You might wonder why suddenly I am fixated on reading for children, the answer to this is quite simple. Reading opens up a world of magic and imagination; the fact that comprehension, vocabulary, sentence structure, spellings are also helped is icing on the cake. This post is about my perspective as a parent as to what books, will entertain children as well as instill in them a love of reading.My only qualification for writing this post is that I have been in love with books all my life. So in order to get some credibility, I decided to take some help and advice from Ms.Richa Prakash, an academician. She gladly recommended some books and also shared her viewpoints to solve some of my doubts.
So here goes……
Tinkle/Amar Chitra Katha (Ages 5 onwards): Tinkle was one of the first names Ms.Richa recommended. Tinkle is something which almost all of us have grown up with. The characters are endearing (Shikari Shambu anyone??), there is humour and they teach us good morals as well. Amar Chitra Katha or ACK is one of the easiest ways to introduce children to Indian mythology and Indian heroes. The fact that Kush has rated Great Freedom Fighters as one of his top ten books and Rishabh is reading Paramvir Chakra drives home the universal appeal of these books. As both of them are comic books they are colourful and easy to read. (Trivia: For Bahubali fans, even the director was inspired by ACK in designing his city)
Abridged Classics (Ages 7 onwards): Abridged classics are highly recommended by Ms.Richa and I agree. Abridged classics are a great way to introduce great works in an easier format to the children. I had specifically asked Ms.Richa why these books are important and her answer was pretty clear, good vocabulary and great stories. Even in this day and age, when English has become the main language for communication, these books help in showing children the beauty of the written language as well as in making them more confident readers. Some of my favourite abridged classics include Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and Oliver Twist (we bought a lovely abridged one for Kush last year making it easier for him to read).
I will add a note of caution here, there are too many cheap imitations of the abridged classics in the market you even get them in the dollar stores, so do go through it once before handing it over to the child, else you might do more harm than good. Another point to take care is that the print is easy for the child to read plus please do not rush the child, if the child is not understanding the book or finding it a difficult read, let the child give up and come back to it later.
Harry Potter (Ages 10 upwards): To quote Stephen King “Books are a uniquely portable magic”. No other series comes even closer to Harry Potter books in opening up a world of magic for children. According to Ms.Richa, this book opens up a world of imagination as well teaches them about empathy and acceptance of something which is not the norm. J.K.Rowling has created a believable, alternate magical world, which co-exists with our world. Her descriptions of Hogwarts/Quidditch are so enthralling that the child actually wants to attend Hogwarts, even though the child might be a muggle!
You must be wondering why I have kept the age group for this book as ten upwards. My reasoning for this is that once a child reads the first book in the series, the child wants to keep reading the series. While there is nothing wrong in that, with Harry Potter each progressive book is darker, making books 6 and 7, in my opinion, unsuitable for children younger than 12.
Geronimo Stilton (Ages 6 upwards): Another series highly recommended by Ms.Richa is Geronimo/Thea Stilton which is quite popular with children. The main reason for recommending is that these books introduce the children to the world as well as entertain them.
Indian Authors (Ages 8 onwards): As an expat parent one of the worries I face is how my children will learn more about Indian history and culture( and love India the way I do). Thankfully there are excellent books written by Indian writers which bring India alive for children. Authors like Sudha Murthy, Ruskin Bond and R.K.Narayan bring alive the small villages and towns of India for children. Another favourite Subhadra Sen Gupta’s “Let’s Go Time Travelling” is one of the best books I have come across about Indian History written in a very breezy manner. Some more books on my favourite list include Fun In Devlok- Devdutt Pattanaik(about Indian Mythology);We, The People of India -Leila Seth ( about the constitution of India); A Flag , A Song and A Pinch Of Salt – Subhadra Sen Gupta ( About the freedom heroes of India);The Gita For Children – Roopa Pai ( highly recommended to introduce The Gita to children,click on the link for my review https://undecidedindubai.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/the-conversation/)
Enid Blyton (Ages 5 upwards): One might think that the simple stories of Enid Blyton might be obsolete in this day and age of digital media, however, I beg to differ. The stories have a timeless appeal and teach children imagination (Enchanted Woods), teamwork (Five Find-Outers) as well as getting along in whatever the circumstances (Mallory Towers, St.Clares).
David Walliams/Andy Griffiths (Ages 7 onwards): These books resonate with children as they have loads of humour and are illustrated making the books more approachable. In Andy Griffith’s books, the boys build and keep expanding the tree house, opening up a world of imagination for children. David Walliams, on the other hand, introduces seemingly mundane topics, like a boring granny, but there is the wisdom of life in his books. The children get exposed to the facts of life, for example in Billionaire Boy, children in a subtle way realise that money can buy you everything but a friend.
Roald Dahl (Ages 7 upwards): BFG anyone?? Roald Dahl is one of the most endearing children’s author and my personal favourite as well. His books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, BFG, Fantastic Mr.Fox have all been made into a movie, which does not mean that the child should watch the movie instead of reading the book. Better do both, read the book and watch the movie, and then compare! The characters introduced by Mr.Dahl are timeless, Oompa Loompa’s, Willy Wonka, BFG are all oddballs who enthrall the children. The stories have a timeless appeal, BFG’s story of being a misfit who overcomes the odds with Sophie’s help can be in any year or any place.
Dr.Suess (Ages 4 upwards): You cannot write a blog post about children’s authors and not write about Dr.Suess. When my younger one was not interested in books, it was “There’s a Wocket in my pocket” which came to the rescue. If you read any of his books on the thing which stands out is the ridiculous rhyming of words that he uses. So there is jertain rhyming with curtain, wocket with pocket …..This is what the children, especially the beginner readers love. In this particular book if you want to go to a deeper level you would realise it is celebrating the imagination of a child, what all creatures the child thinks are hidden around the house.
These are just suggestions based on my personal preferences, what the child finally reads depends on the child’s taste and reading capability. This list also does not include series like Percy Jackson /Lord Of the Rings/ Narnia/Lemony Snickets etc, the reason being I have tried to keep the list for years ten and younger. I would like to, however, emphasize the point to take the children to a bookstore/library. When children handle and pick out books for themselves they are much more likely to read the book.
I would like to express my gratitude to Ms.Richa Prakash for taking out time and recommending books to me and for clarifying my doubts. It is always gratifying when your choices as a mother are validated by someone with so many years of experience in the educational field.
On World Book Day 2017, Khaled Hosseini wrote: “ Books always have been and always will be our most effective devices of empathy- a virtue urgently needed nowadays”.
Let’s make our children more empathetic.