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In Search Of A Good Story

“Mum-um Golpo bolo”

(Mother, tell me a story)

Storytelling is a parenting hazard! Oh yes, it is…especially if you have a kid like mine who asks for a ‘golpo’ (story) all round the day. At meal times, play times, ‘me’ times, bedtimes, in between a story, after a story, before a story. Stories about his car, bike and toys. And stories about Spiderman, Poo, Momkey and Hamba (cow) Stories about his father, uncles and aunt. His own stories and stories of Thakur (we happened to watch a bit of Sholay together)…Phew!! Oh yes! He has a voracious appetite for a story.

😀 *touchwood*

Nothing gives me more joy than to read a book with V. Like Baby Bing in ‘Baby’s Day Out’ V gets stuck to a favourite book. While it is sometimes a struggle to break away from his favourites, it is also a delight to lure him towards a new read. We snuggle together, read together, make funny faces together, emote together and enact the book together.  We pick the characters in the book and mix them with characters from another book. We make new stories and experience our stories in a new way every day. How else can I explain that V gets up in the morning asking for Simba’s hug?  😀

Reading Collage

Over the past several months I have come to experience the power of books and storytelling as a parenting tool; one that EVERY parent must have in her / his armour. The beauty of this is that you don’t have to be a reader, really. All you need is to want to spend time with your child when he / she has your complete attention. I don’t want to get into the benefits of reading to your child, chances are that you already know it. If you don’t, I will leave that for another post. But before that, here are the top 5 reasons why I read to my 28 month old.

1)     Connect

 There is no better way to connect with my child than read a book together. Our reading sessions are short and crisp…lasting about 15-20 minutes. Sometimes I have been able to stretch it to 30 minutes! We almost always read more than 1 book at a time. Mostly it is 2 books, sometimes it is 3. But that’s because he wants to read more than one. In those precious moments we are one, connected by a single tale that draws us in. When I bring a book out, we take time to explore the book. We look at the cover, the illustrations, the clothes and mannerisms of the characters, the tiny small details that do not play a role in the story but form an essential part of the image that the child sees (for example, the image of a lizard on a wall). We try and judge the emotions the characters go through mostly their expressions tell us that.  Even if the book is a re-read, we do the same drill. It is only after this that we really read the book. And through it all, we cuddle and have a great time.

2)     Vocabulary

In a Bengali household I make sure I talk to V in Bangla. But that’s because I know as he grows up, this language will become his third preference, lest it slips further down in his choice of languages. So a lot of times I have read stories to him in English and translated them to him in Bangla. As he grows up and nears his play-schooling phase I have ensured his basic English vocabulary is built up. Thanks to some stellar Indian publishers, there are some great bilingual books available today. So no matter what is the age of your child, you always have a choice and resource to teach your child more than one language.

3)     Imagination

 If you are a parent I am sure you have been washed away by your child’s imagination. To look at a picture and interpret possibilities without considering its real meaning is truly a child’s genius. Give me an image and I will only look at it for it is worth and not what it can become. But that’s not what it is to V. And I am sure it is the same for your child too. So when we read I leave the book to his imagination and interpretation. “What is this?” we often ask each other. While he tries to eke out answers to questions in his head, I love to hear his babble of possibilities.

4)     Lessons

Do all books come with a lesson? And when is the right time to talk to a child about morals in a story? Yes…all stories come with morals.  It is up to us to pick them. It is never too late to begin talking about lessons and morals in a story. I dislike The Ugly Duckling for instance, and for V I have a different version of the story. Emotions, feelings and behaviour are very delicate issues that must be shared with children at an early age. As adults we often underestimate the understanding of our little ones. Concepts like sharing, kindness, gratitude, empathy and are not too tough for them. They are waiting for experiences, and it is up to us to give them the perfect examples; through books and stories and otherwise.

5)     Children’s Literature

Did I tell you I am smitten by Children’s Literature? Oh yes, I am! So much so, that my own reading list is lagging behind. And it stands at a dismal level! Everywhere I go, I walk into a book shop losing myself in the children’s section. I am constantly browsing through online libraries, making notes, pinning posts on Pinterest and all I can think of is the next kiddie book that I want in our library. Yes, I am so loves truck that I can’t bear to call it his library! So I dig into his liberally. Today we have more than 200 titles that stand on V’s bookshelf. *Yikes*

So in between of all this reading, where did story telling come in?

