How I Didn’t Get My Daughter to Read

Both DH and I are avid readers. I read mostly fiction, though I’m slowly gravitating towards non-fiction. DH prefers non-fiction, and reads practically anything, including the side of the cereal box at the breakfast table.

So, it was only natural that we both were interested in getting Lil D to read too. Right from the start, I did everything that is normally recommended. I surrounded her with brightly coloured, attractive books, I read to her as much as I could, signed her up at a kid-friendly library and took her as frequently as possible…you get the picture.

Lil D, to my dismay, did not take to books at all. She seemed to like books with pretty pictures, but that was it. The extent of her reading was to flip through at great speed, and then hand it over to me, expecting a pat on the back. I watched with envy as kids her age read books that I had been reading at her age, and longed to share the experience with her.

It struck me that perhaps she didn’t like stories that much, so I bought her some “how-things-work” kind of books, hoping that might strike a chord. No such luck, though there did seem to be an initial spark. Both DH and I mentioned in passing to her how books helped, not just with information, but for entertainment that wasn’t dependent on anyone else. But nothing seemed to work. Lil D’s aversion to reading remained. I thought giving away some of her books might spark some interest, but she seemed all too glad to dispose of the pile that I had bought so lovingly! It made me feel I was doing something wrong, that I was inadequate as a parent somehow. After all, wasn’t reading supposed to be good for a kid?

Finally, one fine day, I gave myself a good talking-to. What did it matter if she didn’t like reading? I didn’t love her any less because of that. So why was it becoming such a big deal? She was a different kind of person, someone who loved touching and feeling whatever she was working with. So perhaps books were really not her cup of tea. She would definitely get her quota of information and entertainment through some other channels. She loved art, so her imagination could receive a work-out there, not necessarily through books alone. I decided then and there to back off. I would no longer pass subtle hints about books any more. I would not point out interesting books to her. I would not ask her what she had read. I would not burden her with my expectations. I would just let it be.

There was no dramatic difference once I made that decision. My acceptance just made things easier, and I suspect that though I had earlier never overtly pressured her into reading, she had been able to somehow sense my expectations. To me, it was clear that I loved her whether she read or not, so it was immaterial.

About six or seven months later, there was a wave of interest in Geronimo Stilton books amongst her friends. Lil D too jumped on the bandwagon. Knowing this to be one of those phases, I bought a few books for her which she raced through in no time. I knew that was only due to peer pressure, but I was happy for that. I stuck to my no-interference policy strictly.

Though Lil D sometimes showed spurts of interest in reading, I never caught her actually sitting down and reading at home. She was always a flurry of activity, rushing here and there like a mini-tornado. Sometimes, she thoughtfully brought home books from the school library for me to read! All in all, there was no reason to suspect that anything had changed.

The first real sign came when I had gone shopping with my sister recently — a little less than a couple of years after I took the decision of non-interference. Lil D had wanted some Thea Stilton books, and I had bought them for her. As my sister and I began our shopping, Lil D surprised me completely. She sat on a little stool for more than an hour and a half, engrossed in her books! I was quite impressed and told her so, to which she just grinned.

But what took the cake was her recent report card. The evaluations were all in line with what I knew about my little girl, but when I read one statement, you could have knocked me down with a feather! It said she was a voracious reader! I could not believe my eyes! When I asked Lil D if it was true, she nodded. Of course it was true, she had read so many books from the school library.

Now I notice that she does read a lot more than before. I catch her reading the newspaper sometimes, the back of the cereal box sometimes. Though she loves listening to music before she sleeps, sometimes she picks up a book instead. She takes a book along when she goes, so that she can read if she gets bored.

I still exercise my policy of non-interference, but it makes me so glad that I did the right thing; I gave her the space to make her own choice. It’s just a bonus that she’s begun enjoying reading; after all, I’d love her even if she didn’t.

New Definition!

One of Lil D’s friends was very recently prescribed spectacles.

I shared with her that I was exactly the same age when I got my glasses. Lil D, who is fascinated with specs, was grumbling that she couldn’t wear glasses. Her friend assured her that it was highly irritating and not in the least bit enjoyable.

I chimed in then.

“But it makes such a difference, doesn’t it? I still remember how remarkably clear everything looked to me the day I got my glasses!”

“Yes aunty,” said the friend quite sagely. “It’s as if everything is in HD*!”

*HD – High Definition, like some of the TV channels these days! 😀

Good Things…

…come in little packages! 🙂

When I went down this evening for my usual time with friends, Lil D ran up, thrilled to bits about something.

