How to catch them young

Updated: Nov 12, 2017, 11:10 IST | Nasrin Modak Siddiqi | Mumbai

Young parents in Mumbai share what they are reading out to their kids to not only make them confident but also gender-sensitive. Perhaps you'd like to follow suit...

Books have the power to influence one's mind and that's why, reading to your child is the most effective way to shape their outlook towards life. Most of us start out with the clichéd fairy tales and folklores but the key to justly influence their views for a modern-day world is to introduce them to literature that moulds their character. Make a wish!"

Anushree Rao and her daughter Navya enjoy their story book hour at home. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Anushree Rao and her daughter Navya enjoy their story book hour at home. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Anushri Rao's seven-year-old daughter Navya confidently builds engineering projects, writes 300 lines of code programming while juggling it all with her love for ballet and cooking. Her mother has consciously steered clear from gender stereotyping, letting her daughter pick her interests.

On their reading list is Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai. "This illustrated book is Malala's autobiography, meant for a younger audience. You learn of how a young girl living in a regressive country wishes for a magic pencil to bring about change and make everyone happy. Her dream comes true when she grows up and she goes about fixing the world through words. It's the perfect way to let my daughter believe that nothing is impossible if you believe in inner magic," says Rao.

Not without my son!
School teacher Sheetal Dhotre and her 10-year-old boy Pranshu are currently reading Not without my daughter by Betty Mahmoody, which is about an American mother's struggle to flee with her daughter, from an orthodox Islamic state. The little one, we are told, is often full of questions about gender equality. Like the time he asked his mother why Lord Ram left Sita, or why was Draupadi dragged by her brother-in-law in the king's court and no one came to her rescue.

"When Pranshu started reading this book, he began to compare the mother's character, Betty, to me. He begin to respect the efforts of a mother, and questioned how anyone can impose their ideas without consent. While it's not a children's book and tackles a serious subject, the simple language makes it an easy read, and can make the reader, however young, conscious of gender realities," says Dhotre.

Bring on the music
Homemaker Mili Shah often reads stories of mother Teresa, mythology and Panchatantra to her four-year-old son, Shaurya. The curious toddler keeps asking his mum questions regarding gender differences from things that he observes. For instance, he feels that girls cannot join the force, or become firefighters. Recently, at Shaurya's school library, Shah found the book Drum, Chavi, Drum by Mayra Lazara Dole. As she leafed through the pages, she realised it was an ideal read to kill the reservations her son harboured in his mind.

"It's an illustrative book about a little girl named Chavi, who wants to show the world how good she's at playing the drums. Unfortunately, since she is a girl, no one wants to hear her, and they tell her that drumming is a boy's forte. She continues to show people her skills, but no one lends her a ear. Only when she dresses up like a boy, does everyone listen and realises how amazing she is. I think for parents, it's a great find to share with their children to teach them how not to gender stereotype, as these tend to get ingrained in us from a very young age," says Shah.

Kiddie reading list:
> Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
> The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
> Drum, Chavi, Drum! by Mayra L. Dole
> Matilda by Roald Dahl

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