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When I was a kid, I loved listening to stories. I'd pick anybody in my family and pester them to tell me an Aesop's fable. One that was about kings and queens or turtles and rabbits or crows and foxes... My story-teller, as the usual routine involved back then, would narrate that age-old classic and ask me to deduce the moral. I'd usually blurt out something silly and we'd all end up in a laugh.
Cut to 2017. Hello fast-paced parenting and alternate story-telling. Most nights, from trying to write my own book and running my usual housewifey errands, I am too tired to retell those fables to my kid. Also, I find them over-simplified. I mean really think about the story of the hare and turtle. "Slow and steady won't always win the race." If the hare in the story would've merely taken a power nap instead of falling into a long slumber, he would have beaten the turtle, right? So not always. Therefore, instead of passing to her the Aesop's Fables wisdom, I read to my daughter from her favourite Enid Blyton classics and fairy tales with a modern spin. My daughter gets all sparkly-eyed when she's getting read to. She asks questions.
I've found that reading to a child is just one of those things that cannot be done in a linear, defined manner. It is riveting. It is rich with possibilities, as are their imaginations. When I started reading to Saanvi, she was one and a half. She was a silent participant, just occasionally lighting up at words or pictures, tracing images with her little fingers. But as she grew, she offered her own "What ifs" and multiple possibilities. She got lost in the enchanted forest of words, inquiring into their meaning, and using them in her own sentences.
As parents and teachers, we have heard it over and over again that reading to a kid helps build their language, develop their brains and shape their personalities. However, we may not always know to what extent it engages them.
So how can you make your night-time reading ritual interesting for the both of you?
Here are things that have worked for me as a parent:
1. Record your voice: Because when you play it back to your kid, it will get them thrilled about reading. Warning: Prepare to hear a lot of silly noises and fake, staged laughter in the background.
2. Build something together: Kids love to build. It's a given. Use their fingers to point at illustrations and talk about the words you want to highlight. Use flashcards to help them recall words they've read. Draw the characters together.
3. Spin the story: Turn the story around make it relevant to their context. And if you can throw in your own lessons, like I try, in vain, to subtly put in a lesson about keeping the house clutter-free, it may actually get them to do what you want.
4. Get them to participate: If anything distracts my daughter, it's the book itself. Every time we turn the page, we have to first deal with what's going on there. If there are things to be counted, we count them. "Why does the rabbit look sad ma?" I welcome anything that crosses her imagination, rather than asking her to pay attention to me.
5. Make it come alive: There are always lessons to be drawn from stories. There would be things that apply to their everyday life.I used to read to her a story about a lion who didn't mingle with all the animals and sat with his tail curled up, high and mighty. So the next time she said she didn't want to play with someone, I said to her, "It's up to you. You can play with everyone or end up alone like the lion." And it worked like a charm.
Books feed and nourish the brain. It exposes the child to new words, helps build vocabulary, and also creative thinking. It helps make the child imaginative. And speaking of brain food, I happened to stumble upon a nutritional milk powder for my picky eater at the food store the other day. Enfagrow A+, which is the world's no.1 supplement, is enriched with DHA and specifically designed for the holistic development of children aged 2 to 6 years. Before I bought it, I read all about the importance of DHA for a child's brain development. Now if you have a picky toddler and you're vegetarian, you know finding DHA in our everyday food would be like scouring the seabed for a pearl. Considering that it has other important nutrients like Calcium, Vitamin D and iron, it promises to be a good milk supplement.
For more information on brain development you can visit www.enfagrow.co.in