What stays in a corner and travels around the world?
This was a riddle I racked my brains over recently. The immediate thought that came to mind was ‘Books’. The “correct” answer was postage stamp; this was a riddle after all.
That got me thinking. Why did I introduce the Pea to books at two months? Why did I spend so much time and energy scouring bookstores and libraries? I’d never really given it much thought. It sufficed that books kept him engaged and he loved reading! There are the obvious benefits in terms of vocabulary, learning, focus and imagination.
There is more.
The English countryside, the Australian bush, the cobbled paths of Venice, and towns in America – all seemed familiar to me even though I had never actually been there before. Travel takes on a whole new meaning for one who is well read. I had travelled all over the world many times over (even when I did not have the means to buy a plane ticket!) and back in time – all thanks to books. Reading had given me a world view, making it easier to embrace opportunities and experiences.
Even better, books had helped me delve deep into the minds of people different from myself, and understand their motivations. Reading had given me the gift of empathy and understanding. My journey with characters far removed from myself had made me realize that no matter where we are, who we are, all of us belong equally on earth and deserve the same respect – race, religion, gender, appearance and economic status not withstanding. Politically, socially, and spiritually, my views were formed based on all that I had read.
Which is why it is important for children – all children – to have access to books.
I have always wanted to travel to the north-eastern part of the country. Until that dream comes true, there’s ‘Bijoy and the Big River’ – a book brought out by Tulika Publishers as part of the ‘Where I Live’ series. Bijoy lives in a village on the banks of the Brahmaputra. Just like any kid anywhere, he swims with friends, draws on mud and does cartwheels. Through the eyes of Bijoy we learn about the lives of people in Assam.The narrative takes us through a day in the village where Bijoy’s father raises silkworms, his mother spins, the village folk farm and fish. Facts and photographs guide the reader through the flora and fauna, food and occupation of the people of the region. All done in a quiet tone and style that left my young son feeling immensely satisfied with the reading experience.
It is always a lovely feeling to find and share inclusive, enlightening and good reading material for kids.
Here is a list of ten books that help children learn about diversity.
Do share your book recommendations in the comments section.
Arundhati Venkatesh is an engineer by degree, a mother, an observer of life and people, a feminist, a minimalist and a compulsive maker of lists! An IT professional in her previous life, Arundhati now works for an NGO that empowers the differently-abled. Arundhati reviews children’s books at saffrontree.org. You can also find her at www.womensweb.in – an online magazine for the thinking woman. She records her adventures with her son at http://arundhativ.blogspot.com.