I have told stories all along. Professionally as a television producer, story tilling and telling is what I have done always. From political documentaries, to lifestyle shows, travelogues, to human interest. Sometimes we’ve dug up the archives to bring to life stories of the past, at others we have scraped the truth of what is being hidden. For 9 years I have done just that and I have loved every moment of it.

To be fair to my source of inspiration, V was the reason I took to storytelling. I wanted to be a better storyteller to him, to entertain him and play with him. With my heart in its place I trained under Simi Srivastava at Kathashala. And it took me away like a leaf in a storm!

To write about my experience as a story teller will be tough and I am not sure I have the words to truly describe it. But I will give it a try…

ð  To decide to be a story teller as a hobbyist or a professional is a HUGE risk that I take. At 32, it has taken me great courage to push myself towards a creative field once again. And to enjoy it thoroughly, as much as I do has taken me by complete surprise. I didn’t realise I would have so much FUN!!

ð  There are clear divisions here when it comes to experiencing a story. There is a difference between ‘reading’ a story, ‘telling’ a story, ‘performing’ a story and ‘watching’ a story. As a story teller, I get to experience one story in so many ways.

ð  To watch a wide-eyed audience, almost stupefied by your performance is surreal. I have addressed mixed crowds of children and adults and I have never seen so many happy faces. “In all my 60 years no one has told me a better story!”this is the one compliment that will remain with me forever.

ð  Everyone enjoys a story, well told. And that has been my objective behind being a story teller all along; in television and now. To tell a story like no one else can. Whether I am able to do this in the future will be a test for me.

ð  I am the Chief Entertainment Officer for my kiddo. So why not do that for some others do. It is best to make people smile than to make them cry, right?

ð  I’ve always wanted to have a bookstore. Yes, as long as I can remember that is the one thing that has driven me. Now I may not have a book store really, but I have a ready excuse to be around books and stories.

ð  Oxytocin and Serotonin – are at their best! These are two very powerful ‘feel good hormones’ that the body releases after a feel-good, successful act. So why not make it a daily affair? Say goodbye to negativity and pessimism.

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If this has interested you and you want to know more about my adventures with reading and storytelling hop over to the GOLPO **page. It has listings of all my forthcoming events. Feel free to connect through the Contact Page or mail me at rituparnaghosh (at) outlook (dot) com.

I’ll be delighted to tell you a story!

 **’Golpo’ is the Bangla word for Story**

 

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Parenting Goals in 2014

Each New Year is like a box of surprises. You open up a box unknowingly and out jumps a surprise. Sometimes you set yourselves goals. Sometimes, like I did this year, you may set out to list the things you wouldn’t do. But when it comes to parenting I tread a very careful line. Because it is not my role as a parent that I am talking about, it also that of another human being that I am responsible for.

So here in no particular order are my New Year Parenting Goals:

  1. Hands-On to Pro-Parenting

I am a huge follower of hands-on parenting. From reading together, to making discoveries, to talking, making use of our hands and minds, I believe that the role of the parent is evolving today. And while there are so many like-minded parents (mostly mothers though) who make conscious decisions for their children and families, there are also so many who rely on traditional wisdom when it comes to parenting. Some believe that money spent on their children will bring them happiness. Some others believe that the school is meant to teach the child all that he/she has to. This year as a parent I want to share my experiences of being a hands-on parent with as many as I can in an order to turn every parent into a pro-parent.

  1. Balance

2014 has begun when my professional life is undergoing a tumultuous phase. I am at the crux of leaving my television career for good, to soak into something that has been my heart’s calling. I will still be a working mother, and starting now it will only get tougher. So as I embark on a new journey, I begin my balancing act once again. This year I hope to keep a fine balance and maintain a perfect harmony in my role as a parent and a professional.

  1. Handle the Tantrums Better

There is nothing more disconcerting than have a toddler have a meltdown that disrupts his sense of calm. More than us, I notice these meltdowns and tantrums leave him upset and perpetually cranky. As he grows up and makes more demands of us, I hope to give him fewer reasons to throwback a tantrum at us. It is tough, I know. So I will watch my words, actions and behavior and try and walk him out of these stressful and threatening situations.

