How to get kids into reading

If you cant read any further, the biggest takeaway is:

Reading is Play

And if that sounds like completely useless advice, allow me to explain away. Here are some ways I approach reading to my kiddo.

🥳 Make reading fun

Pick a book that has their favorites. Do they love cats? Great, get them a bunch of cat books ! Do they love rainbows? Rainbows it is!

Don’t fuss about the quality of books. Anything and everything is game. I once read a wedding invitation card to her, and she was all giggles 🤷🏽‍♀️

Use a lot of animated movements – hand gestures, sounds, modulate your voice! You don’t have to be a genius at reading aloud, just show enthusiasm 🙂

Choose age appropriate books. Typically this means board books (0-2 yr), picture books (2-8 yr), early readers (4-7 yr), chapter books (6-10 yr).

Yes, some award winning books look great on paper, but wont be to their liking or imagination. Respect their preference and revisit later. Sometimes they will want to read the early readers (hello Mo Willems!)

Let them “help” you. I like to call this the illusion of control, haha. Kids love to be independent, they are their own full human, after all. Let them turn the pages, let them pause and muse, let them point and label objects they see in the book. In their mind, they are playing and they are fully in control of their reading experience.

📚 Reading anytime, anywhere

Reading routines are good, but if they don’t work for you, don’t fret! We sprinkled reading throughout the day. Even if it means for just 5 minutes! Eating a snack? Read a book! Going on a car ride? Bring a book along!

We started bedtime reading only much later. Instead we sang aloud a lot of rhymes (hi cocomelon!) and in our case some Indian classical songs.

We leave small book stacks everywhere. No fancy shelves, no fancy seating or reading nooks. Just books sprawled everywhere (very lazy strategy that works hahaha).

🤸🏽‍♀️ Reading as an activity

Play “I Spy” (We love The Circus Ship to spot animals!). Read poems, read and sing aloud nursery rhymes!

Play word games – for the entire pandemic year we played “spot the letter” by naming out letters on our pajamas and t-shirts!

Pair books with outdoor activities. We take walks to a nearby lake and she loves spotting pond creatures like ducks, herons etc. and got obsessed with Over and Under the Pond book that explore pond water ecosystems.

Play dress up! She loves trying on hats (hello I Want my Hat back!). Sometimes a basket is a hat, sometimes its a piece of cardboard, and some rare times its really a hat 😂

If you allow little screen time, explore video titles based on the books you have read. We loved all the Julia Donaldson adaptations on Amazon Prime – Room on the Broom, Gruffalo, Zog, Stick Man

👨‍👩‍👧 Reading as a family

For babies and toddlers, reading is really more about physical closeness than anything. They say reading starts on a mother’s lap! When you read aloud to your child, your voice is what connects your child to reading. It’s really a special bond that you are building for a lifetime.

I also like to read a lot myself. In child psychology, this is called “modeling”. Kids do notice a lot of what’s going on in their environments. When they see you read and enjoy, they mimic you, and then they want to be a part of it. I was once digging through Roald Dahl’s Matilda (so nostalgic!) and a few minutes later, I saw her silently pick the same book and sit in the reading chair and turn the pages.

Don’t be afraid to expand their book selections. I include a lot of diverse books, wordless books etc. beyond the popular classics, even if they may be beyond their understanding. You don’t know what will turn them on!

Add books to the collection, that even you would be inclined to read. Remember they will make some favorites and you might just have to read it a million times 😂

💃🏻 Reading with abandon

Don’t force your kids to read.

A number one complaint from parents is: “But my kid just wont sit down to read”. Yes, toddlers specially are wiggly. They want to play, and play a lot! Their attention spans are really low.

When my kid was in this phase, I kept reading aloud, even if she was not really sitting down to read with me. She would dip in and out, and hear from far!

Don’t force reading on tired kids. Catch them in their best mood. Your job as a parent is to make reading a pleasure. Do not, for the love of God, bring out the flash cards for Alphabet. Don’t make it academic.

Don’t obsess about milestones – they should know the alphabet by now? Umm NO. They just need to know the love and pleasure of reading. Knowing the Alphabet will follow, and they will show interest in learning the Alphabet when they are ready.

Sometimes my kid just wants to read the Costco (retailer) magazine. Even if I have an elegantly curated stack of award winning books sitting right beside. Trust me, she just wants to read a Costco, and ogle at all the weird things – a bottle of pills anyone? Some other times it’s our utility bills!

Invite them to read, whatever they want. Your local magazine, bills, newspapers, photos, information brochures etc.

Remember, reading is play. And if you want to raise a reader, be the reader.

Looking for books to start reading to your kid? 👉🏼 Follow me on Instagram for lightweight book recommendations 🙌🏽

France is Bacon

I recently came across a tweet on how someone interpreted “Knowledge is Power – Francis Bacon” to be “Knowledge is Power – France is Bacon”. I almost choked on a glass of water when I read that. Strangely it reminded me how much I loved humor, in writing. And then I thought about all those times I used to blog.

A lot. Not tweet, insta, whatever you want to dress up your lazy ass writing.

Anyway, it is 2021 (we kicked out 2020!) and I thought I should start blogging. Since I cannot Eat, Pray, Love my way to any part of the world now, I made a trip to the nearest couch to channel my inner Mindy Kaling as I start writing this post.

Apart from the earth shattering prediction that 2021 is going to be so much better than the last year, I think I may have some really healthy, wise thoughts to brighten up your day here.

A lot of us are probably floating in negative space. Ya, no shit Einstein. 

Let me tell you something, if you have whipped up 3 gourmet dishes and your toddler only eats few bites of it, like its fucking tapas, you call it a WIN. She actually ate! Thats the kind of positive spin I need in my life. Except I don’t.

