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Samina Mishra

I spend a lot of time in children’s bookstores, looking for books that will make my three year old a book lover. So far, I seem to be on the right track. He loves his books—the well produced ones! Good illustrations, bright colours, things that pop up, pages that he can turn himself. The story itself is secondary at this stage. That’s more about what comes out of my mouth —am I reading it well, am I dramatizing it enough, am I performing well enough! But of course, as a parent, content is also very important to me. And so, I spend my time in children’s bookstores looking not just for the well-produced books, but also for those which I think will bring complexity to his world. Sometimes I’m way off the mark. For example, I recently bought him In the Dark by Tara Publishing. It’s the fable about five different men touching five different parts of an elephant and thinking that it’s five different things. I thought it was well produced but at this point in Imran’s life, hand made paper with expressionist illustrations are not attractive enough to make him want to deal with a story of multiple visions. With others, though, I’ve been more successful. Line and Circle, a bilingual book by Tulika was very popular with him for a long time. And it helped to make the existence of multiple languages a very natural part of his world. Sometimes, we’d read it in English and sometimes in Hindi. He would choose and so, become an active participant in what was to be a part of his world. Why do I look for complexity, you could ask? He’s just a three year old, you could say, you have to keep things simple. And I would say, look again. I would say, keeping things simple is not the same as keeping them simplistic. Children live in a complex world today.We all live in a complex world today. Children grow up with many languages, many kinds of food, music, clothes. They grow up with nuclear families, joint families, single parent families. They grow up with posh schools and gali cricket. They grow up with working-mothers, stay-at-home-mothers and working-at-home-mothers. They grow up with fathers who cook, change nappies and sing to them and fathers who don’t. They ...

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