Just like the body needs to work out regularly, the mind also needs consistent reading ammunition for mental nourishment. And, it’s only during summer holidays that one gets ample time to read. Besides, reading is one way to cool off the heat, says career counselor Pervin
Reading is not only a pleasure but it’s also full of fun. “It helps you increase your vocabulary and widens your horizons,” says Nilima Sinha, president, Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children.
Sinha has written several children’s books, including five mystery stories, and believes that youngsers prefer adventure and mystery books. This is what prompted her to write books such as Adventure Before Midnight. “Kids shouldnot read books only to learn something or to improve their vocabulary but for entertainment as well,” she says.
Agrees Devika Rangachari, another Indian author who has written a book titled Growing Up. “Learning happens automatically. The main purpose of picking up a book should be pure entertainment. Improving knowledge and vocabulary are achieved automatically."
Unfortunately, some parents believe that reading non-curricular books is sheer waste of time. On the contrary, it makes academic studies interesting. “As a mother, I discovered that teaching becomes simpler through the medium of stories. The minute I realised this, I started writing kids’ books,” says Neeta Berry, who has written knowledge oriented books like The Story of Writing and Wonder of Water.
What to read?
Rangachari advises that parents shouldn't impose genres on youngsters. “It may so happen that you like certain type of books but your children may not have the same tastes," she says.
So, the question that arises is how does a child choose books? According to Rangachari, “Children must try varied genres and find out what their tastes and preferences are. They should not read a book only because their peers are reading it.”
Career counselor Usha Albuquerque echoes the same sentiment, “You should read whatever catches your fancy. You can read Chetan Bhagat if you are in school and the Harry Potter series if you are in the age group of 12-14 years. For older kids, I would recommend Robin Sharma, Paulo Coelho and Khalid Hosseini."
She adds, “One can also try classics by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Emily Bronte. Though these books were written generations ago, the issues discussed in these books are relevant even today.”
Reading only non-fiction?
There is a different school of thought though that believes that reading fiction is a waste of time for kids as they are preparing to compete in a highly competitive world outside. “Kids should only read self-help books written by authors such as Paulo Coelho, Shiv Khera and others. Reading novels distract them from academics. It pushes them into a world of fantasy. Some kids start behaving like the bad guy portrayed in the novels. Reading habits should be restricted to self transformation books,” says Astha Bajaj, child counsellor, DPS, Mathura Road.
Albuquerque also gives priority to non-fiction books over fiction. She says that one doesn't learn anything by reading books written by authors such as Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer. Kids should read non fiction books by Shashi Tharoor (The Elephant, The Tiger and The Cellphone), NR Narayanmurthy (A Better India, A Better World). Nandan Nilekani's Imagining India is a must read for students who have passed school and are entering college.
Shruti Sethi, a Class XI student of DPS RK Puram, has read several books but rates fiction as nothing more then an entertainment package. She says, “To improve my knowledge and vocabulary, I pick up a newspaper and use the dictionary and thesaurus to learn new words.”
Reading newspapers is a good habit, says Pervin Malhotra but she doesn't rule out the importance of reading fiction. She elaborates, “Reading varied genres sharpens your thought process and widens your imagination. Kids shouldn't restrict themselves to romance or adventure but must read an eclectic mix of genres.”
She has one last word of advice though - “Every child must try Roald Dahl's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. If you start this book, you can't put it down.
I haven't seen a person who reads him and doesn't say Wow!”
An eclectic mix
Is there any book that changed my life? There's no answer to this one. As for suggested readings for youngsters, Alex Rutherford's Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the North and Empire Of The Moghul: Brothers At War, JM Coetzee's Summertime and Disgrace, Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, Fatima Bhutto's Songs of Blood and Sword and Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach
Antara Dev Sen editor, The Little Magazine
The two books that changed my life are the alphabet books in English and Bengali.
This is the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore, one of the greatest poets and thinkers India has produced. He’s one writer who is a representative of Indian literature. The summer vacations are a good time for students to acquaint themselves with Tagore. There are many of his translations that are available in English which are topical. Students can go through his poems. short stories, essays and plays. This would enable them to understand what we’re celebrating
- Vandana Ramnani
Mark Tully author and former BBC journalist
The one book that changed my life was The Hindu View of Life by S Radhakrishnan, former president of India. I read it soon after I came to India, in the 1960s. I wanted to understand Indian philosophy. It got me interested in Indian philosophy and religion.
As for suggested reading for youngsters, the choice of books depends on what they enjoy.
One should go for someone like RK Narayan, for the simplicity of his style. On the serious side, one can't get wrong reading the classics, Anyone interested in English should read Shakespeare
— Rahat Bano
Kiran Bedi super cop
A spiritual journey
The books that changed my life and could change yours include Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. It is written by the saint himself and enjoys immense credibility. Youngsters don’t need to wait for retirement to read these books. The second book that I would recommend is The Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama and the third book is Touched by Fire by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, spiritual head of the Himalayan Insititute. These books will make you evolve inwards
- Vandana Ramnani
Sabyasachi Mukherjee fashion designer
My Book. My choice
The book that influenced me the most is The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I read it when I was 11 or 12 years old. It was magical for me because of the
surreal characters.The book brought out the dreamer in me which probably germinated the seed for what I am today.
The book that I would recommend youngsters to read is How The Steel Was Tempered by Nikolai Ostrovosky. It’s about the triumph of human will over all odds
- Pranab Ghosh
Ruskin Bond author
Books and short stories by P G Wodehouse, crime fiction novels by Agatha Christie, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were what I loved to read. I also loved plays
by JM Barrie (James Matthew) and George Bernard Shaw. I was inspired by David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
I would want youngsters to read biographies of people who have done something eventful in their lives. And then there is always adventure and fantasy, viz.
Harry Potter, Twilight, etc
— Nitin Sreedhar