21 March, 2007

Treasured memories of being read to and reading to.....

I read about this contest being hosted by CHBM and The Kane Miller Publishing Co at Tharini's blog. The theme is to blog about treasured memories of being read to as a child or favorite memories of reading to one's children.

Here's my take on the pleasures of being read to and bliss of reading to my children.

Right from early childhood, a bedtime story had become a norm for me. A comforting ritual before gliding off to dreamland. I remember vividly how my dad used to patiently read me stories from books. At times, he used to read up on stories from Tamil magazines like Kumudam or Vikatan and used to narrate those stories to me.

My dad first introduced me to a book during my primary school years. During the primary school years, I remember how very often I used to curl up in a corner of the balcony, in the close and comforting vicinity of the various potted plants there, with a copy of Chandamama in my hands. And it used to transport me to a different plane altogether – a totally different world, a fantasy world.

Once I was comfortable with Chandamama, next came Champak. On my next birthday, my dad subscribed to The Target Magazine and the following fortnight, I remember being on top of the world when the postman delivered The Target Magazine home with my name written on the cover. I remember coveting that cover even. If my memory serves me right, it should still be around – inside a copy of a much thumbed Websters Dictionary.

After this came the Enid Blyton stage - when I was nothing short of addicted to The Famous Five. Very soon, the craving extended to books like the St. Clare's series and Mallory Towers. This was soon followed by the Secret Seven, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.

Once I was started college, my dad gifted me with a membership to a very old and famous library right in the heart of Bombay - The J.N.Petit Library. My visits to the library got more frequent once I started working, as my office was a stone's throw from JNPL. Each and every Saturday, I would spend hours in the library poring through books and perusing and scrutinising the library shelves, trying to decide upon which books to borrow. The lot many hours that I spent within the confines of the huge J.N.Petit Library were some of the most idyllic ones during those days. Surrounded by books and book lovers, the only sound in the library used to be the crackling of the old, yellowed pages on some books and the cooing of pigeons on the windowsills.

As far as reading to my children goes, Aparna had always been interested in books. Even as a toddler, what could keep her occupied the longest was a book and not a toy. Nowadays, when she has some free time, she is seldom seen without a book in her hands. And a new addition to her wardrobe in the form of a pair of glasses has in no way diminished her enthusiasm as far as reading goes. And she is now totally out of the picture book stage and is onto chapter books. And when we visited Bombay during Dec 2006, the trip proved to be an absolute windfall for Appu as far as books were concerned. Her book collection now consists of these books too.

When I saw her totally immersed and engrossed in “Famous Five go to Mystery Moor” the other day, I could not help but take a trip down memory lane.

As a toddler, kindergartner and even as she started primary school, we used to read to her and she used to love books. Once she started Primary One, there came a stage when she had to start trying to read books on her own. And that was when she realised that it did indeed involve a lot of effort. I still remember the first book that her teacher had sent home from school – The Little Pelican. Big block black letters to make reading easier for the kids. But she just did not want to go that extra mile. “I cannot read this” “You read it to me” “It is too difficult” “I don’t know how to read this” were comments that were indeed heard very often during that phase. I still remember how we used to sit together and I used to help her put the phonics together and form the word and say it aloud. Once she got the hang of the whole thing and once the going started to get just that wee little bit easier, she just would not let go. Books, as they always do, opened up a totally new vista. Books provided her with a totally new landscape in her mind, on which she was free to paint her own pictures with splashes of colours as she pleased. It opened up a whole new world.

Abhay, on the other hand, as a toddler, never really exhibited the same kind of interest in books – except that he realised ripping paper could be quite a pleasurable task. At that stage, even with his board books, if I could hold his attention for a full 10 minutes, it was an achievement of sorts. And there was a phase when he did not want to have anything at all to do with books. The sight of a book used to bring forth a “NO” accompanied by a furious shaking of his head.

Once he found that he was not being forced into it, slowly but surely curiosity got the better and once again there was a renewed interest and gradually, bit by bit, his friendship with books began to grow, it began to take shape. And books began to grow on him. The pictures in the books, the colours, the stories, the pleasure of having a story read to him, the coziness of the entire setup was, I guess, too good to be missed out on.

Now when I hear him say “Go to library and get new books” it, for me, is like hitting the Rewind Button and going back a few years because this was the same chant I used to hear from Aparna. Abhay just cannot have enough of books now. And what is read to him, he retains.

When I look at both of them today, with all of their attention riveted and focused on the book in their hands, totally immersed, wrapped up, captivated by the words, the pictures – the book, in its entirety – my feeling is one of satisfaction.

When I look at the joy, the delight that books bring them, when I catch that look of total rapture on their faces as they find new books waiting for them, the excitement, the anticipation on their faces as they wrestle with their little yet infinite minds about the treasures that the books hold for them – the feelings that are topmost on my mind are that of complete gratification and pure delight.

Like Charles W. Eliot once said

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers."

1 voice(s) said so:

Just like that said...

and I think a love of books and reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children in these days of tv and computers and whatnot