The world of books seems to be closing in. Book publishers and bookstores are finding it hard to stay afloat. Yet, a small revolution is also going on: literary festivals and the experience of group book-reading sessions.
For pre-schoolers and toddlers who have access to so much visual entertainment, a book gives them one thing that apps and TV do not — the chance to look, touch, read, feel and taste. Nothing can replace a book, especially for toddlers who constantly perceive things through their five senses.
A good book is an emotional experience. From the time I officially have been an adult, I did only one thing — continue to choose to read only children’s literature. If parents have a regular time and place to read to kids every day, there will be some stories that your kids will ask for, over and over again. To parents who ask how to get their kids to read, I say: you read, they will read automatically. Reading aloud helps children remember words, increase vocabulary and help in cognitive development.
Here are five books in each age category that I’ve read, savoured and admired:
Catch That Crocodile
Author: Anushka Ravishankar, Illustrator: Pulak Biswas
Ideal for: 5-year-olds
This is one of Ravishankar’s beauties. Who will catch that crocodile that’s terrifying everyone? Probin, the policeman, with his stick? Can Doctor Dutta do the trick? Or is the crocodile here to stay? There is another thought: Who says a crocodile should be caught?
Because of Winn-Dixie
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Ideal for: 8-year-olds
She wrote The Tale of Despereaux, a sweet story of an unlikely mouse. But I love Because of Winn-Dixie even more. Winn-Dixie is a story of 10-year-old India Opal Buloni who comes to a small town with her father and adopts a dog. A sweet story of love and forgiveness.
The Lion & The Mouse
Author: Jerry Pinkney
Ideal for: any age, really
Re-examine the Aesop tale with the finely illustrated book where Pinkey's ability to capture expressions in the faces of his animal characters shows how we hardly need words to communicate.
Author: Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Ideal for: 5-year-olds
Less in text, textured in colours, vibrant in emotions, I refuse to lend this book to anyone.
Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late
Author: Mo Willems
Ideal for: 5-6 year-olds
This multiple award-winning bedtime storybook will keep the child and the parent laughing through this beautifully-illustrated, bedtime storybook with great body language and expressions. This is a book about the skill children exercise creatively in dodging bedtime. A perfect bedtime read as your kid will fall asleep in no time!
Apart from The Narnia series, the Harry Potter Series, the Malory Towers and St Clare’s Twins series, these five stand out:
Call It Courage
Author: Armstrong Sperry,
Illustrator: Dom Lupo
This is a must-read contemporary classic. It is an adventure story of Mafatu, the son of the Great Chief of Hikueru (belonging to a Polynesian race who worship courage), who is terrified of the sea and how he overcomes this.
Author: Louis Sachar
Holes, my favourite Sachar work, is of Stanley Yelnats, a juvenile delinquent who is sent to a camp where all the kids do one thing: dig holes. This is a brilliant book that teaches you about loyalty, friendship and how not to judge people.
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Roy Eberhardt is the new kid at Trace Middle School, Florida. No one wants to talk to him but thickheaded bullies like Dana Matherson needle him. It is about standing up for oneself and the world of owls.
The Illustrated Mum
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Wilson has a way of looking at the ugly adult world from the eyes of a child and telling a superb story of love. With drawings by Nick Sharratt, it’s a first-person narrative by a young girl, Dolphin and her manic depressive mother Marigold, nicknamed “the illustrated mum” because of her tattoos.
Author: RK Narayan
If you have kids between nine to 12, insist that they read this collection of 32 short stories set in a fictional village in south India. Gentle, funny and insightful, each story deals with simple people and simple issues they are faced with in real life.
Age: 13-15 (Young adults)
The Twilight Series, The Hunger Games series and the Divergent series are racy, heady and well written books for YA; these stand out as well:
Author: Kadohata Cynthia
This is a story of Japanese immigrants’ shift to America and Glittering. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it’s Lynn, Katie’s older sister who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow.
The Knife of Never letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Ness creates a fictional town Prentisstown, where there are no women and where all men can hear each other’s thoughts. Todd Hewitt is the only boy left in Prentisstown and he has grown up thinking and believing that this is how it is in the world.
The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
It’s about Hazel and Augustus Waters, cancer-survivors who meet at the Cancer Kid Support Group and their romance. But it is more than that.
A Single Shard
Author: linda sue Park
Set in Korea, this book is about Tree-ear, an orphan, who lives in a potters’ village; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own.
When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead Stead’s book is about sixth-grader Miranda whose world changes overnight when she receives four mysterious letters.
Vinitha Ramchandani is a children’s fiction author. Her stories are part of CBSE and ICSE English learning programmes.