Libraries are a great way to develop your child’s reading habits. It is important to expose children to a variety of books beyond academics and of various genres, from novels to poetry, for their critical reading skills and overall development.
Express Parenting got in touch with reading specialist Dalbir Kaur Madan, who also runs OneUp: Library, Bookstudio and Learning Lab, and is invested in creating vibrant library spaces. Madan has also launched the Bandana Sen Library Awards to honour women who have created world-class libraries, to be held on November 9, 2019.
Excerpts from the conversation with Madan on the importance of libraries for kids:
How important a role do libraries play in inculcating the habit of reading in children?
Libraries are the only spaces that celebrate readers and reading. They are vital for nurturing young students’ imagination, critical thinking abilities, development of collaborative spirit and innovation. By housing and exposing children to a variety of books, libraries help in facilitating diverse tastes, raising individuals with an opinion — those who have the ability to listen to divergent views and have one of their own.
What is an ideal library?
An ideal library is a space that listens to and nurtures its readers, identifies and caters to the needs of every reader with personalised attention. It builds its community and is mindful of it. It is a provider to its readers. I believe a library to be the third environment where a child is nurtured beyond home and school, to be a lifelong learner.
In today’s times, we need child-friendly spaces to give wings to their imagination. With hundreds of distractions around, a dreary library is the last thing on a child’s mind. When readers get together and celebrate reading, it provides an opportunity to foster a greater imprint of a child’s journey as a reader. Also, library spaces are important today and given the number of books that are written for children, it’s imperative that librarians guide parents about the selection process.
Tell us how you are helping libraries become dynamic learning spaces for kids.
The schools that we work with — we create programs for the library, offer them year-long support in terms of training programs, event support, feedback for librarians, teachers; help them with ideas for initiating non-readers into reading, step-by-step guidance suitable to different kinds of readers. So those libraries are celebrated and they become a place to look forward to every day. Since library programs needn’t be bound by the curriculum, it gives us an opportunity to give more trans-disciplinary experiences. Like Bandana Sen, a pioneer in the field of children’s libraries and reading programs in India, who celebrated art, craft, music — everything in the library. This makes the library a learning eco-system, not just a place for issuing and returning books.
How can parents encourage kids to participate in community and school libraries?
Parents are the key collaborators and without their keen interest, it’s very difficult to nurture readers just through the school. They should be active participants in library programs.
- Facilitate an environment at home, have conversations around books.
- Consistently reading to children is imperative for building stamina and focus. Repetition and patience are the key tools for this.
- Parent’s role-modelling as readers matters a lot to children. If you see a mother writing/drawing, the child will follow; if a parent is a sports lover, the child is more likely to be inclined towards games.
- The desire for ‘reading to learn’ has to be implanted through conversations on books, sparing time for the child to read initially and then enabling him to read on his own once the habit catches on.
- Celebrating your ‘child’s journey as a reader’, ‘reading’ in your house; being part of libraries, visiting bookstores — all these add up in nurturing a reader. Reading should be a part of the daily routine, not just considered a value-add for vocabulary building, for school assessments!
Schools, on the other hand, need to create futuristic libraries to cherish readers. Some schools are doing some great work, but there is a long road ahead for many.
Do you think parents need to keep a tab on what their child is reading? If yes, what are the things to check?
The only thing parents need to do is to provide time at home for the child to read, and ensure a ‘read aloud’ every day. If they are able to do this, they are checking every box that will help them develop a life-long reader.
When you are developing a child’s reading one has to stop expecting results in 10 or 20 days. You need to continuously nurture in their journey of becoming a lifelong reader:
- In the 0-5 year age group, read aloud to them at different times of the day, intersperse with picture books to attract attention.
- Between 6 to 8 years, you support them by giving ample time to practice reading and at the same time, continue to read aloud.
- Between 9 to12 years, parents encourage kids by having book conversations, by being a role-model, again ensuring that like other activities (tennis class, music/dance lessons) reading is a part of the daily schedule.
- Between 12 to 18 years, parents connect with children by reading nearly the same books, which they have either read or want to re-read. They become equals in that manner. The conversations are an opportunity to re-connect with the reader again.
How have children’s libraries in the country evolved?
I don’t think I am an authority to comment on that, however in my humble opinion, from a kiosk that was just giving out rented books, today there is cognisance among parents and schools, so that small spaces that can nurture reading exist. Some are run by those who are passionate about reading. At a certain level, you can see good work being celebrated, you hear more about storytellers, responsible writing and out-of-the-box publishing, especially for children.
So, I think, yes the future of libraries looks promising, though there is a lot of scope for improvisation, especially for our schools. They need to upgrade themselves to world-class level, and the Bandana Sen Library Award is a small step in giving an impetus to them, by recognising and celebrating those unsung champions who work relentlessly in making the library a space which nurtures souls and raises responsible, empathetic citizens.