Jul 102022
What is constant is that the books are always of their choice – #kbcInPerson with Priyanka Padmanabhan
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[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. Here’s Amardeep’s lovely virtual conversation with Priyanka! Interviewing other members is open to everyone. Should you wish to interview someone from our tribe please reach out to me at asha@kidsbookcafe.com.]

  1. Priyanka, your reading journey with Nirvana and Nivedha has been extremely inspiring. We know you are raising two avid readers, but first we would like to know more about your own reading journey. What role have books played in your life, since childhood till now?

Thank You for this question, it brings back so many fond memories. I was a child that would not hoard books or binge read novels or read all genres like other readers, but one constant love was my love for the library. I don’t know why, but I have always been fascinated by libraries.

At school, my best friend (who is also a member of KBC now) and I, would go to the library and grab Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Famous Five. In college, I would not be interested in lectures but could spend hours in the library. I would do my assignments there and I would actually just stare at the stillness in the library!

After moving out of the country, I started visiting libraries here. I would go to public and university libraries and what better than a library with a cafe! I wouldn’t go back home up until the closing time. I was new with no awareness of the local language, no friends but I was never sad or upset since the library was always there to welcome me. I started spending hours, reading English novels- thrillers became my favorite and I loved the work of Dan Brown (who doesn’t?!), John Grisham, Agatha Christie, A.C.Doyle. Once I got a grip on the local language, I would borrow easy books in German, or even translated version of books that I have read in the past. I would have a book everywhere, travelling in local transportation, waiting for a friend in a mall or standing in a queue.

Throughout my pregnancies and throughout my parenting journey, I have read books on pregnancy and childbirth and conscious parenting. After having children and joining KBC, my fondness of books has extended to picture books too. I think now books are a very important tool to guide me with the right choice of words and actions that help me to raise me as a parent and our girls.

A critical factor in my love for books, has been my awesome mother. She served as a teacher and would get us books from a book seller in a neighbouring city who would come every month. She bought books like Webster’s Dictionary and Encyclopedia, Tell Me Why series, books to practice English Grammar, and so many more. Almost 95% of the books were non-fiction books and my brother and I were mesmerised by the illustrations.

2. Coming to Nirvana and Nivedha, at what age did you start reading books to them?

We started reading to Nirvana at 3 months of age with a touch and feel book but didn’t buy any further books. We were always outdoors, and we spoke and learnt a great deal from nature. I recollect that my parents were around for her first birthday, and I had firmly told my mother that I would not introduce any books to her on my own. I reflect, what I wanted to say was that I wanted Nirvana to come up with her own questions to which then I would look for books, be it non-fiction books to support her curiosity or fiction to support her emotional growth.

Honestly, it was not until I joined KBC that I was awestruck by the power of books for young children.

There has been no looking back since then. I was so glad when Nivedha came into our lives, because then I had an opportunity to discover more of Sandra Boynton and Goodnight Moon, and Nirvana enjoyed all these beauties. I definitely encourage everyone to invest in books, there is nothing better than wonderfully written, age-appropriate books to help our children grow.

3. Share a few tips with us, on what worked for you when it came to raising two book lovers?   

My first and foremost key is to not teach the children anything. I have noticed that our children learn something when they want to learn and not when I have wanted to teach them. Following the lead of the child is what I believe in next. Every child is inquisitive. They want to know about things surrounding us, which we as adults might undermine or not consider as even a thing. Whenever we notice the spark of curiosity, we need to do the homework, and get them a book to answer the questions. Thanks to KBC, all we need are just key search words and the wonderfully made website kidsbookcafe.com gives us the right choice of books that will help us and our children.

Nivedha is such a book lover, she will go past her age group, grab a Richard Scarry and in all her excitement will say, Amma Caaaa!(For car)

What has also helped is, are the books with some activities. So, like Nirvana is more into art and crafts now, and whenever I feel that this is an opportunity for her to expand herself creatively, we will read a Beautiful Oops! , Harold and the Purple Crayon or Journey. All these books have been pivotal in enhancing her creativity.

What we also do very often, is to combine a reading session with an art or craft activity. So, may be making some sea creatures if we are reading about the ocean, or making saturn while we are immersed in the wonderful National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space.

4. What were their favourite books as babies? What are some of the must read books for the 0-2 years age group, as per you?

For 0-1 years, definitely a cloth book, which was a gift, a sound book, touch and feel book like DK Animals, Goodnight Moon.

For 1-2 years: Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La la la, Goodnight Moon, On the Night you were born, Little Blue Truck, Tip Tip Dig Dig.

5. Do you’ll have a set reading schedule? What is your favourite time to read?

We do not have a set reading schedule. The books are always reachable for the kids and whenever they feel like reading a book, they pick it up and we read together. It gets interesting when each of them wants to have their book read at the same time! Then we have to work on ‘taking turns to read’. But on an average we have at least one reading session a day – it’s a choice that the kids make. Bedtime is our favourite, because we are cosy and can spend good time with the books. I remember, we had just got ‘The Story of Life’ and that was our bedtime read with Nirvana for the longest time. Nowadays, it’s Richard Scarry’s Cars, Trucks and Things that go for our vehicle lover Nivedha.

6. Tell us a little about your typical reading session? How do you manage to read to two different age groups – do you read to them separately, or do all three of you’ll read together?

