Saturday, December 12, 2009

The making of a little bookworm.

Mummy’s boy


The making of a little bookworm.

MY mission, which I carried out with a relentless devotion that would have shamed even a nest of ants, was to turn my son into a bookworm.

I believe books allow children to spend time in imagined worlds, making them creative, calm and contented. Furthermore, children who read easily learn the skill of language and grasp quickly interpretative dexterity, which will later become the tricks of successful school learning.

I started reading to my son even before he was born, when he was just a five-month-old foetus. And he often seemed to “greet” my playful narration by moving in my womb. But though our reading sessions continued after he had been born, and he seemed to enjoy them, my son suddenly turned his back on books when he turned five. I was flabbergasted, hurt and despondent – he was no longer at all the type of son I wanted.

What had diverted his attention? Spongebob Square Pants, Ben 10 and Chowder, TV characters with whom he became fast friends. In a panic, I decisively pulled the plug – no more TV. I wanted my bright-eyed bookworm back!

What could I do now that he was angry and bored? Well, the anger was quickly smothered because he is, after all, mummy’s boy. To treat the boredom, I returned, obstinately, to books.

My first step on the path to his bookworm-hood was to take my son to the local library. If bookstores in Malaysian cities are wonderful, then the same can be said about libraries in our adopted home, Sydney, Australia. They are everywhere, and the nearest one is a mere five minutes’ walk from home. We began visiting every day.

The first couple of times, my son was only interested in the DVDs. Gradually, though, he began to rove through the picture books collection, and, just a few trips later, he was taking out 10 picture books every other day. Among his favourites is Oliver Jeffers’ The Incredible Book-Eating Boy; that’s the book that really recharged his enthusiasm.

My next step was for us to spend more time reading together. Despite my busy schedule, I set aside at least half an hour every day to read with him, or talk about the story that he was reading. The more interest I showed in what he was reading, the more he would take the time and make the effort to read.

We began having such a good time. I had become more sensitive to his preferences and abilities and did not limit him to books that I thought were more age appropriate for him.

After two months of reading three to four picture books a day, my just-turned-six son discovered The Big Big Big Book of Tashi, a compendium of the adventures of one of Australia’s beloved kids’ books characters, Tashi. (The Tashi series is by Anna and Barbara Fienberg, with illustrations by Kim Gamble.)

While he was instantly spellbound by the stories, I was dumfounded because from reading picture books just a day or two ago, he had suddenly turned to short stories that were usually read by children two years older than him.

Then again, who wouldn’t make the effort for Tashi, a magical little boy with a crazy hair do who gets into endless trouble and strife? Though a little fellow, he is able to outsmart warlords and wicked barons, and is unafraid of giants, ghosts, witches or demons.

His fantastic stories are short enough to read in one sitting, but still meaty enough for us to read together before bedtime; and they are easy enough to be read by my son alone, too.

Furthermore, the pencil illustrations on each page are beautifully drawn to evoke the scenarios in which Tashi triumphs over evil, while the themes of courage, curiosity, adventure, loyalty, and friendship are gently emphasised.

My son could not tear himself away from his first Tashi book and lugged it along wherever he went. Two weeks later, we are in a bookstore looking for the second volume.

Now here he comes, my six-year-old boy, big-eyed with excitement as he waves at me with one hand while clutching a new book. Zac Power, he says, is the coolest boy in the whole wide world because, even though he’s just 12 years old, he is already a spy going on top secret missions. (The Zac Power series is written by H.I. Larry.)

I smile. Toys wear and tear, TV shows become boring, but books, if cleverly introduced into our children’s worlds, are like an ever whirling kaleidoscope, discovered afresh in every stage of their lives.

Having been read to since he was a five-month-old foetus, Abby Wong’s six-year-old son is quite comfortable reading Anthony Browne’s ‘I Like Books’ to his two-year-old sister.