To read the rest of my parenting goals for the year head over to Parentous

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Book Review: The Little Giraffe

There is a certain magic in stories. For one, it can transport you to magical places in an instant! And wouldn’t it be lovely to share this joy with your child?

As a book lover, trying to raise a little reader, I try to pick books that take us (yes, ‘us’ because reading to us is a journey that V and I have taken on) to different places. For a two and half year old who hasn’t seen much of the world it is a wonderful promising adventure to hear and read about places that I hope he will see in his lifetime. Add to that the magic of folk lore. As a story lover, I have grown up on a staple of Indian mythology and folk tales. And who hasn’t? However, as a story teller I find it equally exhilarating to discover stories from different parts of the world.

This week we travelled all the way to Africa to find a story. We picked an Usborne First Reading Book from our friendly neighbourhood children’s library Buzzing Books.

TLG

The Little Giraffe is an endearing folk-tale from Africa, retelling the remarkable story of how the world’s first ‘little’ giraffe became tall! The Little Giraffe and his best friend Rhino are very, very hungry. What happens next changes their lives forever. The story is that of a little Giraffe, who happens to be the world’s Giraffe! He is a little Giraffe and does not have a long neck and long legs. Together with his best friend Rhino he goes around the dry, parched and of the forest looking for food. But the harsh sun makes it difficult for anything to grow. The two friends remain hungry and sad.

One day the two friends decide to go the wise old man in the village and seek his help. The wise old man asks them to visit him the next day and promises to brew up a magic drink for him. The next day, however, only the Giraffe lands up at the old man’s door. The old man gives the bowl of magic drink to the Giraffe. As he finishes drinking it, the little Giraffe begins to grow. His neck grows longer and his legs grow taller. And very soon, he resembles the Giraffe we all know of!  The old man tells him that now the Giraffe can reach up to the leaves up high in the trees. Now he won’t have to go hungry any more!

When the Rhino meets the Giraffe he asks him what happened! The Giraffe tells him about the magic drink and that there is none of it left! The Rhino is left eating the dry grass. He is furious with the wise old man, his friend the ‘not-so-little’ Giraffe and even with himself!

And that’s the reason why he is still very angry today!

Why The Little Giraffe

The Little Giraffe as a story works for me and here are my reasons:

1) To a young reader, it works beautifully because it has animals he is familiar with

2) It is a story that answers questions like, “Why does the Giraffe have a long neck?”

3) It is a story about friendship

4) It is a story about food and nutrition

5) It is a story about thoughtful behaviour

For Ages

There are many lessons from this simple story, and depending on your child’s age you can introduce them at the appropriate age. This book is therefore suitable for ages 1- 6.

Mommy’s Story Telling Technique

As a story teller, I try to pick stories that I can dramatise or show. The Little Giraffe worked beautifully thanks to wooden animal blocks that we have in our home. I used the wooden Rhino and Giraffe and puppets in my story telling and shared the story with my son.

The Little Giraffe

And even though he is a child who love his juices, I particularly spoke to him about the magical juice that the Giraffe drank. I told him if he keeps drinking the magical juices we give him he would grow up to be tall and healthy like the Giraffe.

Concepts Shared

The novelty of reading a book adds to the magic of story telling. When I read The Little Giraffe for the first time, I realised that it is a lovely book to teach three very important things.

1) Importance of Food – It is important for a child to understand the importance of food. It is also important for a child to understand the significance of hunger. As parents, we hope, pray and try our best to never have a hungry child. But it is also important to teach a growing child to identify the signs of hunger. From being fussy and picky eaters, to forgetting food in the middle of play, we mothers have a lot to deal with anyway! So when there is a story that talks about how it is to not have food and stay hungry, it becomes an important read!

2) Friendship – How do you teach a child to be a good friend? Difficult isn’t it? But maybe through this story of friendship you can share a thing or two. By telling him / her that the Giraffe should have shared the magic drink with his best friend Rhino! After all, they were in it together.  Or by talking about how the Giraffe could use his long neck to tear leaves from the trees and share them with his friend Rhino? Fantastic, isn’t it? Or how about the Rhino forgiving his friend Giraffe for drinking the magic drink alone?

