In the month of November, India celebrated Children’s Day. It can be said that children are the future of any country; they constitute the resource which will enable a nation to achieve great heights. All this said and done, it is extremely important for these children to be brought up in a manner which will enable them to be ideal citizens of the country. Unfortunately, today most parents do not have any time for their children, and thus, most of the children go astray without proper guidance. With access to information and technology, these children end up in many cases receiving information that is not meant for them, which affects them psychologically.
India has always been known for its rich story telling traditions. A K Ramanujan, a scholar of Indian literature, had said in a delightful manner that in India stories are “just a grandmother away”. Story telling kindled in the children a sense of imagination. For they just heard the story by word of mouth, and how they visualised it in their mind’s eye was without boundaries. And as we all know, imagination fosters inventions. But today the story telling tradition finds no relevance. In the modern nuclear families, the grandparents are too far away to tell stories, and the parents cannot spare the time.
Children prefer digital world
Another very unfortunate turn of events is that books, which are supposed to be a man’s best friend, are slowly fading away from the lives of the future generation. Today, children are more drawn towards the digital world where they have both the dimensions – sounds and visuals. Most of the children today do not have the patience to sit and read a book, because it does not have any visual effects. They want to be fed stories through the ears as well as the eyes.
Reading a book stimulates the qualities of patience, imagination, concentration and the ability to perceive things. Absence of the habit of reading indicates the lack of all the aforesaid qualities in most of the cases. We as parents have to cultivate the habit of reading in our children. It helps the child to evolve into a better personality.
Different kinds of children’s literature
Children’s literature can be segregated into three genres, viz., socially-conscious, melting pot and culturally relevant. Socially conscious books are didactic by nature, where the reader is literally given a moral lecture. They are stereotype and in most cases the plots are unbelievable. The melting pot book focuses on the universe as a whole while ignoring sub-cultural differences. The most promising genre is the culturally relevant books which consist of realistic themes and strike a chord with the reader. The last genre presents real images to children reflecting their own realities in language, style, plot, characterisation or setting.
Children’s literature in India
India is fortunate to have gifted writers like Sankara Pillai, Arup Kumar Dutta, Poile Sen Gupta, Paro Anand, Swapna Dutta, Sandhya Rao, Vayu Naidu, Zai Whitaker, Kalpana Swaminathan. Their books are indeed distinctive, where the narrative voices are strong with imaginative integrity. These books are not limited to children, for the adults would also enjoy reading them. The works of writers such as Sukumar Ray, Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, R K Narayan, Ashokamitran, Basheer (in regional languages), Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Ruskin Bond talk to readers, young and old, at different levels, in different voices. Last but not the least, The Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two great epics, have held the interest of readers of every age, since time immemorial. These epics can be read time and again and every time one gets to learn something new.
There are some books which were originally not written for the children but they love reading them just the same. Some of them are Panchatantra, Jataka Tales, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and many more of the folk tales.
In the 1990s, the audio books also hit the markets with Karadi Tales. These books help preschoolers with the ability to read, where the child follows the audio track and reads along. The stories also teach the children to count, names of colours, opposites etc.
Of course, there are foreign authors also who have been winning the hearts of the young readers for many years now. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five mysteries, Capt W E Jones’ Biggles, Perry Mason, Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer are some, to name a few. The latest addition to the books by foreign authors is Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Percy Jackson.
Rediscover the values of reading
Books are no doubt a man’s best friend. But today it has taken a back seat, with the advent of the digital world. However, it is essential to rediscover the magic of reading, and instill it in the children. Reading the right books, apart from giving company, general knowledge, reading skills, writing skills, also challenge the intelligence of the reader, making them think, perceive and decide.
The Indian parents also have the habit of buying the best books and decorating their drawing rooms with them. Well, it is time for them to realise that books are for reading and not decoratiion. The books should be within the easy reach of the children so that they are able to access them whenever they want and thus cultivating the habit of reading. It’s time to give back our children the magical world of books.
Let the children develop the art of imagination and realise that it is also possible to be completely comfortable, without the company of friends and family and the digital world every once in a while, with just a book and a hot cup of cocoa. Raising a child is surely not a child’s play. Let’s do it right.
It’s time for a better tomorrow.