She told us about a little adventure she had had. Apparently, she and a little boy about 4 years old were hanging about one of the (ground-floor) apartments to see a dog. When the dog bounded to the window, the little boy was startled, or perhaps scared, and fell off the ledge. He hurt his face, his lips were bleeding and, according to Lil D, there was quite a bit of blood.

Lil D carried the boy to the clubhouse where she cleaned him up, asked one of the ladies there to call up his mom, and consoled him in the meantime. When his mother came and took him home, Lil D accompanied them all the way to their house because they had a bicycle too, and she carried it up for them.

Lil D was so happy and proud of herself! It pleased me, yet it was nothing unusual. It was so typical of Lil D to do what she did — she loves to help out and take care of little children, and she always shows great initiative and presence of mind. I gave her a little round of applause for her good deed and patted her on the back.

The real surprise was when I received a call from the mother later. She narrated the same chain of events, and said that she was compelled to give me a call to acknowledge Lil D’s help. She was so impressed with Lil D, and said that she had never met a kid like her. She was sure that I was very proud of her, and asked me to give her a big hug.

Sometimes, we take things for granted. I took Lil D’s behavior for granted, and it took another mother to open my eyes to what a lovely good deed Lil D had done for the day. It was typical Lil D, straight from the heart.

Here’s hoping she never finds a reason to stop swooping to the rescue! Hey Superheroes, need any apprentices? 😀

Listen and Learn

Much of the Hindi I’ve picked up is thanks to Vividh Bharathi.

True, we started Hindi when we were in the second grade (I think), and we did have zealous teachers who tried to force us to learn Hindi by, among other tactics, imposing a fine if we spoke in any other language during the Hindi period.

However, the true learning came from listening to the mellifluous songs on the radio. Notwithstanding Binaca Geet Mala, which faded in and out on scratchy tones, Vividh Bharathi was the de facto tutor. Programs like Manchaahegeet, Manoranjan, Chayageet, etc. were all looked forward to very eagerly. If we fancied a song, we listened to every program carefully, and if the song was played, we wrote down the words hastily and later practiced it with due diligence.

The fact is that most of the old songs had such beautiful lyrics, and it was delightful to spot and understand the words we had learned in school. We got a sense of the language, its rhythm, its meter and its poetry.

I realized this only recently during my night walks (yes, I am terribly inconsistent with my mode and timing of exercise!), when I began listening to Aaj Ke Fankaar again. I loved the sound of the familiar phrases rolling over me.

From Sangam

Tujhe Maein Chand Kehta Tha, Magar Usme Bhi Daag Hai
Tujhe Suraj Maein Kehta Tha, Magar Usme Bhi Aag Hai
Tujhe Itna Hi Kehta Hoon
Ki Mujhko Tumse Pyar Hai

From Aayee Milan Ki Bela

Tum kasin ho nadaan ho najuk ho bholi ho
sochta hoon main ke tumhey pyar na karun
main tumhey pyar na karun

From Gora Aur Kala

Ek Ek Din Ab Lagta Hai Ek Saal
Tere Bina Ab Mera Bhi Hai Yahi Haal
Aa Pyaar Kar…Duniya Se Dar…
Mat Door Ja…Mat Paas Aaa…
Maein Sheesha Hoon Pathhar Nahin
Koi Zor Jawaani Par Nahin

Yes, I was listening to a Rajendra Kumar special. The examples are not exactly spectacular, but there’s something about them. My own absolute favourite with respect to lyrics is Mausam’s Dil Doondtha Hai, especially the Bhupinder version, which is just out of this world!

I feel a bit sad that Lil D can’t learn Hindi the same way, by being exposed to the beauty of the language through popular songs. Instead I have to actively discourage her from listening closely to songs like:

Hey chikni kamar pe teri
Mera dil fisal gaya..
Strongly yeh jadoo tera
Mujhpe chal gaya

and

Aa Re Pritam pyare
Banduk mein na toh Goli mere
….
Pallu ke neeche Chupake rakha hai
Utta doon toh hangama ho

and

Arey aankhon mein robe hai
Pocket mein note hai
Natkhat mijaaz hai
Rangeela coat hai
Soorat masoom hai
Neeyat mein khot hai
Payjama tang hai
Dheela langot hai

But I guess I don’t really need to worry.

Going by the fact that one of her favourite songs is this lovely one, and out of her own free will, she learnt and sang this classic in class for a competition, I think she’s in pretty safe hands!

Like A Duck To Water

A little more than two years ago, I recorded Lil D’s crossing her first barrier in swimming.

This summer, Lil D has truly found heaven in the swimming pool. She just absolutely loves swimming, and is always ready to take off in a jiffy and jump into the water.