3)  Actions & Reactions – Anger is a very natural emotion. And children experience it more than we imagine them to. Anger is a negative emotion and therefore it is important for us to teach them how to manage it. To begin with, this story teaches a child that the Rhino forgot about the old wise man. He found dry grass on the way and he chose to eat it instead. The Giraffe kept the meeting and that is why he went ahead had the large share of the magic drink. The mistake was clearly the Rhino’s! As Giraffe’s best friend he should be happy for him,instead of being angry. Being angry at the wise old man is also of no use, because he clearly asked for the Rhino. He let the Giraffe drink the whole lot of the magic drink! It is also of now use to be angry at oneself, because not just does it push away friends and loved ones, it also makes one bitter.

About the Publisher

I particularly like the Usborn collection of books. There is one for all kinds of readers and there a definite thought that has gone behind the making of these books. The Usborn Reading Program has thoughtfully researched and adapted books for its varied readers. The illustrations are bright and friendly, enough to tickle the little reader. The language, presentation and intent is to equip a reader with necessary reading skills. Some of the books also come with puzzles at the end of the book that help a child refresh his memory with regard to images, words and sentences that he has just read.

About On-board the Mommyship & Buzzing Books

I am delighted to collaborate with Dr Neha Gupta at Buzzing Books. With our common love for Children’s Literature, reading, storytelling and pro-parenting we have decided to come together.

We are happy to announce the first of our BUZZING BEES Workshop for Mothers & Babies on 7th an 8th Feb. Head over to our events page on Facebook for more information. Or write to me at rituparnaghosh (at) outlook (dot) com.

Don’t forget to check my story telling page – GOLPO for updates on upcoming events.

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Buzzing Books a.k.a BB is an online book rental service, especially designed for children from toddlers to teens to enrich their reading experience. To cut it short, it is a CHILDREN’S LIBRARY, first of its kind in NOIDA! BB services all of Noida and several parts of Delhi. Got questions? This will help you.

on-board the mommyship WP

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Parenting Versus Grandparenting

“This time we will take you home with us,” say the grandparents every time they come visiting V and his parents. Oh yes…they come to visit him and not us. For both sets of grandparents the lure of the grandchild is far stronger than it is for their own first born. A and I are both the first born for our respective sets of parents. But over the years the offspring has found an extra special significance in our homes. “Where is your passport?” demands my father if I happen to visit him without my son. My parents & in-laws live in the same town. And over the years it has become very stressful to visit them with both sets of grandparents weighing the hours spent in each others’ home.

It is in times like these that I realise that a child is not just yours. He belongs to your parents and he has a rightful place in their lives, homes and universe.

So strong is the emotion that they often want to take him away. Now that he is a toddler, no longer dependent on his mother for nutrition, has a set routine about his life and is definitely more fun to be with, I am often propositioned with the offer. Of course, the condition is always to take the nanny along too. How else will they handle the not-so-pleasant moments of raising a toddler?

Grandparents
A’s childhood was very unusual. His grandmother had decided on her grandson’s name even before her son got married. He was born just a year after his parents married. Six months later when he gave up mother’s milk, he moved out of his mother’s lap into his grandmother’s. And from there on A’s Thamma raised him as her most favourite grandchild. She doted on him. I have never seen her, but whenever I hear her stories from A I can almost picture her – the grand matriarch of the house raising a brood of chickens. Because it was not just A that was raised by her. All his cousins that included his aunt’s daughters also lived in the same house. And each of them speaks about their childhood with fondness. One of his aunts lived in another city. My in-laws too moved to another leaving behind their son with their parents. It was time for him to join school and A in his interview named his grandfather when asked about his father’s name. The name stayed on the school records for a very long time. Until my father-in-law went and got it changed!

Thamma was a force to reckon with. A was her favourite and she always selected him over the other grandchildren. But when it came to hard core discipline she yielded her iron hand liberally. From hearing mythological stories, to imbibing life’s skills and mannerisms, good behavior, to following sports like tennis and cricket, eating every vegetable and fruit in the market to even being pinned down for those unpleasant vaccinations Thamma was the force behind A’s childhood. Each of his stories has Thamma play an integral role. When his cousin talks about her she says how she towered over them all. Paa-in-law says that on trips home he would be scared to ask his own mother to let his son sleep with him for the night. He would ask A to ask Thamma. She would agree, but with a grouchy expression. Mummy describes her as a feisty woman who left her with little choice when it came to raising her own child.

Head over to Parentous to read the rest of the post.