Being a children’s books author and a mother of two children aged 10 and 8 years, I am often asked the questions, “How do I instil a love for reading in my child?”, “When is it a good age to begin reading to them?” and “What are the best books for children?”.
I’m basing these views entirely on my passion for children’s literature as a writer and reader of children’s books (I devour my kids’ book, often before I hand it to them) and my personal experiences as a mother.
It’s never too early to introduce them to books! I began with cloth books and plastic bath books with a single image on a page. It’s the first introduction to the construct and form of a printed book where they get to turn pages. Is a printed book format important? It’s debatable with ebooks and iPad book apps but I do so love the printed book, especially when they are young. I love the tactile element of it and the cosy, gadget-free joy.
I moved on to board books with tactile, audio or interactive elements and began at this time to read out very simple books to my children. I might have made it through a page or two and sometimes the entire thing but slowly, they learnt to focus.
At the time that they began to grab at things and pages, I’d hold their hand and move it gently across the book while repeating the words ‘books’, ‘nice’, ‘careful’. It moves onward from there, so quickly and differently with each child. Reading to them formed our bedtime routine and now, I’ve had to extract books out of their hand as they’ve read, their toothbrush just stuck in place.
For me, a children’s book, as any other, needs to be well–written. I don’t look for moral lessons or what are the specifics that a book teaches when I pick one up. I’d rather stay away from those that sound didactic. A book written in a way that a child can connect to the words, thoughts and emotions expressed within it, will give your child the building blocks of understanding their own world better. They provide the building blocks for expression, for possibly understanding their own thoughts and traveling to magical worlds. And they must be fun.
It’s about as much as you can do and children take to reading in different ways, formats, differing pace and time.
I write books across age groups ranging from picture books for little ones as young as 3 years to initial chapter books, a fictional story with punctuation as characters called Squiggle takes a walk and the History-Mystery series for children age 8 years and up. I aim for my stories to work at multiple levels and for children to want to turn the page. I prefer to leave them at a point where I am not spelling out a message and handing it down to them but where they think for themselves and come to their own conclusions. I believe that the best books for children don’t talk down to them. The best books come in a variety of shapes and sizes and from a variety of authors, both Indian and international and I love to discover new titles for my children and myself. The best reading doesn’t necessarily even need to be a book! If they enjoy reading comics, magazines, newspapers… anything really, that’s great!
Amongst my books for younger children, Rooster Raga, is about a rooster who can’t say a kukaroo-kuroo. He visits all his friends on the farm for help. The story is as much about appreciating and knowing that it’s great to be different and being comfortable with your own self as it is about farm animals, the sounds they make, what their babies are called and more such. It ends with a song, his own raga, which you can hear on my website www.natashasharma.in.
I like working with the unexpected and my first book Icky, Yucky, Mucky has a royal family where the Maharaja has horrible table manners, the Maharani nibbles her nails and the Princess… well, I’ll leave you to find out for yourself when you read the book!
I’ve published two picture books recently with Pratham books – What Shall I Wear Today? (about the impossible wardrobe issues young and grown-up children face) and Anaya’s Thumb (on thumb-sucking). An upcoming picture book is Princess Easy Pleasy, who is impossible to please while traveling and confronted with unfamiliar food, milk, beds and the like.
You can discover more about my books, get a glimpse into them and find links to buy on my website: www.natashasharma.in.
Natasha Sharma is an award winning children’s books author. She has published eleven books for children, including Bonkers! that won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award 2014 for Asia and Middle East
Her first book Icky, Yucky, Mucky! was voted to the Top 3 books in HT-RivoKids Parent and Kids Choice Award 2014 in the under 5 years category. Her book Akbar and the Tricky Traitor from the History Mystery series was also voted to the top 3 books in the 5-10 year category for the same award. This year, two of her books have been voted to the first and runner-up position in their respective age categories in the RivoKids PKCA 2015 award
You can discover more about her books, activities with them and her reading sessions at these places: