Reading to a child helps improve language skills, pictures spark imagination'
'A child's brain develops maximum from the age of 0-4 years'
'Reading to children, even before they can understand, teaches them to associate books with love and affection.'
These and many such pieces of advice float around ever since you have a baby. While a mother is totally occupied meeting the nutritive and physical health demands of the little soul, there's no second opinion about the fact that the mental health of the child is important in equal measure.A mother, however, hardly finds time to even find out how to begin, which books to read, how to recite poems and stories and so on… I was no exception. This very thought that I am unable to read appropriate content to my daughter was driving me restless. Admittedly, I left no stone unturned in checking sources, reviews, blogs, book stores and fairs, peer moms , in an endeavor to get the right books . I then landed with a huge sea of books and information … So here are a few tips and nuggets that may help you start without reinventing the wheel.
1. If you are reading to an infant every night, or at a fixed time of the day, excellent! Maintain the discipline, it helps arouse the 'book' hunger at that time everyday just like his/her hunger for food. The sooner you start, the better. At this stage, you could read any children stories, rhymes or folk tales because an infant below 6 months even may not look at the book. Your reading activity is all he/she is watching coupled with the infused magic of Mamma's voice falling in their ears.
2. By the time, the child starts crawling, cruising, attempting to walk etc, they itch to touch everything and put in their mouth. At this stage, you can read 'to' the child despite what the child is doing in the room. The expectation that the child must sit in your lap and look at the book, is a bit misplaced. The reading activity at this stage, will at best inspire the child to do what you are doing, in future. Anyway, vocabulary, your expressions, your voice modulation will already start making their first impact on them. If you are lucky, and the child already wants to turn over a page, then you could offer the laminated Board books with touch and feel options (your child's attempts of tearing the book will be futile), having different textured embellishments – shiny, furry, scaly, scratchy, sandy, smooth, silky rough, different fabric feelers etc…
3. If all has been well until now, and the child turns about 14-15 months, he/she would already be indicating that he/she wants a book in her hand. Here's the time that you must not miss to fuel his/her interest. There are a whole range of toddler books (mostly board books) on animals, fruits and vegetables, colours and shapes, counting, body parts etc. There are many from foreign publishers which have short story lines, inbuilt sounds (very attractive feature for the child), character cutouts within the book, lift the flap and see pictures along with peek-a-boo themes, ones with little mirrors and other innovative add-ons like a puppy's tail pull out. I must say that many of these are expensive and stocking too many at home may not be a great idea. Subscribing to a library with a good collection will be prudent. At this stage, one must pick books with minimum text (just 1-2-3 words per page) and more pictures and gradually get the child to identify what he sees. This will naturally happen to some extent as he correlates with his other toys, what he sees outside his home etc. The mother must also consciously seed in those words during the rest of the day for better cognitive and vocabulary development. The only challenge is to keep refilling or recirculating the collection as they lose interest in a matter of minutes and also their interests keep evolving. Until 2-2.5 years of age, this may continue. The net duration of reading may not last more than 15 minutes at a time though.
Some recommended publishers for toddler books: Dreamland publications (you can order online from their site and are reasonably priced), Sterling Publishers, Tulika Books, Ladybird Books, Penguin, DK Publishers, Parragon Publishing, Pegasus, baby genius, baby einstine, Priddy books. There are several other books printed in China, Malayasia, Taiwan etc by publishers from UK, USA like Lorenz Books, Holland Enterprises, BRIMAX publisher. Most of them publish a series like 'Hippo and Elephant', 'Parrot and Monkey', 'In the Ocean', 'In the town', 'On the farm', flowers, patterns, weathers and so on…
A couple of Facebook groups are offering good deals on second hand books:
1. Deals for picture book lovers: run by VeenaRegit
2. The Book Room: Virtual (New/Used/Re-used) bookshop for children/adults: by TamannaDalal
Some recommended authors for 2-5 year olds: Dr. Seuss (has different stages of reading), Julia Donaldson, Sandra Boynton, Eric Carle, Oliver Jeffers, Laura JoffeNumeroff, Mary Ann Hobberman, Maurice Sendak, Bill Martin jr, Jan berenstain, Giles Andreae, children's songs by Raffi, Pepper series, Bubbles series, Bruno series (the latter series are one line/page stories conveying moral values). Most of them have a way of writing or presenting that appeals to the child – Rhyming lines, funny words , repetitive sounds and catchy illustrations etc. Many of them have different titles for snack time, bed time etc.
Amazon has a good collection and their deals make you buy them!! It is better to check the Reading level before buying.
I also chanced upon some very inexpensive thin, palm sized books from a local whole seller, published by Alka Publications.There are several other Indian authors publishing titles for children. Flipkart is the place to look for them. Books for coloring are good too, as the 'Read' and 'Do' habit are inculcated together.
You could also read out stories or poems in your mother tongue. This helps not only in connecting to your roots but in developing skills of another language, particularly for those residing outside the state.
4. Beyond this age, it will only get easier and the universe larger as the child gets introduced to alphabets and numbers. The next level is to know and read 2 letter, 3 letter words. For this category, there are several books by Indian publications, it is better to reach out to a local book whole seller/ library or you may come across some distributors with a good stock through your kids' schools.
Children's magazines: Magic Pot, Highlights genies, Robin Age
Others: Noddy books, Other Enid Blyton series for young readers
Books for 6 year old onward: We have to be guided by the child's interest but there are many like – Panchatantra folk tales, Disney tales, Arabian Nights and so on. Depending on the complexity of the text, the book may be selected.
A must-visit super attractive source of books is the Kolkata Book fair, held in late Jan – early Feb every year. If you get a chance, treat it as a rare opportunity and hoard whatever you can manage to get from there. They have a sea-size collection for all age groups and at attractive prices.
PS:The list above is not all inclusive and one has to keep exploring in tandem with the interests of the child. This is based on cumulative experiences of me and my friends.
We should never hold ourselves back thinking the child will not follow something. A child's brain is absorbing and growing at a phenomenal rate so we must never underestimate the power of feeding his brain through books. If reading is made a habit at a tender age, parenting after 7-8 yrs becomes easier, as the child sets out to explore the world on his/her own.
All pictures in this article are by: Out of Focus Pictures
Also read more about: Activities and books for a growing infant, A list of books and activities for a growing toddler, Top 5 Books To Read At Bedtime, Children's Books For 6 Months + Child, 7 popular children's classics to spark the love for reading, Your Family photo album could be the first book you read with your child!
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