[Note from Asha: We’re starting a new series #kbcInPerson where a kbc member gets to interview another kbc member! The idea is to get to know our top contributing members better, as well as to learn from their reading journey. So without further ado here is Amardeep’s wonderful virtual conversation with Girija!]
- Girija, your reading journey with Baby M has been extremely inspiring. We know you are raising an avid and extremely curious reader, but first we would like to know more about your own reading journey. We know you are a Potterhead! Tell us more about the role books have played in your life since childhood till now?
Me and my sister grew up around story books. We looked forward to every school fair because that was when we could buy a lot of books. I read for fun, loved immersing myself in another universe and living the life of the characters I read about.
I used to wake up early during school days, and I remember reading a Harry Potter book for at least 15 minutes before I moved on to doing anything else. The world it took me into was so captivating and magical! I have never loved a book more and Harry Potter will always have an extremely special place in my heart.
Books took a backseat when I joined the corporate world but reading with my daughter has now brought back the familiar warmth that books bring.
2. Coming to Baby M, at what age did you start reading to her?
Everyone in the family, especially her grandad, told stories to M since she was a few days old, but we started with books only when M was about 5 months old. I remember lying down on the floor, holding ‘The Jungle Book’ up high and trying to read. M kept pulling my hand down because all she wanted to do was to eat Mowgli!
M did have a cloth book as well since she was 3 months old. She adored the cute animals on them and had long conversations with them in her baby language!
3. Do you’ll have a set reading schedule? What is your favourite time to read?
No, we have never had a schedule. M chooses the time, place, and book of her own choice. It has been this way since the very beginning. Lunch time book reading is fixed, and we read most nights during bedtime, otherwise we read whenever she brings us a book or when she asks for one. I personally love reading ‘Counting Kisses’ to her at bedtime.
4. We love the way M engages with a book – be it trying to wear a bangle while reading counting to Diwali or dancing like a peacock while reading Zayn and Zoey. Share a few tips with us, on what worked for you when it came to raising such a book lover?
Every page we read is a story – either an imaginary one or one she has lived. This helps her bond with the book and also helps retain that bond. As an example, when we read about peacocks in “Zayn and Zoey: The World Of Birds”, I became a peahen, and she became a peacock who danced for his peahen. Now every time we read or even talk about the book, she gets up and dances for her peahen.
We associate big gestures, sounds and actions to what we read. When Liam takes a leap in ‘Smile, Crocodile, Smile’, M leaps too. When Spot feeds the pigs, M feeds them too. When crocodile crunches the paper dolls, M does it too! We end up taking forever to finish a book, but the fun we have along the way is what I look forward to!
When M was younger, there were days we could not read even two pages of a book before moving on to the next. But we read as per her demands and never forced our thoughts or ways. Over time, this has helped her develop her own relationship with books.
5. Baby M’s curiosity at such a young age is incredible, but even more wonderful than that is the way you go beyond everything to look for age-appropriate books on her current topic of interests, be it volcanoes, cats, pigeons, egg yolks, horns and the most recent one, doctors! We would really like to know more about this. Do you think she enjoys a topic more or learns better through a book?
She definitely learns better if we have a book around on the topic. I do not always find an age-appropriate book for her interests, in such cases I read only the part I think she can understand. There are books that we have bought when she was only a year old, which she fully understands only now. However, the association has changed over time. Earlier, it was just about the pictures, now it is about the story or about the character.
6. The way you mix art / craft with books is extremely inspiring, especially with a child that young. Other than art, tell us about any other bookish play that you do with Baby M.
Stories play a BIG part in our book reading. For example, if the book is about birds, and has absolutely no story in it, just some bird names and pictures, we make up stories about them. Like “M is such a good baby that she goes to sleep when the moon comes, but the owl is soooo badmaash that it stays awake the whole night”. And the cutie that she is, she laughs and laughs at such a silly story. It is all about the way we convey it to her.
Following a book with practical examples always helps. We keep the book nearby when our activity is based on a book. On some days, she is interested to know how the activity is related to the book, on others she couldn’t care less. We go with the flow!
We also make it a point to associate her past or future experiences with books. For example, when we were planning to visit the dinosaur park, she already knew what a dinosaur was through her books, and she had fun coming across the dinosaurs she had read about.
When we visited the airport, we took the airport book along, so she could then relate what the actual ticket counter or the conveyor belt, or the luggage trolley looks like in the real world.
7. We remember you were looking for books to make Baby M comfortable sleeping with other caregivers. How powerful do you think books are / can be? Have you ever used a book to address a problem / issue with her?
We frequently use books to address any issues. They have been more effective than anything else we have ever tried. Of course, nothing works a 100% of the times, but the key is to stay consistent, and it eventually sticks.
For example, M used to cry every time she fell or hit something, which was at least a few times a day. When we started reading ‘Kiss Baby’s Boo-Boo’, M started applying imaginary band-aids to her imaginary wounds and the crying episodes reduced drastically.
8. As a working parent, what challenges have you faced in the reading journey?
M has variations in her bedtime reading. At times we have 20 books to read and sometimes just one. As much as I love reading to her, I have a hard time keeping my eyes open when she decides she wants to read 20 books before she can even consider sleeping! I am not entirely sure this problem is related to me being a working parent though. I love sleeping early and M is her dad’s kid. She can stay awake the entire night if I do not ask her to sleep. (Alright, I am exaggerating just a little bit!)
9. The number of authors / genres you’ve introduced to Baby M is creditable. We especially find her interest (and adorable videos) in Karen Katz and Campbell books extremely intriguing! If she had to pick one between the two, which one do you think she would pick?
M definitely loves Campbell more. The short stories, attractive colors and easy flaps work their magic, I guess. We have loads of Campbell books and keep adding more as M realizes she doesn’t have the ones on the back cover!
10. When did you join Kids Book Café, and what impact do you think the community has had on your reading journey?
I knew I wanted M to grow up around books, but was completely ignorant about the variety of children’s books you have nowadays! If not for KBC, I would have just introduced the basic books I came across on Amazon or the standard Panchatantra story books.
My knowledge and M’s exposure has grown leaps and bounds since becoming a part of KBC in 2020. I only have to ask, and the community delivers. From cats, to eggs, to doctors, to picture books, to pigeons, we have got suggestions for everything that has interested M.
M now refers to real world objects or experiences through characters in her book. We do not communicate in English at home. And yet, her English vocabulary has become impressive due to the variety of books KBC has introduced her to.
There are times when we fail to understand her words because of the baby diction, and she promptly explains it to us through references to her books. For example, once she was saying the word ‘enormous’ and we did not understand the pronunciation and kept asking her to repeat. She tried repeating a few times and then said,
‘Aga Mumma te Snail and Whale valya book madhe astat na enormous waves, te!’
(Oh Mumma, we have the enormous waves in The Snail And The Whale, remember? That word – enormous)! My words cannot do justice to what KBC has done for us. I hope the community continues to grow strength to strength.
Girija is an IT professional and a mother of a young toddler. She enjoys reading fiction and immersing herself into the lives and experiences of the characters she reads about. She loves going to bed with a book in her hand, and although the novels have now been replaced by picture books thanks to her daughter, books have been a constant. She savors every moment of raising a book lover and her heart takes a little leap every time her kid runs to the bookshelf for comfort.
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