This Children’s Day, gift a child a book

by Richa Singh on November 14, 2013

Children Reading

Very recently, I came across Neil Gaiman’s article, “why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”,  and I couldn’t help but nod at each word. Being a bibliophile has many advantages; for one, you’re never afraid of solitude because the books in your bag are always there for company. But being a bibiliophile seldom comes across by accident; children must be introduced to books, and the right books, at the right age. Here are some of our recommendations.

My journey with books started as early as seven, and has not paused for a second since. Today I will speak about the onset of this journey, the initiating stages of this love where little books of huge stature found space in my library: Children’s books.

Roald Dahl, Oscar Wilde, JK Rowling and many more have found their creative juices flowing by writing stories not for adults but for children. Fairy tales of yore found space in our lives for centuries, but it was this new breed of writers who took many by surprise. Their Cindrellas were not dainty or mellowed or helpless, their evil characters had redeeming shades of grey.

Who does not remember Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl? Willie Wonka’s shady undertones of evil made us shudder and yet his ways endeared him to us all. Children’s books suddenly found them being discussed in higher circles, they were not dismissed as bed time reads anymore. Wilde and Dahl saw themselves written about in literature and history.

So much so that when Salman Rushdie underwent a rough patch in his life (as mentioned in his autobiography Joseph Anton), he went on to write a children’s book called Haroun and the Sea of Stories to break his writer’s block.

George Orwell had written Animal Farm as a kids’ fable. But then it was only when many stumbled upon its inner meaning, that his sheer intellect was discovered. It took me three reads at different times of my life to finally realise how intelligently it was explaining the world of communism. At a mere hundred pages it is also one of my favourite short novels.

In recent times, it has also figured out to be one of best tools to understand leadership in corporate life. Look back, what was thought to be a children’s fable book is now looking to be an adult’s guide map. And yet despite proving themselves over and over again, children’s book received a step sisterly behaviour far too long. Until one day a woman changed it all.

J.K Rowling.

A story of love, courage, family and friendship took the world by surprise by its simple narrations. From the ages of five to fifty all became hooked onto her writings. This Whitbread prize winner not only made its character famous, it also made her the richest author in the world.

What is it that makes the best children’s books so endearing and yet so deep? Look back at all the names mentioned. Writers of these books took time and energy to build a strong plot. A plot not plausible in a normal world and yet demanding a space in our minds at all times.

A child’s imagination is very wild and it needs to be tamed not by restricting it but by meeting it. Alice needs a wonderland to be comfortable in and Dorothy needs her tinman with no feelings in this life. As adults we lose this sense of wonder and amazement and our books can satiate us with the usual, regular dramas of life. But a child needs something that can beat them at their own game, that is creating a world of their own.

A sense of engagement. Having said that the books need to be different, they also require familiar grounds. For example, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven series became such a major hit because the family ties or the school holidays fun, that was often the backdrop, was a reality for all readers at that age.

Though I personally feel that style of writing being simple for all genres is an important point, this is especially so with children’s reads. Their understanding depends majorly on their own reading and many a times asking an adult to help them comprehend takes away the charm of the story. Let books be their own thing, something they learn and practice in their own time. For most bibliophiles, book reading is a lonely activity.

Characters you cannot forget. More often with children’s books the story is often neglected as opposed to the characters. For this I have my own theory, kids have a short span of attention time and remembering a story or plot may be tedious or not worth their time. But a Charlie or Matilda can never be forgotten. The characters create an ever lasting impression which makes them a constant companion in children’s heads. Famous five or other such series may have evaporated as mysteries but we never forget George and Timothy.

Children’s books are here to stay. For years they have percolated the ways of adults only to finally capture their attention. Initiating you into the world of books and more, forming an odd nostalgic read in nights to come.Go pick one of these, gift it to that young doe eyed girl or boy, watch them get bugged by this addiction for life. Trust me years later they would always remember you as the guardian of the old Alice’s rabbit hole.

If there was a children’s book you would always recommend which one would it be?

Written by Richa Singh

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Vanathi Parthasarathi November 14, 2013 at 7:49 AM

I would recommend The Little Princess, Little Women and the Harry Potter series 🙂 Well written article 🙂

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richasingh November 14, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Thanks a lot Vanathi 🙂 well all these books are my favorite re-reads 🙂


Richa

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Mugdha November 15, 2013 at 3:35 AM

I loved The Little Princess too. And Anne of Green Gables…. but sometimes I really do wonder whether these are too anti-feminist to read to little girls in today’s times. I mean, Sara doesn’t find a way out of her situation until she is ‘rescued’ at the end. And Anne’s virtues, as presented in the book, are mainly these: not showing female ‘cattishness’, and being ready to make sacrifices. I know ALL these virtues are great…. but do I want to raise my daughter to be like Sara or Anne? Um, no. I think Hermione is much better as a new-age heroine. Though I really wish SHE could have been the main protagonist.

