Reading is our superpower. But the pandemic has made it more difficult, even downright impossible at times, for us to tap into our superpower. Ironically, many of us are just not able to summon up the magic spell of reading at a time when we require it the most.
We are stuck at home. Locked down by the pandemic. Hemmed in by stress and anxiety. The worst impacted are our children. Cut off from the access to books at the school library. Cut off from the book-lending circles with friends.
This is a good time for parents, grandparents and other adults to step up and rediscover the magic of reading with our children.
There are still a few more weeks of the summer holidays. We are facing the grim prospect of many more months of restrictions, online school and no access to fiction.
Here are some suggestions for reviving our superpower. Do please tweak and customise them based on your family interests.
1) Spend more time reading to your child and reading with your child. Create a time of calm and fun, bonding over books. One way to do this is create SOAR time : Switch Off And Read. Switch Off your devices and Read. Don’t make it regimented like morning PT. Start with maybe just 30 mins, twice a week. Get your children involved in planning it. What shall we read? Where shall we sit? What snacks shall we have? (Go on, indulge the snack cravings with pakoras, chaat, cake, chips, butter murukku). What is the special signal that will indicate SOAR time is about to start: a whistle, a bell, Papa doing the bhangra? Get your children involved in every aspect of the planning to make SOAR time as much fun or just as calm and cosy as they choose.
2) Use online platforms like zoom and google meets to share the fun of reading with family and friends. This is something I discovered during Lockdown v.1 last year, thanks to my 7-year old grandson who would organise family zoom parties and quizzes. He would ask us to keep out favourite books ready to share (along with our favourite snacks). There was usually a hectic round of baking which went into making these snacks seem to materialise casually.
3) Hold Book Parties online. Enlist grandparents, cousins, the children’s friends. Maybe even their parents. A reading party could be as simple as everyone being given a time frame to read a book and then share a brief review of it at the party. On the lines of What I liked/hated about the book.
If you are up to revving up the bookish excitement a notch, (and you should be) experiment with choosing a theme for the books everyone will read. Themes like: Travelling India on a Book. Around the World in Forty Books. Music. Food. Sports Wildlife
4) Book Bingo is a great activity. There are hundreds of free printable Reading Bingo sheets. Here’s one I’ve created. Customise your own. Share these sheets with a group of family and friends. The parents of your children’s friends will thank you for starting this, so do call in favours and get them to pitch in. Once you distribute the sheets, the participants just tick off a box when they have finished reading a book that fits the category described. On a pre-agreed day, meet online (over snacks, of course) to exchange notes, share book recommendations and award prizes (of books!) to those who have ticked the maximum number of squares.
5) Book Scavenger Hunt is a spin off from Book Bingo. Here, the action takes place on one evening with participants sitting at their own homes (with snacks and favourite beverages, needless to add). As the categories are read out, the children rummage through the book shelves at home and place the books in the pile. The family with the tallest pile or maximum number of books wins the prize.
6) Lockdowns create a lot of stress and anxiety. Use this time to get children to talk about these issues. Migrants. Refugees. Death of parents. Inequality. Bullying. Not fitting in. Book titles and recommendations appear in the video below. Skip to the 18-minute mark to get straight into my book recommendations.
7) Poetry in the Park (Indoor park) Recite or read their favourite poems. For me, poetry and novels in verse have formed a bulk of my lockdown reading. I realised that there is something so powerful, so distilled, so concentrated in poetry that makes it so much easier to read when one is tense and stressed. Though there is an amazing amount of poetry available free online, do buy a few poetry books for home. There’s no better time to indulge your poetry passion.
8) Bookish Days and Filmy Nights: Movie night is another great activity to get the family reading and watching together. Choose a book, or book series, which also has a film or TV series based on it. First get everyone in the family to read the book and the grand finale could be watching a movie based on the book. Make a big deal of the evening by serving finger foods or a snack dinner to compliment the book/movie. There’s a fairly new movie release of Kate DiCamillo’s Flora and Ulysses, old version of Because of Winn Dixie. There are the Harry Potter movies. Several great movie versions of classic Jane Austen and Charles Dickens books. Gerald Durrell and P.G Wodehouse come to mind. As do Agatha Christie and other detective fiction novelists. There are plenty of movie adaptations of Young Adult fiction. The Hate you Give being one. Use your discretion to decide which comes first – book or movie. The idea is to create a buzz about reading.
Finally, the BIG question: HOW DO I GET THESE BOOKS. At Indie bookstores and libraries, of course. As soon as lockdown restrictions are eased, indie bookstores and libraries will be the first to spring into action. They know reading is essential and that books are vital. This is exactly what libraries and indie bookstores did in 2020 the minute restrictions were eased.
I strongly recommend that all parents and grandparents befriend the people running children’s libraries and indie bookstores. They make the best book recommendations based on the fact that they’ve read literally thousands of books.
Here’s a list of indie bookstores and libraries(to be updated). Do add any stores I have missed out in the comments section.
Funky Rainbow www.funkyrainbow.com
Lightroom, Lewis Road
Trilogy Library and Bookstore
Kool Skool – The Book Store
Bookvook – Books for All
Full Circle Bookstore
Tara Book Building
The Dogears Bookshop
Hippocampus Children’s Library, Koramangala
Cosy Nook Library, Koramangala
Bookworm Library, Goa
The Book Shelf Library and Learning Centre
Nest and Den
House of Book and Tales
Kidzalaya Book Library
The BookNestLibrary and FunScienceClub
AND SOME MORE LIBRARIES…
Thanks so much readers for sharing your favourite libraries. Since many libraries have branches in more than one city, I’m adding them here alphabetically
Book_My_Read Library, Kolkata
Bookelphia, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane
Little One’s Bookhub, Bangalore
The Book Bench, Mumbai
thinkBox Children’s Library
Piglets Library, Akola
Unnati Books and Toy Library, Bangalore/Pune/Mumbai
PS: Do watch this video to get book recommendations. And play a writing game.
Book recommendations start at 18-minute mark.
Writing game starts at 27-minute mark.