To read independently for enjoyment is perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of life and definitely one of the cornerstones of a good all-round education. Chapter books are a significant milestone in a child’s reading journey. They provide a vital transition point for a child progressing from sounding out words and articulating them with hesitation, to reading silently, independently and with finally with pleasure.
Large font, generous use of pictures, simple storylines, vocabulary that is mostly familiar but with enough new words to increase vocabulary and comprehension – all these are features which make chapter books invaluable in encouraging independent reading. Chapter books are of varying lengths. Around 60-120 pages is a good length to start with for new readers.
Every year, the agonising moment comes around! The moment when I must put aside dithering, stop procrastinating, and finally commit — to the book I’m going to present at my Book Club! This should, in theory, be a breeze for someone like me. I always have a pile of wonderful books that I’ve just read. And an even taller pile of books that are just waiting to be read. Plus a teeteringly high pile that’s just … well … waiting patiently in my online shopping cart.
In truth, however, choosing the book that I will share with the dearest of friends at my Book Club, always turns out to be harrowing in the nicest possible way. The same way that an arduous trek undertaken to a soundtrack of protesting muscles and laboured breathing, finally rewards the climber with a breath-taking view!
How much darkness can a child take? For children who are scarred by the trauma of living in abusive homes, a book should ideally offer a laugh, an adventure, a few moments of respite from the fear and insecurity in their lives.
How would such children react to confronting the horror present in their lives in their books as well? Would they not (as some adults do when forced to confront their demons) just want to close the book mid-sentence on the first page? Could a story make them feel less alone, less powerless?
And then, what about children lucky enough to live with caring parents — would they ever want a peek into what goes on in homes different from theirs? To gain an insight into how it must be for children living in abusive homes?
These were the thoughts that whirled through my mind when I decided to write a story for children on domestic violence.
It was a moment of pure irony. Because reading an article titled ‘My Year of No Shopping’, made me rush headlong to – what else — shop! For a book. And that too even before I finished reading the article.
In her New York Times article, ‘My Year of No Shopping’ Ann Patchett, (the PEN Faulkner and Orange Prize winning novelist), recommends Barking to the Choir as a great book to read if you want to see what true faith in action looks like in this age of mindless consumerism.
After my post listing my favourite books for babies and toddlers, I received innumerable queries. The overwhelming concern was that many of the books on my list could not be found on the usual online shopping sites.
How does one get these books, everyone asked.
“For your babies and pre-schoolers, surround them with books and print, read to them every day, let them play with books, choose books, talk books, play with magnet letters, read signs and food packaging, make labels for things, draw, paint, sing songs.”
– Tweet by Michael Rosen (Poet and novelist, Children’s Laureate)
As a children’s author, I’m fortunate to have a direct hotline to several Book-Genies. These genies are usually indulgent of my requests, never ever limiting me to the prescribed three wishes. But when recently, I ordered twenty copies of my current favourite children’s book, the voice at the other end of the line reprimanded me gently. “Five copies is all I will give you. And why do you need twenty copies, anyway?”