“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.
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? 😀
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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**