What a sad place, it would be..

if a home is without books..

I caught a bit of ‘We, The people’ yesterday, where they were discussing books, and how Kindle and iPads might result in books being non-existent in a few years time. Have to watch the whole programme today, if I get a chance. The first thing that sprang to my mind is how sad a home would look without books?

I have never lived in a house without books.I always have books lying around. My longest standing dream has been to have a library of my own. Walls full of books, books that have been read with love, re-read with passion, and maintained for years.. Yellowed pages, but still much-loved. As much as I understand that electronic devices are easy to read, and feel quite the same, the mad romantic in me refuses to see reason. To me, reading the book, turning pages, holding a physical book, is all part of the reading experience.

My oldest memories have books associated with them. I still remember my first ‘own’ book. And the joy when I discovered my grandfather’s collection! At first it was a whole load of Reader’s Digests from the 1950’s! I used to devour them when I went over for holidays. Nothing gave me more happiness than curling up with a book. Then it was his and his brother(my grand uncle’s) huge collection of P. G. Wodehouse books. They were old, much thumbed through, but absolutely precious to me! The fact that they gave me their books to read was an added honour.

In comparison, reading on a Kindle feels so ‘lifeless’ or bland… Or may be it is just me.

And then there are the libraries. I still remember my first library in primary school, and the massive library my school had in secondary school. It was one the best libraries, I have been to. And we had the best librarian. Ok, I am biased 🙂 But seriously, I can’t tell you how many happy hours I spent there. Which is probably why I love libraries. Everything about them. Rows of books, waiting to be browsed through. Taking my time in selecting books, reading the back cover, sometimes picking up a book which ‘looks good’.. I know, we could do all that in an online bookstore or an online library, but for some reason it still does not feel like the real thing to me.

Then again, in a few years time, I might be raving about the versatility of an online library 🙂 The one thing I am sure is, that the one thing worse that having a home without (physical)books is a home without any books. The one thing I hope to bequeath to my daughter is the love of reading. The absolute joy of picking up a book, and getting absorbed in it. Forgetting hours together, oblivious to everything else in the world, and having the best time of your life! One of the reasons I love reading as opposed to watching a movie, is the our joy of imagining things your way. My imagination used to run amok. I had these really fancy ideas of what sardines were, after reading countless Enid Blyton books, only to be brought down to earth by my grandfather, when he showed me what they actually were 🙂 Or imagining that the breakfast my mum set before me was actually something out of my books. I hate watching movie adaptations of books, to find that they have picturized it all wrong! That was so not the way they looked(or behaved) in my mind! Outrageous 🙂 Which is why, I guess, I still prefer to read, and imagine the characters, my way, rather than  watch a movie and watch them spoil it for me 🙂

When I was in school, the day when we get out new books for the year, was a magical day. I could not wait to get my hands on my English Literature and Language books. The Literature books would have loads of short stories, and the language books, excerpts from literary novels. I loved reading them, again and again. Until the teacher taught them – that made me stop reading them 🙂 So the last story in the book, I would know, every word, and every sentence – I would have read it so many times by then 🙂 And during my ICSE, the last story was ‘Remember the Roses’ – which was absolutely beautiful! I think I might still remember sentences from it .

I want daughter to have it all. I want her to love books, to love reading, to want to grab  a book and lose herself in it, To let her imagination fly, to go where it takes her. Now that she is reading, I can’t tell how happy it makes me. I can’t wait for her to read all the books that made my childhood as wonderful. I can’t wait to see her excitement when she gets hold of a book she has been waiting for! I can’t wait for the days when she recommends books that I should read.

Books are far more than information, they are far more than ‘getting to know things’, they are for me, an experience, that I carry with me all my life. They also ensure that I am seldom bored. I have my entertainment with me. I remember a discussion on BBC on how, they were worried that the number of parents reading to children at an early age is reducing, and the number of children who do not get a bedtime story is increasing. I understand why it bothers people. It might not be a huge issue for some, but for people like me, it feels sad. The bedtime story that we read together, is a precious part of her childhood. And there is nothing I would do to change it.

A life without books would be so different, wouldn’t it? Can you imagine a life without books – electronic or physical?


Books,books and more books..

..but it’s all about Poohi’s books this time.

Rashmi asked me in a comment here about the type of books Poohi reads .There was no way I could answer that in a comment, so decided to devote a full post to it. Nothing gives me as much pleasure as talking about books.

The first books I bought for Poohi were three Winnie the Poohi books when she was a few days old. We got something called a ‘bounty’ pack, if I remember correctly, and it had all sorts of vouchers for kids stuff, these books were part of the deal. And I used to read them to her too, right from the time she was days old. People must have thought me crazy, but I couldn’t care less 🙂 We never looked back from then.

The next purchase that I remember clearly is a red soft cloth book. It was wonderful, and Poohi loved it. It had a little story and it was soft enough for a very young child to play with. It came with a buggy clip so it kept her entertained even while we were out. I have no idea how much she understood, but she used to hang on to every word I read out to her.

Poohi with her cloth book.

She also had some ‘touchy feely books’ which lets them feel things. For instance, furry animals would have a real fur coat in the book. It is lots of fun, even for us 🙂

One of her Touchy Feely Books.

I think one of the things I did on a regular basis was take her to the library. Letting her play in the soft play area, letting her explore and look at the books around her. As she grew older, I started  letting her choose her books. And I would go with whatever she chose.  Some of the books she chose were not exactly exciting, so I would modify the story to make it exciting for her.

I also bought books that I remember from my childhood. Fairy tales and stuff like that.  Oh yes, I had picked up a Disney series, with Nemo, Incredibles and and all those stories – it is a collection of 12 books, and she loves them! And when she discovered the movies – much later, she was delighted when she realized that she knew the stories already 🙂

We also got some free book packs from the library at the ages of six months, 18 months and 3 years – I forgot to pick up the 3 years one, and I guess it is too late now 😦 She loved those books. At the age of 6 months, it was more pictures and just one or two words. At 18 months, there was a slightly longer stories, but with lots of illustration. At each stage, I think they gave away books suitable to that age group.

This time in India, she got a lovely gift of some wonderful books based on Amar Chitra Katha from Deepti Aunty, and she fell in love with them. Simple stories, easy language, and lovely illustration- she loved them. So I picked up some more panchtantra tales which she adores. As I had mentioned here, I also picked up Bhagwatham for Kids, and she loves to hear the stories about Krishna. Somehow Ramayana does not seem to interest her much, I suppose Krishna has more universal appeal because of his naughty antics.

Some of her books from India

And along with the books I buy for her, I take her to the library regularly, get her to pick up books for herself, the only problem being that she ends up picking books which have princess in them(ughhh!, there are only so many princess stories that I can read out). Some of the stories are so much fun. Some of them are a different take on the popular fairy tales/nursery rhymes that we are already familiar with. I remember one story on Dimity Dumpty, Humpty Dumpty’s little sister – I loved that one! She also gets books from school to take home, so she gets a variety of books.

Some of her books – in no particular order or preference – The Beatrix Potter is one of my favourites though.

Thanks to our nomadic existence, I don’t buy books for myself here. It would break my heart if I had to leave them here when we move back to India. So I make up for that by buying her books, and these we are surely not leaving behind ! And let me let you in on  a secret, I enjoy her books as much as she does, if not more. Every time we pick up a batch of new books, I can’t wait to read them, so I read them first 🙂 Sneaky me 🙂 I can’t wait for her to start reading all be herself and get started on all those Enid Blytons I loved! Every time I see a beautifully packaged collection of those childhood books, it takes a lot of persuasion from my practical self to prevent myself from buying them right away!