10 books all children must read

From ParenThots

10 books all children must read
7 December 2009

Every year there are so many new children's books being published. These range from picture books all the way up to the fantasy and science fiction genres.

As the list of children's books is just too long, ParenThots and Borders are giving parents our top 10 children's books – these are books that we feel every child should read. Some of them are classics that you may have read as a child.

Brigitte Rozario's 10 books that all children should read:

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

This old favourite tale by Milne tells the story of a little boy named Christopher Robin and his toys which come to life in his imagination. The toys that live in the Hundred Acre Wood are Winnie the Pooh, of course, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and Owl. Together the friends have some great adventures and learn many lessons on life. Christopher sometimes joins them on their adventures.

What's not to love about Pooh Bear? Who doesn't love that willy nilly silly old bear after all? I actually only read this as an adult but still found Pooh Bear lovable. The books with the illustrations by Ernest H. Shephard will appeal more to adults than children.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

This classic is about some animal friends who live in the countryside of England. There's Mole, Ratty, Badger and of course the unforgettable Toad. The snobbish Toad's the one who often gets into all sorts of misadventures and needs the help of his friends.

This is one classic that was introduced to me late – when I was a teenager or in my early 20s. Still a wonderful story to read at any age.

Eloise by Kay Thompson

There are several books on Eloise by Kay Thompson. They include Eloise in Paris, Eloise at Christmastime and Eloise in Moscow. The illustrations are beautiful and the storyline is simple. Eloise is a six-year-old girl who lives on the “tippy-top floor” of New York's very famous Plaza Hotel. As expected of any girl her age, Eloise does get into a whole load of trouble. But you still love her.

I think the illustrations will appeal to you above all else and kids always love stories about children who get into trouble.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is a brilliant little girl in spite of her parents who don't encourage her in any way. They would rather she watch TV all day instead of read (which she loves). This doesn't discourage Matilda who goes to the library to read more and more books. At school, Matilda and the other children are terrorised by their headmistress Miss Trunchbull.

There is one good soul in Matilda's life and that is her teacher Miss Honey – the lovely lady who encourages her and the only one who loves her. Matilda eventually discovers she has psychokinetic powers and she uses them to wreak havoc in the lives of Miss Trunchbull and her parents.

Any of Roald Dahl's books is always a great read – not just because of the great storyline and Dahl's imagination but because there's such a feel-good value to it and the good kids always win in the end.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is one of those timeless tales. I read it in primary school after borrowing the book from our school library. I still find the tale enchanting today.

It's got all the ingredients to a great story – an orphan left on her own in a big house, a guardian who seemingly doesn't care, a secret garden, a mysterious little boy, and of course a happy ending.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ah, Tolkien. This is the story that starts off the adventure that ends with The Return of the King. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, hobbits and the wizard Gandalf are introduced to us. And so is, the Ring! The desired ring is the cause of all the trouble. Bilbo has his grand adventure in this book.

I would recommend this book for the older children. But it's a definite must-read and be prepared to buy The Lord of the Rings immediately after that because your child will want more adventures after that.

Paddington by Michael Bond

This is another book I only read as an adult. Just like Pooh Bear, Paddington is adorable. The story goes that Paddington was named after the Paddington railway station in London where he was found by the Brown family. He came from “Darkest Peru” and had just one tag on his coat. It read “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Paddington lives with the Browns and is part of their family. He loves marmalade and frequently ends up with the jam all over him.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This is a great book for any little girl to read. I'm not sure if it appeals to boys. The story is set in the 19th century in America. It's about four sisters who are quite different and how they grow up to become lovely young ladies and the suitors that follow.

I always thought I was like Jo, the tomboy who has a passion for writing. Give this book to any girl, she will find one sister to identify with and love. The whole sisterly relationship and atmosphere is very well replicated in this book.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This unforgettable tale is about a little prince who comes from an asteroid far away.

It tells of the strange people he encounters on the neighbouring asteroids.

