As a student of class 3 in Modern School, New Delhi, 8 year old Sia was asked to write a poem for a class activity. Within minutes she had written a 16 line poem titled ‘Rainy Day’ which was subsequently published in the school magazine. Seeing her aptitude for poetry, as a mother, Ridhi encouraged her to write more poems and within a few weeks she had written a collection which she requested a friend to illustrate. They printed a limited number to distribute to friends and family. This book, titled ‘The Magical World of Poems’ gave Sia a lot of encouragement to continue writing.
She noticed that her six year old younger sister thoroughly enjoyed reading stories in rhyme. Being fond of the fairy tales herself, she started writing Cinderella in rhyme. We approached various publishers and Om Books International showed interest and asked Sia and me to come for a meeting. Recognising that this was a unique concept, Om Books offered Sia a contract, but for four books to be written over the following year. She had deadlines and deliverables and had to manage her school work along with her writing.
We ask Ridhi what she did right in creating a conducive home environment that nurtured such talent.
How did you create a culture at home to encourage Sia to write? Practice Vs Preach – which do you follow as a way of teaching children?
I am an avid reader myself and have always read to my children. We have always read at bedtime as well as other times of the day. Our house is also full of books. There are bookshelves in my room, the children’s room and common living areas. As a result they always have access to books. Further, we had a habit of going to a bookstore every week where each child, and I myself, picked out new books to buy and read. Over the years we continue to pass on old books to charitable organisations as we outgrow them, and continue to buy new ones which reflect our current interests. So the children have learned by observing our reading habits. I do believe that teaching by example is the most effective way of teaching our children.
What has been your parenting philosophy during the pandemic?
During the pandemic and its associated lockdowns, we have spent a lot of time as a family, playing board games, doing chores around the house and always, always having time to read before bed. I have encouraged my children to have some physical activity and once it was considered safe, they started going to the park with at least one, and sometimes both parents. They have also had to pitch in with laundry, cooking and clearing up and I do believe it has given them a healthy appreciation of basic life skills. I have allowed them extra phone and screen time as they would interact and play games with their friends online and I believe they needed the social interaction.
What is your philosophy vis-a-vis screen time?
During the lockdown, the screen time has gone up significantly primarily because school as well as all extracurricular activities are now being conducted online. Sia continued her piano and Kathak classes during the lockdown, all done online. The girls have spent time interacting socially using Zoom and vidoecalls as well. There was a definite increase in TV watching, but we tried to keep it to an hour a day on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends as we did family movie nights on weekends. I do believe that exposure to popular culture is also important for budding authors and we watched various series such as Avengers, Star Wars and various sports movies.
What are your key recommendations to encourage reading and writing?
I encourage my children to read by giving them guidance on different kinds of books. Being surrounded by books helps, as does regular discussions on what each of us is reading and why we enjoy them. By now, both my girls, aged 9 and 12, read so much that we have to work to maintain a balance between reading, physical activities and social interactions. If reading is breathing in, writing is breathing out. Often after reading a book, I ask the children to write about their favourite character and 3 character traits that they liked, the most amusing situation and why it was amusing and so on. This helps them align their thoughts and learn to put it down on paper. Making a worksheet asking specific questions helps foster writing skills more than just asking them why they liked a book. Sia also attends and participates in the events at a local library which has helped her hone her writing skills.
What are your favorite books as a mother and daughter duo?
We would have to start with Mahabharat. Sia took part in a school play in grade 5 which was based on Ramdhari Singh Dinkars poem ‘Rashmirathi’. She then wanted to know more about the story so we read Namita Gokhale’s Mahabharata for children and various other versions. When she realised that the epic tale had never been done in rhyme, she decided to write it and it will be available soon. In addition, we both have read the Harry Potter series, the Keeper of the Lost cities and all the books by Brandon Sanderson, which has now inspired her to write her own fantasy fiction for middle school kids. That has kept her pretty busy in the lockdown as well.
Check out Sia’s books here
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