Books are our best friends. They broaden our knowledge base, enlighten and entertain us anywhere and anytime we want. Children who love reading stay away from the ills of television and video games. It is a good idea to make a small library at home where children can immerse themselves in the wonderland of books whenever they wish to. They can also share and exchange books with friends. Books are also like investments which if used and stored properly can be passed on to the next generation as precious heirlooms, while you continue adding new books to the collection, whenever you spot an interesting one. When you read out stories to your children and grandchildren from the books you had once read as a child, fond memories come floating back and we find sharing the same values with our children. Children too find it interesting to read the books they learn that their parents too read when they were small like them!
In order to create and sustain interest in books, select age appropriate books for kids.
Infants are attracted to colors and pictures. They are too young to listen to a story, but they do react to big, bright pictures and colors of cartoons smiling at them. Get books which have big illustrations and thick, hard pages which the baby can change easily. Allow the child to just gaze at the pictures whatever way she likes. Even turning pages is a new interesting activity which she will enjoy. It is all merely play at this age.
When children reach the age of one they begin to understand language and try to speak too. She understands what parents say to her. But still her attention span is too short to listen and understand stories. Select books which have mainly pictures depicting a story, with one or two words expressing the character in the picture. One picture should cover one page. Books for children above two should have one or two lines, but still the pictures should do most of the talking and expressions. Allow the child enough time to look at the pictures, as at this age visuals are more attractive and easier to understand.
This is the age when children enjoy reading books where animals, birds, flowers, cars and tables talk and play like them. It is much fun to learn about good deeds and manners from a baby monkey or a baby bear. Bubbles monkey, Bruno bear series with books like ‘Bruno goes to school’, ‘Bubbles finds a ball’, ‘Bruno likes to draw’ etc. are attractive picture books for children.
Three to six years old children have developed sufficient understanding of language and therefore can follow stories. Illustrations are still very important for creating interest and better understanding of the stories. Every page should have enough illustrations to support the narrative. Children keep relating the story with the pictures as they read or listen to the stories.
For children who have begun reading and writing at school, search for books which aim at developing understanding of phonics. There are books like ‘Cat and the net’, ‘Goat in a boat’ etc. which weave a story using similar words. This make learning to spell, fun.
This is also the time to imbibe good values in children. Aesop’s fables, Panchatantra, Jataka tales are good collection of stories which teach morals through animal characters. Select for books with stories which tell children about health, hygiene and moral values.
Three to six years is the age when children have vivid imagination. The world is a blank canvas for them on which they can paint anything they imagine! Nurture the seeds of imagination by introducing the innumerable fairy tales we have grown up with, like Snow white and seven dwarfs, Puss in boots, Cindrella, The shoemaker and the elves, Rapunzell, Frog prince etc. Stories like ‘Three little pigs’ and ‘Ugly duckling’ teach the child about life’s realities in a gentle way. Enid Blyton’s ‘Noddy’ stories are all time favourites for children.
Pop up story books are loved treasures for all children.
7- 9 years
Chidren in the seven to nine age group develop interest in mystery, suspense, bravery and real life experiences. Things happening around them arouse their curiosity. This is the time to introduce historical tale, stories of bravery, simple science fiction and mysteries. Stories of patriotism and bravery like that of Rani Laxmibai, Chatrapati Shivaji, Maharana Pratap etc. and life of great men and women like scientists, leaders, writers who have inspired the world should be selected. There is hardly any other publication like ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ which has captured the imagination of children with stories of Indian mythology and leaders inspiring us.
Simple, innocent mysteries like those of ‘ The five find outers’, ‘The famous five’ and ‘The Secret Seven’ by Enid Blyton can fill children’s vacations with wonderful adventures. Nancy Drew series, Roald Dahl stories like ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, Arabian nights, Akbar-Birbal and Tenali Raman stories, mythology are a few good reads for children of 7-9 age group.
By this age children can read fluently and can move on to reading small novels. Books on historical tales, scientific inventions, fantasies like Harry Potter, science fiction, interest the children. This is the age to introduce classics like Heidi, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion king, Tagore classics, Ruskin Bond stories and hindi writers like Mahadevi Verma and Munshi Premchand.
There are several classics which can keep the teenagers glued to the books for days. Classics are a safe, gentle way to understand the ways of life and the world into which the teenagers are soon going to enter independently. The stories in the classics develop an understanding of human emotions, hardships, love, hate, relationships, failure and success. There are books which deal with human relationships like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and books full of adventure like ‘Robinson Crusoe’. Every book is a study of human nature.
List of must read books for children who love to read:
2. Aesop’s Fables
3. Arabian Nights
4. Akbar- Birbal, Tenaliraman, Gopal Bhaand Stories
7. Children’s stories by Rabindranath Tagore
8. Satyajit Ray’s detective Stories
9. Sukumar Ray’s stories
10. Classic fairytales
11. Noddy and other Enid Blyton stories
12. Enid Blyton’s ‘The famous five’, ‘The five find outers’ and ‘The secret seven series’
13. The Blue Umbrella and other Ruskin Bond stories
14. The lion King
15. Jungle book
16. Alice in Wonderland
17. R. K. Narayanan (Malgudi days)
18. Nancy Drew series
19. Charlie and the Chocolate factory
20. Adventures of Tintin
21. Archie and his friends
22. Hardy Boys
23. Chacha Choudhry
24. Amar Chitra Katha comics
26. Beauty and the Beast
27. Treasure Island
28. Tom Sawyer
29. Robin Hood Tales
30. Robinson Crusoe
31. Huckleburry Finn
32. The Tiger who came to tea
33. Folk tales of different states and countries
34. Sherlock Holmes
35. Agatha Christie’s mysteries
36. Shakespear (simplified editions for children)
37. The story of Doctor Dolittle
38. Harry Potter
39. Diary of a young girl
40. Pride and Prejudice
41. Little woman
42. P. G. Woodhouse books
43. Oliver Twist
44. The tale of two cities
45. Gone with the wind
46. Wuthering heights
47. David Copperfield
48. The Coral Island
49. The wind in the willows
50. Works of George Bernard Shaw
Some good children’s book publishers in India:
1. Children’s Book Trust
2. National Book Trust
3. Frank Publishers
4. Om Publishers
6. Scholastic Publishers