It happened all of a sudden. From swimming close to the edges of the pool like a little tadpole, Lil D began doing laps with a little encouragement from her friends. I wasn’t even around! Within no time, she was swimming across the width of the pool, her little body threading its way across the blue.

This morning, something magical happened. My little one, for the very first time, attempted a lap along the length of the pool *without stopping*. It happened without warning, without proclamation. I could see her pushing herself, striving to achieve what she had set out to do. When she reached the other end, I saluted her from my perch, clapping silently in admiration and appreciation. I could see her exhausted little frame, not quite believing what she had accomplished.

Later, as we were returning home, she said very simply: Mamma, you were there, so I tried.

Sometimes, I guess we just need to be there. That’s all.

Drama Queens

So, the skit, sorry the musical skit, is finally over!

Needless to say, it was a success, and not just because the audience comprised solely of doting family members. The girls pulled it off with consummate ease, everything going as per plan with not a single mis-step.

The whole thing began when the girls were over at my place, wondering what to do. That’s when I suggested they put up a play for their friend who was not in town. The casual idea quickly took on a life of its own. The girls took a very simple theme — a sleepover that they had had when their friend wasn’t around — and decided to enact whatever happened during that sleepover to show her what she had missed. They included a ghostly twist and sleep-walking for some masala, and sang songs from The Sound of Music, since that’s the movie they watched during the sleepover.

Everything was handled by them. I was merely the errand boy, and was under their strict instructions. I loved the way they thought of imaginative props, such as a blue dupatta for a swimming pool, and blue confetti and streamers for water. They even had costume changes, which were handled perfectly.

In a lovely gesture, they crowned their friend as the “chief guest” with a handmade crown, and gave her a box of sweets as they sleep-walked!

All in all, everyone had a wonderful time.This is such a great way to have kids stay busy and get creative.

I was joking with them that we ought to do a real play in a real auditorium and get people to buy tickets to watch them. They are so taken with the idea that they have already decided that that’s what they will do next summer!

Fun in the Sun

Barely ten days into the summer holidays, and Lil D has already done the following:

1. Attended 4 pujas
2. Attended a birthday party that lasted nearly 7 hours
3. Watched Khubsoorat, Golmaal, Seetha aur Geetha, and Titanic in 3D
4. Eaten out nearly every other day, courtesy the round-robin schedule with friends
5. Went swimming almost every day for a mininum of 1.5 hours with friends
6. Painted each nail with at least two different colours, and all nails different colours
7. Changed her ear-rings at least fifteen times
8. Visited Wonder-La
9. Visited Vishweshwaraiah museum
10. Visited ISKCON temple
11. Had her very first sleep-over at a friend’s place
12. Earned at least three major bruises while playing, with one visit to the doctor
13. Played at least six different board games with friends
14. Went cycling almost every morning with friends
15. Read at least 20 books
16. Had a couple of vaccinations
17. Learnt to identify trees (thanks to Shruti)
18. Created a play along with her friends, to be staged for one of the friends who is away
19. Made costumes for above play
20. Started writing a story

I wish I was her. 😦

The Obvious Choice

Trust Lil D to pick up The Quiz Book for Girls!

This book is full of questionnaires that help you answer absolutely vital questions in life, such as:

– Are You a Queen Bee?
– How Artsy Are You?
– How Green Are You?
– Are You a Born Leader?

Well, you get the picture.

So, there I was, armed with the book and quizzing her away. Lil D was so politically correct in choosing most of her answers that I grew rather alarmed!

We came to the quiz titled What SuperVillain Are You? She had to answer the questions with a simple Yes or No. Question Six went like this:

6. I’d love to rule the world. If I were in charge, the world would be a better place.

Lil D’s answer? (with a disbelieving snort) Obviously!

I wish I could borrow some of her self-confidence! 😀

The Mad (Un)Scramble

Finally, the Event of The Year is over!

No, I’m not talking about the Oscars. I’m referring to Lil D’s birthday party. 🙂

In keeping with the decision we had made two years ago, it was to be celebrated at home. Well, easier said than done, right?

It all started with me scouting around for entertainment ideas. I chanced upon a mystery theme, and when I mentioned it to Lil D, she was highly tickled. However, when I began researching in earnest, mystery, detective, and murder themes were all too complicated and elaborate. Finally, I settled upon a Treasure Hunt. I had to design the treasure hunt in such a way that it was contained within our apartment, the hurdles were challenging yet easy, and the house would not be overturned in the process. By the time I was done, you could have literally had my brains as Bheja Fry for breakfast!

