Want to know your child's dearest wish?

Want to know your child's dearest wish?

Often, books become the messengers of your kid’s unnamed desires, fears and thoughts, says Shruthi Rao

Dog diaries

When my daughter was little, I used to wonder what kind of a person she would grow up to be. With the naivete and cluelessness of a new mother, I believed I would have to wait until she’s much older to find out. After all, wasn’t she too young to express her feelings and opinions about the world? As it turned out, I was mistaken. Not about the part that she was too young, but about the fact that I wouldn’t have access to what’s in her heart.

Books turned out to be those windows into my child’s world. Often, a child has unnamed desires, fears, and thoughts  — and these emotions make themselves known at unusual times and places. But, very often, books become the conduits for their thoughts.

For instance, early on, I figured out that any book that featured hurt creatures (including the stories of Tenali Rama) distressed my daughter. When she read Harry Potter, she surprised me with her conviction that a character who is portrayed as cruel and evil, was actually good. (She was proved correct in the end.) Books helped me know my daughter better.

Books also told me about phases or changes that she was going through. When I saw her chain-reading books with dogs as main characters, I figured out that she was filling her life with doggieness because she knew we couldn’t have pets. When she begged me to read ‘Goodbye Stranger’ by Rebecca Stead, while warning me that it’s not the kind of book I would like, I realised she wanted to discuss with me the themes in the book — the dangers of sensitive smartphone pictures, over-sharing on social media and online bullying — because these were starting to become relevant to her middle school life. In a popular Facebook group called ‘The Reading Raccoons’, writer and journalist Joeanna Rebello Fernandes posted about how her son told her that a certain book did not make him feel good. She decided to read it herself and soon realised that one of the themes discussed in the book worried her son.

She took the opportunity to talk to him and assuage his fears. She then succinctly wrote, “We look at
books, particularly children’s books, largely as imparting information and ideas. Not as sounding boards.
As tin-telephones that connect to the child’s heart. If we listen via the book, we’ll hear everything.”

Lubaina Bandukwala, curator of ‘Peek A Book Lit Fest’ for kids, has closely observed children and their book choices. She added on the same post, “To know what a child thinks about a book is to know to some extent the child.”

Fortunately for us, writers are not afraid to take on difficult and challenging themes in their books for children. It provides an opportunity for adults to help their children navigate their thoughts and emotions in this complex maze of life.

All we have to do is listen.

The author got a master’s degree in energy engineering and worked in the IT industry until her daughter dragged out the writer lurking inside her. She has written eight books for children and can be reached at www.shruthi-rao.com

GobbledyBook is a fortnightly column that will give you a peek into the wondrous world of children’s books. Hop on! Or like Alice did, just plunge into the rabbit hole.


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