Instead I am crashing the hot pan in the sink and muttering “Why did I even try?” and redirecting my anger at my husband – “Did you hear me?”. Which clearly he hasn’t because I was muttering, remember? 

But we mothers, we got to stick together. You know, because we were the ones who were pregnant, who had bouts of nausea and contractions and…So it’s OK to offload some of that on our partners. Right. Right?

In all of this madness, I have now come to understand what existential crisis means. It means you are facing near constant frustration in everything you do and you are wondering “Is this what life has cracked up to be?”

Crisis apart, I am in that stage of pandemic where I directly pick out my clothes from the laundry basket. Folding laundry is out of my chore list. WIN! (I am positive spin-ing already, it works!)

I have also experienced some other miracles, thanks to pandemic, I am now in a deep flow state and have done SO MUCH breath work.

Like when my toddler throws a tantrum, I deep breathe. When the kitchen sink does not drain, I deep breathe. 

When MacBook throws a fit that my IP address is being used by some other device, I deep breathe. 

When my MacBook does a patch update right before an important meeting or presentation, I deep breathe. (Thank you Apple!).

At this rate, I am ready to publish my book, tentatively titled “100 ways to practice deep breathing, while casually going about your day”. I wish I could list these as achievements in that yearly performance review thats coming up soon. But I can only think of one MEGA accomplishment thats going in my review:

I WORE MY MASK.

Give yourself permission, to travel

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*** 2021 Update ***

This blog post did not age well. Traveling? What’s that?

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2015 was a fabulous year for me. Because I gave myself the permission to travel. I traveled places I wanted to go to, and plunged right in to absurd, uncomfortable and anxious situations. It got me out of my comfort zone. I reveled, in the true beauty of the places I traveled, the people I met, the different cultures I experienced. I now know what people mean when they say travel really changes you. I catalog some of my favorite moments  and lessons I learnt from my adventures:

Learn to let go – you might just be surprised

This one is the most recent, and happened right on the New Years day. I went white water rafting at Rio Pacquare in Costa Rica (one of the top 5 white water rapids in the world).

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As I wrestled my anxiety with class IV rapids, we reached a deep canyon, narrow, equal parts breathtaking and intimidating. As everyone did a double flip into the still waters, I tensed up. I was shit scared of entering into deep waters and stayed back on the raft. My rafting guide though said I could catch on to the raft line and float instead, if that made me feel better. I wanted so badly to say NO, but instead said to myself “F*** it, I am doing this. I dont know if I will ever return here again in my life. This is now or never”. I allowed myself to jump into the water and float. And it was the single most exhilarating moment I have ever had on any New Years day ever in my 30 years of lifetime. Life is truly about the chances you take. And the moments where you “Let Go”. Next time an opportunity comes by, I will be sure to think back to this moment to gain some inspiration. Btw, right after we crossed the canyon I saw two local boys dive from a bridge hanging above (about 150 feet high). Splendid. I regret nothing 🙂

The world is full of nice people, you are yet to met

I did the Tour Du Mont Blanc (TMB) last year – a 110 mile circuit that I trekked around the Mont Blanc massif, crossing by foot three national borders of France, Italy and Switzerland. Yes, I know, you are allowed to be jealous.

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I was a little wary of the “cold” perceived French personality. Specially since I knew nothing of the local languages, so I barely spoke to the local people. I also got a first hand experience of this behavior (a French woman in an ice cream parlor refused to sell me ice cream during the trip). But you know for every bad person, there are 10 more who will make you forget all about the needless hatred in the world. I met some of the nicest people on this hike. 10 days is too long not to become friends with atleast one person who was a stranger before. I also met people who were from professions I would never meet if I just stayed back home – a police detective! Dinners were communal. All of us helping ourselves with soups from one big pot, tearing pieces of bread from the basket and dipping them in fondue. Sharing our lunches, while napping in the afternoon on top of calm, majestic and pristine mountain passes. Screen time was replaced by conversations, companionship and true bonhomie. Also the French know how to enjoy their food and take a nap. Really.

Physical challenges are all about mental strength

I can vouch for this, with absolute certainty. Because I backpacked through High Sierras for 3 days covering 40 miles including summiting the Half Dome, with my pack weighing 26 lbs.

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It is unbelievable! I did this with zero conditioning! I clocked zero exercise and training for this. This was true even for the TMB trip. Of course I don’t advise that anyone get up and just go backpack or trek a 100 miles without training (although thats exactly what I did). The point being, you my amigo can do anything you set your mind to. Literally every time my body was in pain, I said to myself “OK, you can do this. Just take your time.” Affirmations are magical! I never biked more than 6 miles in my life at one go. Also I NEVER bike. That means the 6 miles I did was on one single day in 2015 on a flat trail and I never touched my bike again. But I went biking 35 miles on a mountain bike, through rolling hills of Costa Rica last week. I mean, I really did it! So many times I was ready to give up. And it got even more disheartening when you I saw other bikers just swoop by. I reminded myself I am not here to compete. I am here to finish. I was literally the turtle that made to the finish line.

You always discover something about yourself

I am great at hiking downhills (trust me, it is harder than it sounds). I can bike for hours on flat trails. I enjoy long distance hikes, it makes me happy. It seems like am an overall long distance person. Maybe I should try the ultras 🙂 After a bad experience paragliding over Mont Blanc (I almost threw up in the air), I was anxious before my trip to Costa Rica – I had booked a bunch of adrenaline pumping activities. I was surprised to find I enjoyed rappeling, free falls and ziplining through some of the fastest, highest and longest ziplines in the world. I wanted more! Who would have thought…

I am grateful for these lessons and hopeful that this year I allow myself to more adventures. I am considering summiting Mt. Shasta this spring break. This one, needs training I am told or you will kill yourself. We shall see. *Wink*