The Power of Stories
I have witnessed time and again, firsthand, the power of stories with my children. Navyaa is more observant, curious and empathetic of those around her because of the unique window that books give her into others' lives. While SULWE (Lupita Nyong'o) taught to love her dark skin color, MACHAR JHOL offered her a glimpse into the world a blind boy. Mahir at two, has been exposed to life in Africa through HANDA’S SURPRISE (Eileen Brown) and is already learning to be a feminist during our weekly revisits of (WOMEN TRAILBLAZERS).
Stories are so powerful and this has been the leading driving force for this passion project. Over the last few weeks, I enjoyed sharing and reading some of my favourite books. I hosted two instagram live sessions with two incredible women. Click on the photo BELOW to be redirected to the instagram page :).
My first Instagram live was with Priyanka Bhansali:
Priyanka Bhansali is an NY state certified Childhood Education and Special Education Teacher with a Master’s in Educational Development. She moved to Antwerp 8 years ago and taught English as a second language to adults and kids. She is a mom of two boys, ages 2 and 4 and an instagram blogger for toddler activities and games.
Everyone knows that reading with your child helps with language acquisition, vocabulary expansion and brain development, but what else?
Priyanka and I discussed some of the less obvious, more meaningful benefits of reading
Priyanka is as passionate about children’s literature as I and as mothers, both of us had aligned visions about raising empathetic, kind and open-minded children ABOVE all else! We unpacked the importance of reading aloud at home and shared some of our favorite books and the impact that they have had on our children! I’d love for your thoughts on the live session.
We spoke about reading routines and how we pick the books to read with our children. After this we broke down THE POWER OF STORIES into three different segments
INTRODUCING NEW TOPICS because allow you talk about things so organically.
CHALLENGES THEY FACE whether getting glasses or a new sibling.
BEING INCLUSIVE MEMBERS OF SOCIETY a child can play their small part in a big world
My second instagram live was with Samina Mishra:
Samina Mishra is a documentary filmmaker, writer and teacher based in New Delhi, Her films use the lens of childhood, identity and education to reflect the experience of growing up in India, and include The Teacher and The World (2016) and Stories of Girlhood (2001). She has written children's books published by Duckbill, Scholastic, Tulika and Penguin. Her interest in the ways that the arts can be included in education led her to head programming at the Nehru Learning Centre for Children and Youth where she focussed on using the arts in a variety of ways with government school children. She is currently teaching the International Baccalaureate Film programme Noida and collaborating on Torchlight, a web journal on libraries and bookish love.
This was one of the most special and memorable conversations and one that I can hear over and over again to hear Samina’s beautiful words of advice. Her work focuses on ‘seeing the world anew’ and being able to show the world in all its diversity.
‘We The Children of India’ is incredible on-going project that was started in 2019 particularly stemmed from the debate on what it means to be Indian. The project focuses on abstract ideas of identity and culture and uses the medium of poetry to allow children to understand their place in the world through everyday things they experience.
She advises parents to encourage children to write poetry because it’s really not a high-art. She says that poetry is NOT only about rhyme, but actually about rhythm. More than anything it should be based on repetition and then the last line you break the rhythm. Children are introduced to songs and rhythm so organically. If you child does write a poem (in their mother tongue or in any language) let them send it in.
She’s not trying to raise every child to be an artist, but at least be self-aware and more engaged with their place in the world. We spoke about the importance of sharing untold stories to our child for them to see themselves reflected in the world, as well as seeing other people’s stories.
Below I am sharing some of her top film and book recommendations for young children (5+)
Youtube - The Red Balloon (1956) by Albert Lamorisse
Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969) Satyajit Roy
Children of Heaven (1997)- Majid Majidi
My Neighbour Totoro (1988) Hayao Miyazaki
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
Indian publication has made huge strides in the last two decades, here are some of her recommendations!
Anushka Ravishankar - captures place of play and real big ideas that all individuals grapple with
MOIN AND THE MONSTER
TODAY IS MY DAY
Uma Krishmaswami- BOOK UNCLE AND ME (8+)- written entirely in worse
Samina Mishra- MY FRIEND IN THE CITY
Nandini Nayar - WHAT DID YOU SEE?
Shals Mahajan - TIMMI IN TANGLES
Thank you so much and stay tuned for the next series!
Ideally, I would like the parent to feel empowered and go with their gut feeling when it comes to reading, but here are some strategies you might like to keep in mind.
I sometimes see a particular kind of picture book described as a “quiet book.” I think perhaps that phrase has different meanings for different people but that, generally speaking, a quiet book is one that leaves the reader room for contemplation. Perhaps it can also mean a book with inherent ambiguities in part or in full, a book that asks more questions than it provides answers.
My four year old was gifted the book ‘Journey’ by Aaron Becker and according to the New York Times it is a ‘masterwork’. The only caveat, there is no text. But don’t quiver just yet. The strong visual narrative makes it so easy to tell the story of this girl and her adventure, the reader will surprise himself. The beauty of a wordless wonder like Becker’s is that there are a myriad of possibilities predominately spurred by the storyteller’s creativity!
According an article by Samantha Brown for the Tiny Owl Publication, Art is a universal language and the illustrations in wordless picture books unite readers in a way that language-based books just can’t. Since the illustrations do all the talking this makes the story accessible to all readers, irrespective of age or gender and the possibilities for imagination are infinite.
Using picture clues is an important comprehension strategy as it increases children’s vocabulary by encouraging them to use language that they would otherwise not use. In David Wiesner’s Flotsam, a bright and curious boy discovers a strange camera and through it, takes the reader on an underwater adventure. As my daughter and I immersed ourselves in this little treasure, she learned new words like barnacle and ashore. She thoroughly enjoys re-telling different versions of the tale to her pretend toys.
Silent books give an early reader a break from decoding the syntax and allow them more space to explore the story itself. Tomie de Paola’s ‘Pancakes for Breakfast’, is the perfect book for an emergent reader who needs a break from all that reading! It is set on frothy winter morning when an old lady living on a farm decides she wants to have pancakes. It is a simple tale, but there’s room to play around with interesting words. The reader is left to his own devices to select how many components he would like to add to the mix and in this regard the story can be as simplistic or as detailed as the storyteller decides.
As Walter Fochesato, one of the leading scholars in children’s literature, points out words that there to help you understand, but they are not necessary. He goes on to state that it is surprising that there is underestimation and prejudice for wordless books. Consequently, the idiom, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ certainly holds true for wordless books. In some cases, words can be limiting, giving the reader a prescribed pattern to follow. Alternatively, visual narratives make room for everyone to tell their version of the story and that’s what makes them so precious.