The Parag Initiative supports stories and books in a range of languages, themes, age groups, and genres with the goal of ensuring that children have access to good quality story books in Indian languages. A wide range and variety of books have been released through various publishers and can be viewed here: Parag New Release
Mini Shrinivasan talks to Parag about the importance of reading to children.
1. Name 5 must read authors from the children’s literature sector in India?
MS: There are new books coming out each day, especially in English. Sometimes a writer writes just one great book, and you hardly hear of them again. So, it is hard to name any must-read writers. I would say currently Anushka Ravishankar is one person I can think of. Richa Jha is another. Paro Anand’s books, especially her earlier ones. But I would really encourage parents and teachers to look at each book on its own, there are so many gems out there.
2. How should parents introduce themes like sustainability, climate change, gender equality, poverty and death to children. Can you give a few examples of books and publishers?
MS: I think these themes need to come into the day-to-day conversations between parents and children. Books can only support such conversations, not substitute for them. If parents take interest in these subjects, read and watch them regularly, then they will come naturally into their interactions with their children. You cannot interest a child in something that you are not interested in yourself, either as a parent or a teacher. My book The Boy with Two Grandfathers deals with death and its aftermath, and I have found children very open to discussing it.
3. How important is it for children to explore subjects outside of their comfort zone?
MS: I think children are quite open to everything, it is we, adults, who have discomfort zones! So whatever interests a child, let them explore it, and support them with books, films, whatever is possible.
4. What are the best ways to add reading time to children’s daily routine?
MS: Again, I would say, if adults around them read, then reading is part of their routine naturally. I remember my favourite English teacher in school, any time she had a few moments, like waiting for a bus, out would come her current book from her handbag. It created such an interest in us, and the feeling that reading is a fun and grown-up thing to do. Certainly, if a parent sets a reading time for the child, but herself chats on her phone or watches TV whenever she is free, that is not going to work.
5. What message do you want to give to parents who are raising children into readers?
MS: Become readers yourself! And secondly, spend money on good books. Not just informative books, but fiction. Plenty of good fiction, poetry, picture books, all sorts of books. Also, exchange with friends, gift books, pass books on and circulate them. Restrict screen time strictly, both for yourself and your children. And talk to your children about what you are reading, what you are enjoying. Don’t hound them to talk about their books, let it come naturally.
6. How can parents provide a nurturing environment for reading to the children at home during the pandemic?
MS: I guess what I said above applies during the pandemic too. Reading has to be so much fun that it becomes a punishment to be deprived of reading time, not a punishment to sit and read. So, parents and teachers should be careful not to make reading time a compulsory chore, but rather a reward.
About Mini Shrinivasan – Mini Shrinivasan is an educationist, teacher educator and children’s writer based in Pune. Her books have won the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar and the Hindu Young World Goodbooks Award. A jury member at the Parag Honour List, Mini is an expert in children’s literature. She enjoys working with children, travelling and reading, and tries to draw and paint, with varying degrees of success.