Anyone who has known me since childhood will have one enduring image in their mind - a dishevelled little girl with hair falling over her eyes and most often seen in a white petticoat, always, always holding a book under her nose. In fact, my earliest childhood memories are not from my life but from the images of a book I read as a little girl. I was a precocious kid, an only child often left to my own devices. Not being the athletic kind, books were my only method of passing time and my parents ensured that an endless supply of books was kept up. Sometimes, I wonder if I have read more than I have lived. To quote those beautiful, beutiful words of Meg Ryan from the movie 'You've got mail', 'So much of my life reminds me of a book I once read, when, in fact, should'nt it be the other way around?'. Such beautiful words that I go into raptures just thinking about that movie. Anyway, I digress.
The point I am trying to make is, I inhale books. Quite literally. Magazines, newspapers, pop fiction, romance, chick flick, classics. Just about every genre that there is to read. And in my world, I cannot relate to people who do not read. I may still like them and be friends with them but a crucial, very enjoyable part of my relationship with a lot of people is to talk about what I have read and that part will definitely be missed.
Thankfully, the husband also reads and during our pre-kuttan days, many a happy afternoon were spent companionably reading. Once kuttan was born, hyper mother that I am, I went on an overdrive. I started collecting books for him from the time he was 3 months old. And started reading to him just as soon. And, a year later, I was reading Dr.Seuss books and colour books and shape books. And was getting increasingly frustrated when my happy baby boy showed not the LEAST bit of inclination or interest or preference to books.
Many nights would be spent with me shoving a book under his nose and him trying to wriggle away from me. As he passed the age of 4, things still hadnt improved and I lost interest. 2008 was a busy year in our household with the arrival of little princess and kuttan starting LKG. Somehow, I did not pay as much attention to him that year as I should have so I failed to notice that while other kids were slowly trying to read, my son was'nt even going beyond recognising the alphabet. All my pushing and prodding had put him off reading and he was digging his heels in mentally. I did not know any of this till I was called by his teacher last year who explained to me that kuttan was falling behind in the reading department. While other kids were able to read simple three letter words, my baby was refusing to even try. All my bullying had backfired badly. I came back sobbing and had a sleepless night were I envisioned a son who would not read books.
The next day, I went to work on him. Kuttan is a bit of a techno freak and I decided to give him his bitter pill with a sugar coating. The first site I introduced him to was www.starfall.com. The first few days were met with fierce resistance of having to apply his mind to putting the letters together. But I persisted and he slowly, painstakingly learnt to read 2 and 3 letter words at the age of 5. I also invested in some reading books. The Disney series 'Let's read and understand' was wonderful because it combined easy exercises and and games with flash cards and sight words. Slowly, I saw an increase in interest in his eyes. For the first time, he would try to read the billboards from the car. When we went to shops, he would try to read the names of the labels and it was like a new world had opened for him for the first time. Amar chithra kathas are being devoured with regularity along with Magic pots.
There was no looking back after that and my son proved to be quick and insatiable learner. Mornings during IPL season were spent with kuttan and the husband poring over the newspaper and kuttan reading off the sports page. Cricket and readinf. I was'nt complaining at all! But I truly, truly didnt realise how far he had come till last week. I had had a busy day with a lot of errands to run outside the house and returned late in the evening to a surprisingly quiet house. 'Where is kuttan', I asked amma. 'Must be playing in the room', she replied. As I tiptoed into his room, I found my 6 year old son nonchalantly sitting with my copy of R.K.Narayan's 'Swami and friends'. 'What are you doing kutta?', I asked. He looked up with a smile and said, 'This book is really cool amma...Rajam and Mani and Swami have so much fun!!!'
Welcome to my world, son. Enjoy the beautiful journey. I am so happy you discovered the beauty and endless of magic and wonder of reading.