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Books can be your best friends, as well as your window to the world outside. Let’s try and introduce our children to the enchanting world of books.
“My never-failing friends are they, with whom I converse day by day.” These Robert Southey verses have stuck to me since the day I first heard them from my father when I was a child. Those were beautiful times for my brother and me, especially when the onset of summer vacation meant a definite trip to the local book store to stack up and renew our library stock.
As a family we travelled a lot , which meant almost 4 to 5 trips a year and that was a jackpot for us. The railway station’s A.H. Wheeler stores were a sure pit stop every time we took a train. Both of us would hover around books, constantly ogling at them, and negotiating with our dad to let us buy many more than what was allowed, which were two books for each of us. The moment we bought them, we picked a book and a suitcase each and plonked ourselves on it, reading them while waiting for the train to arrive. I remember our mother had to literally drag us into the train’s compartment when it arrived, for how could we leave a story half-way!
Once we finished our respective stories, we exchanged the books and once all was done, when every word was read, we did what we had to do – we reread every single word. I recall how we even started a summer library once in our neighbourhood, renting out books at 25 paise per week. I think we managed to earn close to 20 rupees during that vacation.
Whenever our father travelled for work, which was quite often, he bought us books; books from various exhibitions, books by different authors, books in Hindi, books in English, books of different genres. We collected folktales, comics, encyclopedias and everything else we could lay our hands on. Later, my brother and I went separate ways, studying in different cities, then working and living in different cities and meeting only once in a year or two. In the meantime the comics were distributed among our acquaintances and eventually with frequent re-locations it became too much for my parents to keep holding on to our collection. Once when were all together, having a sort of reunion, my brother and I were given an ultimatum to take our respective books back with us. This led to a big fight over who gets what (a property dispute!) since we both wanted it all. Fortunately, it ended amiably as we ended up leaving most of them at our parents’ library. The books are still there and make for a good hangout for our children when we visit.
I was also fortunate to find a life partner who shared my love for books; we bonded over them and still do. His first gift to me was Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. As a couple we love to collect books and have already run out of shelf space. Currently, we are brainstorming where to keep the new ones that are lying in our online shopping cart waiting to be shipped. A few years ago, before my children were born, I remember him surprising me with the entire Tintin collection. My daughter, 7, is reading it now and along the way also smells its pages – something which tells me that she is a bibliophile in the making. My son, 3, has also started tearing through (often literally) his board books and I convince myself that it’s a good start.
As a mother, my biggest fear (among several hundred fears) is that my kids might not love books as much as they should. In this day and age of gadgets, gizmos and decreasing attention spans, I can only hope and pray that my children and their children appreciate their books as much as we did as kids. I try my best – I surround them with books; I read with them; and I encourage them to read on their own. Recently they gave me their Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss series to read (which I never did as a child) and I gave them my Famous Five and Fairy Tales collection.
When I was growing up I was taught that books are the most prized possession one can own materialistically, far more important than any jewellery or estate. For books have words that have the power to make one visualize, dream, and change, not just us but the world as well. As a parent, I will get the greatest satisfaction when my children also realize this.
Reading I believe, is like travelling the world and often beyond – without a suitcase and a passport. And the sooner this journey begins, the better it is.
Image a woman reading via Shutterstock
In no particular order she is a mental health evangelist, founder of www.weqip.com -
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