • Children imitate and are influenced by the adults they live with. If reading forms a part of your daily routine, then you can ease your children into the reading habit, naturally.

Beg, borrow or steal!

Buying books may seem an extravagant proposition to many, but there are a lot of secondhand bookshops that can give you good bargains. At a very early stage, children are not possessive about their books the way they are about their toys. Therefore, buy them cheap throwaways from roadside kiosks. Even hand-me-downs from distant cousins and friends can be welcomed. Read them and discard; this also avoids cluttering in the house. When the kids grow up a little and are more likely to get attached to their books, that is the time to buy books and teach them to take care of them. This will go a long way in reinforcing the reading habit.

Library Manners


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