– Usha Mukunda has been an advocate of open libraries for children for over 35 years. Co-founder of the Centre for Learning, Bengaluru (estb.1990) and consultant for the Parag Initiative of Tata Trusts, she works with several rural, government and community libraries across India
Reading is transformational for children and adults. For children, it brings wonder, joy, and a deeper and wider understanding of the world around them.
All children need to experience the joy of reading. Reading is to be alive, to breathe in fresh air, to drink from fresh-water springs and to meet aromas and tastes familiar and enjoyable as well as new and enticing.
Reading is transformational for children and adults. For children, it brings wonder, joy, and a deeper and wider understanding of the world around them. Their first contact with reading has a touch of comfort because it is about things and people familiar to their young minds. Gradually as the reading habit expands and deepens, children are ready to venture into new worlds of imagination, environments and situations. At the same time, reading and reflection begin to go hand in hand as children explore their inner and outer worlds. Through the act of reading children meet and engage with other minds.
These minds (authors and illustrators) are not only communicating directly with their readers but also expressing their creativity, innermost thoughts and feelings. Such a deep sharing is possible only when a person reads. As Julian Barnes, British writer and winner of the Man Booker Prize, aptly says: “Nothing can replace the subtle communion between absent author and present reader.”
Written language in any format has an enduring quality that cannot easily be replaced. Reading stimulates questions, sparks off ideas and starts a chain of imaginative thought. Through the simple act of reading, children and adolescents are expanding and enhancing their sensibilities. They are responding to strong themes, evocative language and becoming aware of issues they cannot afford to ignore. Reading also enables them to get in touch with their own emotions, fears and joys. While reading, they also learn to read between the lines, understand nuances and complexities, which authors embed in their writing. Most important, children learn the skill to be critical of content and form — to discern when there is insincerity or condescension.
Reading also expands the vocabulary of children from age six upwards for 20 years, and makes their writing more expressive. After a period of regular reading, children will be able to discern between fact and opinion, and there is the emergence, like a butterfly, of a thoughtful reflective individual.
Encouraging children to read fiction and non-fiction from young age prepares to grapple with concepts, ideas and processes. This will equip them with the skills to make sense of the contemporary newly-emergent 21st century world and build stamina to read works of non-fiction in later life.
Suggested reading for 6-12-year-olds
- Who will be Ningthou? by Indira Mukherjee; illustrated by A.V. Ilango
- The Why-Why Girl by Mahashwetha Devi; illustrated by Kanyika Kini
- What Shape is an Elephant? by Rumi; illustrated by Feroozeh GolMuhammadi.
- Untold School Stories by Mohammed Khadeer Babu
- Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter
- Magnificent Makhna by Aravind Krish Bala; illustrated by Sandip K. Luis
- Eidgah by Premchand.
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- Chuskit Goes to School by Sujatha Padmanabhan; Illustrated by Madhuvanti Anantharajan
- Sadako and the Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
- I didn’t Understand by Mini Srinivasan
- What is a Girl? What is a Boy? by Kamla Bhasin
- 10 Indian Animals that are Under Danger by Ranjit Lal
- Mukand and Riaz by Nina Sabnani.
- The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond.
- Jahanaara — The Diary of a Princess by Subhadra Sen Gupta.
- I Will Save My Land by Rinchin.
- Hiroshima by Lawrence Yep
- Why are you Afraid to Hold my Hand? by Sheila Dhir
- Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayan.
- Bhimayana — A Graphic Story by Durga Vyam and Subhas Vyam. Text by Srividya Natarajan and S. Anand
Also read: Reading fantasies with children