Why local stories are so great for toddlers and little children.
Noddy, Rapunzel, Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Cinderella may have populated our mindscape through books when we were young. We all knew that heather was found in the English countryside, that girls were little princesses waiting to be rescued, and that the summer vacation meant a visit to the seaside. But what about the summer we spent visiting Nani? Or eating guavas and mangoes? Seasides rarely featured in Indian vacations, unless you lived by them, while mangoes featured prominently. Princesses are only to be found in fairy tales, and most of us have to rescue ourselves from the everyday hubbub of real life.
Stories are a great way to familiarize kids with language, their surroundings, values, and life in general. But for that, you ideally need stories set in the ethos that you are raising your child in, the values that you wish to pass on and are familiar enough for them to identify with. A story that talks of dosas or parathas gives them a local perspective on local food, for instance. It might even help fussy eaters be less fussy. We can sensitize our children to the environment around them when they can identify what they hear and relate it to things in their everyday life.
We often resort to classics such as the Hungry Caterpillar or The Wizard of Oz as we know of the quality we are getting. We do not know which new authors to trust and how to pick the right books with a local flavor.
How can you pick the right local books for kids.
Make it colorful- For babies and toddlers, colors are extremely attractive and catch and hold their attention.
Local languages as well - While there are lovely English books by Indian authors for kids, you can also try the translations in the vernacular, so that your child gets better exposure to every language.
Folklore- Jataka tales, Panchatantra, are some of the local stories that are available to us. Folk tales always give a different perspective and use local settings to narrate a story.
Quality over quantity - Toddlers often like listening to their favourite stories over and and over again. While you must expose children to as many books and concepts as you can, they also love and find comfort in the familiar. So get books that are well made, well written and of good quality.
Match their interests - Stories are better when they resonate with you. If your child likes elephants, try to get them started on books with an elephant or two. This keeps them engaged and helps them remember. If they prefer cars, get them one of the many colorful books on cars.
Ask for recommendations - The parent grapevine will self- curate books that you can then get for your baby. Add popular books to the list and keep it going.
Build a reading habit in the growing years and it will last a lifetime. We can give our children the kind of exposure no other generation before them could have. Here is to mixing up all the flavors - local and international- to create a unique one of your own. Happy reading!!
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