Why Read?

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.

Why Read? Reading Benefits For Children

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.

  • Yes, books have taken me through jungles, plains, rainforests, palaces, lands and experienced many cultures. A habit i inherited from my mom and passed it on to my children.

    My children grew up on different types of books across many ages. To start with they grew up on lady bird series,magic pot, scholastic series(clifford, the big red dog), bernstein bear series for manners and good habits, ACK’s for mythology, karadi tales( audio and book), NAtional book trust books(very economical), folk tales of different states of India for culture( a series, forgot the publisher) and many more…..

    • Thanks for those recommendations, Asha! We have enjoyed books by Indian publishers you have named and Tulika, Tara, Katha.

      Yes NBT… CBT too has some lovely books that cost next to nothing – the ones by Asha Nehemiah are our favourites. Also Pratham Books.

  • “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more
    places you’ll go.” – I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! by Dr. Seuss.

    I don’t think anyone today debates the value of reading, and even parents who were never readers themselves are trying to make their children avid readers.

    Here are some useful websites that feature the best children and young adults’ books:

    And check out some reading lists that advise you on what your child should be reading, depending on his age:

    Kritika Srinivasan

    • Thanks Kritika! Delighted that most of the books on these lists have been reviewed at saffrontree.org

      -proud contributor at Saffron Tree 🙂

  • Love the post Arundhati, I have been an avid reader all my life (thanks to my mum) and I introduced books to my 2 year old pretty early as well. Now she loves them. As you said, books are an amazing way to introduce kids to diversity (and various other concepts) pretty early in life.

  • Lovely, Arundhati! I see that you have used A’s riddle to kickstart with, as well as linked to my article on the 10 books! Thanks for the mention. 🙂 It feels good.

    • Yes! 🙂 Full circle, eh? I may have said this before – love that book list you’ve come up with!

  • Thanks, Falak. Good to know your little one has caught the bug 🙂