He eventually lands on Earth where he befriends a fox that teaches him the important things in life.

A children's story with some deep messages that adults can learn from too.

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

This is one of those classics that all children read in the 1970s (yes, I know, my age is showing!). I'm sure a lot of children have not read this in this day and age when there are the Harry Potter books to read. It is the last book on my list because it's a book I remember reading and loving. Perhaps it was because of the setting – in a castle in Europe, or the characters – royalty, or the romance – between Rassendyll and the Princess Flavia. Whatever the reason, I liked it a lot.

The story is about King Rudolph who is drugged and imprisoned and Rassendyll, his doppelganger, who must impersonate him to ensure the coronation proceeds as planned and the throne does not fall into the wrong hands.

Borders' 10 books that all children should read:

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Published in 1963, this book is basically a picture book about Max who goes to bed without his supper. In his imagination he goes to the land where the wild things are. The wild things are monsters in his imagination. This book has been adapted into a movie and should be at local cineplexes soon.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss

(Any Dr Seuss title is such great fun to read aloud because of its rhymes, rhythm and wicked humour.)

Everybody knows that mischievous cat who wears a tall red and white striped hat. The Cat comes to the home of two children on a rainy day when their mother is away. He can perform all sorts of wacky tricks.

Dr Seuss' books offer fun for all with their rhymes and funny creatures.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco

The story begins with a little boy receiving a stuffed Velveteen Rabbit for Christmas. The other more expensive toys snub the poor Velveteen Rabbit which finds out that a toy can become real if its owner really loves it. And so begins the adventure of the Velveteen Rabbit in its attempt to go from being a mere toy to a real rabbit.

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

First published in 1902, the Just So Stories are fantastical tales explaining various phenomena.

For example, How the Whale Got his Throat, How the Camel Got his Hump and How the Leopard Got his Spots.

According to this book, the animals came to be in their current form because of some acts by humans or some magical being.

Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

What list of children's books would be complete without that author we all grew up with - Enid Blyton.

The Magic Faraway Tree is a followup to the book The Faraway Tree.

It sees Jo, Bessie and Fanny having a visitor in their cousin Dick.

The trio introduce Dick to the Magic Faraway Tree and their friends there – Silky, Moonface and Saucepan Man.

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

You will want to save this for the bigger children and even then the last few books might have to wait till the children are teenagers as it gets pretty evil and morbid. The first few books are fine though to begin with. Problem is the children will want to keep reading the rest of the series.

Harry Potter is an orphan and a wizard who is destined for great things. He lives with his Muggle (non-magical) relatives who hate him. Professor Dumbledore, who is the principal at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, takes him under his wing and gets him sent to the magical school where he meets Ron and Hermione who become his best friends. Together the three of them face adventures and trials as they grow up and battle all sorts of evils, including “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by RoaldDahl

This is the story of Charlie Bucket who wins a ticket to enter the chocolate factory of the eccentric Willy Wonka.

Charlie and four naughty children win the much-coveted Golden Tickets.

Inside, the naughty children are all punished one after another for being disobedient.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

This is the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series of seven books. The story is set during World War II when four children – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy – are evacuated from London. They are sent to the countryside to live with Prof Kirke and his housekeeper. Exploring the house, Lucy stumbles upon a magical wardrobe which leads to a mysterious land. The four children enter the wardrobe and escape into this land where they meet all sorts of characters and end up in a great adventure where they must battle the White Witch and save Edmund.

Fatimah's Kampung by Iain Buchanan

This is an exquisite and beautifully-illustrated book about growing up in a ‘kampung’ surrounded by forests, and how development comes to destruct the village. Nature-deprived city kids and adults alike will come to appreciate this book greatly.

Princess Shawl by Shirley Lim

A book for older children. Princess Shawl is based on the tale of Princess Hang Li Poh, who was married off to the Malaccan Sultan Mansur Shah, as a gift from the Chinese Emperor.


Related Posts with Thumbnails