Thursday, February 17, 2011

How do you read a book to a child?

It has been long enough I am reading books for 'J', specially during bed times or on Weekend mornings just when we wake up. It is a special feeling to get up and read some books together without the urgency to finish it up unlike during bed time story times. At these times we read, discuss and laugh.

I have started reading for her in German, then English some Hindi and Bengali here and there, 'J' did not like those Indian language books which were not having proper illustrations, so I was always bit  cautious and did not stress her, as I have observed stress makes a child demotivated to learn, don't remember how much that happened with most of us while learning mathematics!

In last 6 years of reading together, I have discovered that it is not only the words or alphabets that are to be read in a book for children, but a lot of reading can be done while looking at the pictures, children books in German or English are so well illustrated and actually we have figured out that while selecting a book for 'J' in a shop or library the illustrations and the colors  play a big role and the style of writing like big fonts, small paragraphs, the usage of word, repetitiveness of words makes a book to be read for many times. Kids under 6 unlike adults wants to read/to be read a book many times. Although felt boring sometimes, with no choice left I did that and found that however easy a book is written in the small attention span of a child, kids figure out something new each time it is read, and after understanding the whole book they want to reread it for the feeling of comfort. It is such a pleasure to see a kid going through these concepts of learning. And I admire how they at some pages find a favorite picture for them and then spend a chunk of time imagining themselves in the same situation and create a story of their own. Also along the way they hold on some of their favorite topics, like 'J' along with fairies and princesses have special love for horses! Any kind of horse book and a project on horse makes her heart goes hum!
We normally started with a book read the name of the author and the illustrator, and then we swapped all the pages together, felt the pages, the texture, the colors, the pictures and then we took an angle of 45 degrees on a pillow (shared) and start reading a book. Then we reread and discussed a lot.  There where also many tired times when I did not want to read to her, have read only half and then quit (a phone rang) or sometimes I have read very fast (without proper expressions as she said) just to put her into bed.

Now very recently 'J' is reading big fat books as she says, like Jacqueline Wilson or Judith Kerr (German she has forgotten absolutely in spite of her mother's big dream to keep the language in her daughter's brain). 
At first I was surprised and thought she was pretending to read when she took the book called
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr, as it is with minimum pictures and small fonts. I tested her with the story as I have read it before, she was actually reading. The story is about a 7-9 year old girl, so I guess she got hooked on that. The language is very comfortable and the situations are really authentic and identifiable to readers of any age. Although written on the context of second world war, the book tells the story of a sister and her brother in a family of four. The changes they went through and how they adjusted with those changes was exactly what 'J' was looking for too, recently in her life.

It is fun to see her coming from school, changing into home clothes and taking the book kept unfinished by her last day. I also noticed that she is a continuous reader (I am like her too!) and it becomes difficult for her not to finish a book once started.

Looking at her lying on the bed and reading the book, I was just wondering whether I have lost my job of reading together with her, I was actually feeling sad, but then I looked at the books I recently bought from Tulika publications   India's very own publishers; with a aim to bring original and contemporary India centric stories to Indian kids in color and vibrancy. Many bilingual books are available as Tulika found this will be a way to introduce children of today to several Indian languages.  Ismat kee Eid is a book I recently found and bought to read with 'J' and Radha finds the circle is another book which 'J' is reading with big pauses of struggle, but the bilingual book (English and Hindi) is her new favorite  . 

'J' is struggling in Hindi, another new language in her life, and I am trying to pour Hindi words in her minds through children books available other than her text book from school. 

Taking  Ismat kee Eid in my hand, I was smiling again with the reassurance that my job is not done  yet and I started waiting when 'J' will finish the book in her hand and we will share the pillow with yet another picture book, now the journey will be to another language and to another culture.

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