I’ve been thinking of trying Pippi Longstocking……

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Vanathi Parthasarathi November 18, 2013 at 8:01 AM

I agree. Sara’s innocent and noble character would not be apt for the current world scenario. But it does give one a perspective on how the Human character has evolved since the 19th and 20th century. It is kind of similar to what we read in Mahabharata or Ramayana where the true and pious are praised for their character. Its hard to find someone like that in today’s world but one does reminisce on how people have changed since then. And children need to develop that perspective as well.

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Sakshi Nanda November 14, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Are you secretly a mother to my child? Kudos, @richasingh:disqus. For what I see above, I am so impressed. You’ve got it all right! Also, I understand why we are friends. We both enjoy good choices. 😀

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richasingh November 14, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Thank you soo much Sakshi 🙂 and I am happy that you enjoyed the article as a bibliophile and as a mother 🙂 My target is achieved 🙂

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Editor, IndiaBookStore November 15, 2013 at 3:37 AM

Hi Sakshi,

I was wondering if you could take a quick peek at our article on the best Indian Children’s books http://www.indiabookstore.net/bookish/top-indian-childrens-books-ages/ and give us some feedback on it? Thanks!

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Sugandha Agrawal November 14, 2013 at 10:45 AM

I think Children book are awesome. These days are some highly interactive pop up books. I saw a pop up book of Alice in Wonderland in Dubai. Loved it. About recommendations…I remember Enid Blyton and Tom Swayer.

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richasingh November 14, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Yes yes Pop up books have started to become a hot favoutire. But you have to agree nothing beats a good ol’ paperback 🙂

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Editor, IndiaBookStore November 15, 2013 at 3:38 AM

Hi Sugandha,

I was wondering if you could take a quick peek at our article on the best Indian Children’s books http://www.indiabookstore.net/… and give us some feedback on it? Thanks!

Reply

Sheethal susan November 14, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Thanks to all those children book authors who made us a bibliophile. All the books you have mentioned are just the right ones and I would also add Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series too along with all the Enid Blyton books.

Very well written article. Every Child deserves a chance to indulge into the magical world of words and imagination. 🙂

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richasingh November 14, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Thanks Sheethal 🙂 and you have mentioned some of the best books that our childhood afternoons got spent in..

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Editor, IndiaBookStore November 15, 2013 at 3:39 AM

Hi Sheetal,

I was wondering if you could take a quick peek at our article on the best Indian Children’s books http://www.indiabookstore.net/… and give us some feedback on it? Thanks!

Reply

kalpana solsi November 14, 2013 at 12:43 PM

One of my favourite is Alice in Wonderland.and want to read it again.I also grew up on a rich and traditional diet of Jataka tales and Panchtantra. They may not be a full blown children’s tales but enjoyed the moral and message they carried.Akbar-Birbal and Tenali Raman are also my fav.

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richasingh November 14, 2013 at 2:55 PM

kalpana they are definitely the books we all loved as children! And I often still flip the pages to read them again 🙂

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Editor, IndiaBookStore November 15, 2013 at 3:42 AM

Hi Kalpana,

I was wondering if you could take a quick peek at our article on the best Indian Children’s books http://www.indiabookstore.net/… and give us some feedback on it? Thanks!

Reply

Samita November 15, 2013 at 5:07 AM

I cannot agree more Richa…Hats off to the meticulous article you have penned down!! Ur article made me reminisce about the best part of my childhood!!
N yess bibliophiles can never feel lonely..wen one side of the world shuts down for them, they have their another enchanting world…to submerse them with all its love. The LOVE FOR BOOKS!!

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richasingh November 15, 2013 at 6:36 AM

I am glad you enjoyed it Samita. And yes books as best friends is the safest and most enjoyable option 😀 Not that I say negate the importance of real human friends instead 😀

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Joe Zach November 15, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Well written.
I won’t recommend any specific book as I believe that kids should read all types of book. (of course books meant for kids)
In school we had the “non-detailed” book to study and in the 9th std it was George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I was in awe when our teacher explained the parallel that it drew from history.

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richasingh November 15, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Wow you had Animal farm as part of course must have been fun! I had great expectations in class 12 I loved it!

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Aditi Kaushiva November 15, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Very well written! The books that we have read as kids has made us who we are today…broadening our imagination and making us enjoy life in all its flavors. Enid Blyton has always been a favorite! Nothing like getting transported to a fairy land 🙂

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richasingh November 15, 2013 at 5:26 PM

I agree Aditi, books we read have really made us the grown ups we are today. What a beautiful thought!

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Nandini Muralidharan January 15, 2014 at 5:27 AM

Very well written Richa 🙂 “William” by Richmal Crompton was also a childhood favorite for me. Actually, I still read those books and go into fits of giggles!

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richasingh January 30, 2014 at 7:38 AM

Same here Nandini 🙂 In fact each time I buy books for the kids in family, I sneak in a read for me as well 😀

Richa

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kizi3 November 24, 2014 at 7:46 AM

Thank you very much. This article is very intersting.

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