This is a very interesting question. It is hard, I admit, especially considering that the 22-month-old does not want to leave any stones unturned when it comes to competing with her older sister. That said, what comes to our rescue are the tools that conscious parenting books like that by Dr. Laura Markham and Dr. Shefali offer. So, if it’s a situation where both are really strong willed to get their specific books read, we set limits, saying something like – “we take turns, it’s Nirvana’s turn now, Nivedha you might have to wait, would you like to wait while Nirvana and I read or would you also like to join in our reading session…? And likewise for Nirvana.” Although there is some resistance in the beginning, they do understand and occasionally things will go super smooth. There are also times when Nirvana out of her own interest would ‘read’ a book and Nivedha would do the same, or may be Nirvana would pick up TipTip Dig Dig and read it to Nivedha.

It really varies, but what is constant is that the books are always of their choice.

7. How easy or difficult was it to continue to read to Nirvana when you had a newborn to handle?

Oh, how I love this question. So, I joined KBC when Nivedha was around 4 months. Nirvana had by then read Chris Ferrie’s entire collection and she loved those books. Books were our saviour. I would breastfeed Nirvana and Nivedha and I would read one book after another. We did not have as many books for the then 2.5 year old Nirvana, so we would go back to whatever we had. She was always ready to read.

I would not say that handling a newborn and a toddler is easy, also we need to acknowledge our very own postpartum recovery and hormonal imbalances which takes a lot of time. My husband was and is my rock and we cherished a great family time together, especially in the initial months when he was on paternity leave. So, he would take care of the rest of the chores and cooking and I would take my recovery as it needed and take care of the girls.

8. We remember you mentioned that Nivedha’s first words were “La la la”, which is really mindblowing! How powerful do you think books are / can be? Have you ever used a book to address a problem / issue with either of your children?

I cannot emphasize how important books are for EVERYTHING! I absolutely look forward to taking the help of books for the kids, so it could be books dealing with big emotions, or virtues when it’s for Nirvana. Does it help always? Certainly not. Do they still hit/ use loud voices? Absolutely! Does that bother me or send me the signal that probably this book isn’t the right one for my child – most definitely not. It’s equally important for me as a parent to balance my approach in such scenarios (like a meltdown) with what I learn from the amazing parenting books that I vouch on, along with a picture book on feelings, so say the work of Tom Percival (his books are phenomenal) or “Do the Right Thing” (a Berenstain Bears book). There are times when NONE of this works! I need to acknowledge that, and I am also very mindful when I need to respect their behaviour which comes around with the age and try to work harder on myself and on books that they feel connected to.

9.  What is the funniest book you have read with the kids?

We have loved Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems, Elephant Pants by Smriti Prasadam Halls. Nirvana has a witty bone, so for sure this is a genre I want to explore more and add to our funny books collection.

10. What is Nirvana’s favourite genre? Does she ever ask for more books on a particular topic?

Nirvana is someone whose Genre is ‘Inquisitiveness’. She hasn’t yet showed a disinterest in any genre that we have touched by far. She would ask a thousand questions about everything she sees, and she will also cross-question anything in a fiction book. There might be a book which she doesn’t like for now, or a book that she loved some time ago, but doesn’t approve of now, or a book that she didn’t want to explore earlier and has suddenly got her interesting. She can really surprise me with her choice of books and what she wants to read at a given point of time.

11. When did you join Kids Book Café, and what impact do you think the community has had on your reading journey?

I joined KBC in September 2020 and the impact that KBC has had in our lives is unparalleled. I say this with genuine fondness for the community and for the values that the community believes in. I mean who would believe that there is a book for everything?! Words will always limit my emotions and my expressions when it comes to the fact of the immense gratitude I have for dear Asha Chaudhry, our amazing amazing founder who not just created a community for book lovers but if I could say, has revolutionalized the reading journey for generations to come. I am stunned when I see people like Asha (okay, I haven’t met anyone quite like her!) who see a problem and work on solving it! I can only wish Asha my love and gratitude and let me tell you, not just me, I think we will be a part of KBC family for generations to come! WE LOVE KBC.

About Priyanka:

“I am a mental nomad and I get to experience the wealth each day offers to me from our two wonderful children, Nirvana, 4.5 years and Nivedha 2 years. They awaken me every day to my inner voice and for that I am very grateful.

I have loved reading and being around books all my life. Travelling has always taught me the best life lessons. I love meeting people and I am attracted to beautiful, wide, big and bright, coming ‘straight from the heart’ SMILES! I love animals and I find beauty in every creation.

The last 4 years have been phenomenal in my life, since I discovered children’s books. I am amazed at how much children relate to characters that are beautifully portrayed in these books, all thanks to some amazing authors and fantastic illustrators. My children are never satiated by the number of times we read a beautiful book, one non-fiction book raises the bar for questions and that leads to us getting another book! It is heart-warming when my 2-year-old who just started saying her name could say ‘Boynton’ while referring to her favourite author.

If there could be a real investment in your child, gift them your time and access to books. It is magic in every sense! I live through it every day.”

[Note from Team Kids Book Café: For your convenience, affiliate links (MARKED IN PINK) to some of the book titles & images have been added to enable you to buy the books from AMAZON, should you wish to! A very small amount of money comes to kidsbookcafe.com when you purchase a book via the amazon affiliate link provided (at absolutely no extra cost to you!). Do let us know if you need information about other children’s books by writing to asha@kidsbookcafe.com.]

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