We kicked off the proceedings with an official-looking printed invite from the Royal Society of Treasure Hunters! 😉 It had a watermark which said TOP SECRET AND CONFIDENTIAL, and instructed the invitees to arrive at a suspected site at a given date and time. It was accompanied by an ID badge. The invitation itself had words that needed unscrambling, the venue was printed in a mirror font so that they needed to view it in a mirror, and a password was written in white crayon, over which they had to rub a highlighter. An official looking ID card too was sent out (I got those ID card holders with lanyards from Staples), on which they had to stick their picture and sign. Needless to say, this made the kids intensely curious! A couple of them informed us diligently that they had already affixed the photo and signed well in advance. You could tell how important they felt! 😀

When they arrived, it was Lil D’s idea to “scan” their ID badges using a cash-register toy of hers that gives out a beep. They were also required to give the password. I think security was a bit lax though — some made it without the password 😉

The Treasure Hunt began in the living room. The girls were divided into colour-coded teams of three members each, and given bags of their team colour with their Treasure Hunter’s kit. This included a small notepad, a pen, a compass, a magnifying glass, and a glue stick. Each team was also given a cipher sheet.

They received their first “package” in the living room, which included directions to their next room, and a six-letter coded password that was in six pieces. They had to (a) decode the letters of the password using the cipher sheet and (b) unscramble the password. They then had to use the magnifying glass to read the directions, which was in very fine print, and then use the compass to follow the directions. They would then land in the next room. There, members of the “organizing committe” (meaning family and friends roped in to help!) awaited them.

The team had to present the password, and if correct, they had to play a one-minute game. If the first member of the team couldn’t get it, then the second member could try, and so on. They got one chocolate apiece for trying, and two chocolates if they won the game. Once done, they were handed their second “package”. This contained directions to the next room, the coded and scrambled password, and a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

They continued like this till they had finished all the four rooms (each team had a different order of rooms to trace), and by then had collected all the 30 pieces of the jigsaw puzzle (each team had a different jigsaw puzzle too). Now they needed to assemble the jigsaw puzzle. Once they did that, they had to read the verse that was written on the reverse of the puzzle, and then figure out the location of the treasure.

For example, one of the verses read:
Please come down and sit
Please do taste a bit
The feast is at the end
But find treasure if you bend!

The treasure was stuck below the dining table for this one.

There were four treasures for the four different teams, for I didn’t want just one team to “win”. The treasure was quite colourful and they loved it. It was packed as individual packets, so that they could just pick up one for themselves. Each packet included a colourful “chained bubble” pencil (I don’t know quite how to describe it!), cute erasers, another small notebook, jewellery, colourful rubberbands (for hair), and plenty of the coin chocolates in gold, silver, and pink!

The kids were simply amazing in the way they cracked the whole game. It was really interesting to see the team dynamics. The teams were pretty much on par with each other, and since there were four treasures, there was no real competition, yet they were quite curious about how far along the other teams had gotten. They were so innovative too. One game involved putting large rubber bands on a small ball. They needed to put ten bands in one minute. Very smartly one team took ten rubber bands at one shot, wound them into the required size and put them onto the ball in one go! They found the other games interesting too. One was moving peanuts with chopsticks (or were they really long toothpicks?), another was separating green gram from black urad dal, and the last was placing coins on cards according to the value of the card.

Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time the party was done. I had been on overdrive for the past couple of weeks, trying to design the game and implement it! But it was a most enjoyable challenge, and I had the best time of my life doing it. Of course, my family and friends rallied together wonderfully — the games would just not have been possible otherwise. The kids too claimed that they had a great time, and Lil D was quite satisfied.

But the real highlight of the party was a dance that had been “secretly” rehearsed for nearly a month and presented just for Lil D by her close friends. It was to the title song of Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, and choreographed by the kids themselves. The cutest thing was that when the song went Tuuuu, they all pointed to Lil D, who blushed and hid herself. 🙂 I think it’s so fantastic that she has such a bunch of lovely friends. More power to them!

I have vowed that her next party will be a dance competition, where I will just need to sit as a judge and watch the kids do all the hard work, instead of me! Now wouldn’t that be a blast? 😀 😀

Very Proud Di!

Out of the blue, Lil D asked me: Mamma, is Dhanush’s mother still alive?

I was a little taken aback by the question. I have no idea, Lil D, I answered. Why do you ask?

Said Lil D in all earnestness — If she is still alive, she must be so proud of Dhanush, no?!

🙂

Well, I don’t know about Dhanush’s mom, but Lil D made her mom very happy with that thought! 😀