''That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet'' - Jhumpa Lahiri
I have always loved reading, well reading anything that comes my way, be it newspapers, magazines, or books. In fact, growing up, our home was never short of any of these. Right from comic books to sports magazines such as Sports Star & Sports World, from Reader's Digest & women's magazines such as Femina & Women's Era to Illustrated Weekly or CSRs, opportunities to read were never out of reach.
My sisters and I used to love visiting libraries, and we probably finished reading most of the books in our town library! We devoured magazines or books written not only in English but in our own language - Assamese as well as in Bengali. Although we never learnt Bengali as a subject in school, the similarity between the Assamese and Bengali scripts made it easier for us to grasp the words. Maybe we did not realise it back then, but now I am sure that it was our sheer hunger for reading, for knowing more about the world around us and further afield, that pushed us into learning a language that was not completely alien but definitely novel!
My parents had humble beginnings themselves, but they rose above all odds to have successful careers. They simply believed that to improve oneself, one had to educate and to do so one had to read. As everyone from our generation knows, there was no internet or mobile phones back then and printed materials were the go-to for information. I never, even once, remember when any of my parents said 'no' to buying a book or magazine, even though surely, at times, it might have felt a luxury to buy them. My father was an avid reader and sometimes would tell us stories that we would listen to earnestly.
I remember one specific instance, when he told us about 'Black Holes' that existed in
space; we were transfixed, and I was probably 6 or 7 years old. That was the first time we were introduced to this invisible, dead star who had such enormous power that it would not let anything escape from it! To date, I remember watching in awe the changing expressions of his face and the motion of his hands and arms as he was describing the all mighty and mysterious wonder of the universe.
I never thought that I will be reminiscing all these after so many years. Without even realising, foundations were probably laid back then to the thought that there is a world beyond the one that we knew of. I believe books can take you to places that you thought never existed.
Today we have access to a vast array of entertainment, information, and sources of knowledge via internet and at the touch of a button. Be it videos, blogs, podcasts, audio books, at a single touch or click one can access invaluable information at any time of the day and anywhere in the world. It is just that… we now need to spend precious few minutes to listen, watch or read. For it can become quite tempting to be a click happy person, floating from one thing to another at the blink of an eye.
As young parents or as would be-parents, I think it is our responsibility to inculcate reading habits in our children from a young age. As a parent of a young kid myself, I started this practice of reading to my son, telling him stories since he was a toddler (with mama bear and baby bear stories). I do not regret those times that I spent reading to him or books that I bought or visits to the libraries. For I can see he has developed his own interest in reading, albeit his tastes have changed from mama bear to reading about dinosaurs, devouring a whole book on planes, tanks and what not. What he becomes is something that I know not, but one thing I am sure of, is that his habit of reading will stay with him forever. As he makes his journey through life, he may become lost at times and not even fancy reading a single word because of the pressures of life. But I am as certain as the existence of the earth, that when he needs solace, reading and books will be his companions, just as they are mine when I need them.
These are 5 books that you may want to gift your young reader of 8+ years to read.
Michael Morpurgo is one of Britain’s best-loved writers for children. He has written over 100 books and won many prizes. Alone on a Wide Wide Sea is a compelling story about an orphaned boy during WWII, Arthur who was separated from his sister in England and sent to the other side of the world. It is about Arthur and his friend Marty’s extraordinary journey in a new place - Australia, their hardships, finding a new family, and discovering their talent for designing yachts. Sixty years later, Arthur’s daughter Allie sets sail single-handedly in a yacht to find his long-lost sister in England.
Another powerful story by Michael Morpurgo inspired by the true story of one man who might have stopped World War II. It is the story of a young soldier in the trenches of World War I who had done what he thought was the right thing to do, back then. It turned out to have been the worst mistake and he had to put it right before it was too late.
This is David Almond’s first novel. Skellig won the Whitbread Children’s book of the year award, 1998 and the Carnegie Medal. Skellig is a story about Michael, who discovers a strange creature in his garage and his life changes forever!
David Walliams is an actor; talent show judge and a much-loved writer of children’s books. The Boy in the Dress is about Dennis who lives with his father and brother. He misses his mother and finds his life extremely boring. One day he wears a dress and then discovers that when you open your mind, your life becomes anything but boring!
Roald Dahl was a spy, ace fighter pilot, chocolate historian, and medical inventor. Above all, he is a wonderful children’s author. More About Boy is a collection of tales from his childhood. Here he shares his African adventures and the days of tasting chocolates for Cadbury’s.
You may also want to introduce your young reader to 'Milo' of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
It is about a boy named Milo who did not know what to do with himself – not just sometimes, but always. It seemed to him that almost everything was a waste of time. When Milo receives a mysterious and intriguing package through the post, all his previous feelings of boredom are banished!
As Bill Gates says in his ‘Gates Notes’,
‘Whether you are looking for distraction or just spending a lot more time at home, you can’t beat reading a book’
So, mummies and daddies, let us get our kids to read!
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