Sara: Hey Neha, I love what you do. Running a library in the times of COVID would not have been the easiest. What would be your take away from it?
Neha: I have always felt that my decision of starting a library in 2017 itself was a bold move as there were many (there still are those) who consider books as a ‘not-so-essential’ product. Although in the past 3 years we have successfully created a community of dedicated readers.
I remember during the lock down, not even a day went by when I didn’t get a message from kids/ parents asking if I could get them books somehow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much then as we were strictly adhering to the government guidelines for lock down. However, when the lockdown was lifted we decided to re-open the library as we understood that, though these times are unexpected, it’s the ‘new normal’ and we should all learn to live in these challenging times. Keeping this in mind, we immediately prepared a protocol for safety measures that we would be following which were based on the advisory issued by the International Federation of Library Associations & Institutions which are being adopted by libraries world over. I personally feel that children need books even more now as their exposure to screens & gadgets is increasing due to the online classes. We now also have a very convenient pick and drop service for our library subscription.
Sara: How do you think reading ebooks compares with reading physical books?
Neha: I think both have their own share of pros and cons. I personally read both but I can’t deny the comforting experience that physical books provide. Something as simple as turning a page gives such satisfaction! Ebooks are convenient to carry, however, I don’t see them replacing physical books anytime in the future.
Sara: What are some tips you may have for parents of non-readers to take to reading, especially in these times of online classes and busy schedules?
Neha: Few things that parents of reluctant readers can keep in mind are:
- Make reading an indispensable part of their daily routine. Reading is as important as eating and sleeping are.
- Pick the books which are right for your child. Best scenario is to let the kids choose their books.
- Sit with them and read the books aloud for/ with them. This is specially recommended for beginners.
- Give them access to a variety of books. Usually kids stop reading because they don’t find reading material of their interest. If available, take trips to your local library.
Sara: What should kids and parents look for when picking a book? Can you recommend some for <8, 8-12 and 13+ age groups
Neha: Look at the cover and skim through the blurb given at the back and see if it could be of interest to your child. You could even flip through the pages to see if the content is satisfactory. Ask them about what they would like to read. Some books are good for a silent reading and some for a read-aloud, choose accordingly. If needed, take the help of your librarian while choosing the books.
I always find it difficult to recommend a few books because there are so many amazing books out there and also every child has a different reading preference. I would mention the books which were most popular this last year in our library:
Less than 8 years – Mercy Watson, I Can Read series, Bad Guys, Dogman, Pratham Books, Julia Donaldson’s books, Karadi Publications, Gajapati Kulapati & many Tulika publications Rainbow Magic Fairy, Dragon Masters, Judy Moody, Hole Books, Hook Books etc.
8-12 years – Rick Riordan, Goosebumps, Lucky Series by Nalini Sorensen, Geronimo & Thea Stilton, Adventures of Mooli series, Yaksha by Archana Mohan, My Weird School, Books by Shabnam Minwalla, Emperor who vanished, Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Sonia Mehta off to States series, Malgudi Days, Middle School, Sudha Murthy, Amar Chitra Katha, Captain Underpants, Big Nate, David Walliam, Neil Gaiman etc.
12+ years – Wonder, Cassandra Clare, Ruskin Bond, The selection series, Subhadra Sen Gupta, Raina Telgemeier, Harry Potter, Suzanne Collins, Graphix Novels, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc.
About Neha Jain: Neha is a Founder & Owner of Kahaani Box- The Library (Bengaluru). She is a Chartered Accountant & a Company Secretary by qualification with specialization in Taxation. But it was her love for books that made her start her own library Kahaani Box in 2017, which is helping hundreds of children and is transforming the way people look at books. We indulge kids in storytelling and activities for hands on learning so that we can nurture reading and literacy developments in all forms.
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