Geronimo Stilton, Captain Underpants, Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson...kids today have much to choose from, writes SUBHA J RAO
Pranksters George Beard and Harold Hutchins are terrorised by their principal, the mean Benjamin Krupp. They get back, and how! They turn him into a reluctant superhero who wears just briefs and a cape! If you are a 10-year-old, you would have got the story by now. This is the tale of Captain Underpants , a hot favourite among pre-teens. Then, there’s the adorable mouse who publishes ‘The Rodent’s Gazette’. He scouts around for news instead of cheese and craves a vacation. That’s Geronimo Stilton. He also has a sister, Thea Stilton, who has a separate series in her name. There’s a big smile on kids’ faces as they read the squiggly text that literally shivers when Geronimo is afraid.
Books for kids are big news now. There was a time when interest in books came down and technology turned temptress. But, authors such as J.K. Rowling hooked kids back to the page. Luckily, others rushed in to meet the demand.
Divya Chandran’s sons Adhvik and Dhaman picked up the reading habit seeing their parents read. Today, her elder one reads National Geographic’s NG Kids Magazine (for ages 6-14). There’s also an NG Little Kids Magazine (for ages 3-6).
“Adhvik loves reading about wildlife. So, I make it a point to pick up books on the subject. Dhaman likes The Berenstain Bears . When we let kids read books relating to the topics they are interested in, it keeps the reading habit alive,” she says. But, yes, she does check if the books are age-appropriate.
Adventure is cool
J. Yashaswi finds Captain Underpants cool because it combines adventure, school life and an element of magic. His mother Nandini says she tries to ensure her son reads a mix of modern-day tales and vintage kids’ books. So, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton are a vital part of his reading list too.
Of late, parents and schools are encouraging children to read, if only to keep them off electronic gadgets. Book stores hold events for children. Online store Flipkart is working at initiatives such as book readings with famous children’s authors, to draw in young readers, says Anil Goteti, director-retail. Niranjani Ramanathan, who runs JustBooks library in Coimbatore, says parents are keen on books that showcase Indian culture and tradition in an easy-to-read manner. Probably why, publications by Tulika Books, Karadi Tales and Amar Chitra Katha are very popular. “It helps that most new international titles are available here too.” That way, children keep pace with what others in their age group are reading across the world.
Niranjani says that a library helps because when children visit it, they end up seeing and picking up books they would have never been exposed to otherwise.
Anu Vignesh’s daughter Mayanka, a Class V student, is a huge fan of Enid Blyton. She’s loves horses too, and so, an encyclopaedia on horses is popular on her reading list. So are pre-teen books such as the St. Claire’s series.
Rema Giridhar’s daughter Layanaya, 9, reads a lot of Amar Chitra Katha and Geronimo Stilton. “We allow her to read what she wants to. When she chooses a slightly higher read, we step in as censors, so that she reads the right books,” she says.
Abhirami, 15, is a voracious reader. She grew up abroad and so also reads books that are unfamiliar here. Her mother Vasanthi, an avid reader herself, says she has always encouraged Abhirami to read. “We have gently nudged her to try books a little higher than her level. This has ensured she reads all books, not just those she is used to or is comfortable with,” she says. Thanks to this, Abhirami reads Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Jerome K Jerome and PG Wodehouse. But, she also loves Asterix!
Sometimes, children’s reading habits rub off on adults. That’s what happened with Vasanthi. “Abhirami tells me about the new authors she’s reading. It’s lovely because these are authors who were not around when I was a kid. At any age, it’s nice to read kiddie books,” she says, rushing off to read her daughter’s copy of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather .
“I’ve to return it tonight!”