Saturday, July 21, 2012

Choosing books - a state of being?

We just got back from an exhibition and sale of children's books at a friend's house. But it was a sale with a difference. Not only because it was in a house, but more because it was in a space that respected every individual. So, it seemed to me, as a parent, that the books one chose to buy were not as important as the process that one went through before choosing and buying one. This has been a first time for me - to experience the joy of sharing a book with someone, in a place other than home...thank you dear friend for making this possible!

Often book sales are impersonal - just an array of colourful books that one skims through and chooses to buy or not. Usually there is no space or freedom to go through them, even read them, enjoy them and share one's thoughts about it with the other person. But today was different - in every aspect. The books were strewn across the floor or on low tables......accessible to children and each one seemed to have a personality. It was as if the books had been hand-picked by a thoughtful soul who knew the pulse of kids of all ages. It was a space that my son and I got comfortable in and very quickly. We were sitting down and reading books happily.......much like a personal book reading session. There was no talk about how to  handle the books, no rush to finish buying, no rush to finish reading......we were just allowed to be. A quiet. A calm. A retreat.

Raghav asked me to read out some books to him, and our friend and host joined in to listen too from her own little space. While my son had difficuly in choosing books according to my budget, she even helped us with that! She suggested that he choose two books that he really liked, in every round, and that we could do three rounds - I discovered that it was a wonderful way of eliminating books that he liked less than the others!

 Later at night, while we were talking about all this, Raghav said "Amma, I  liked that aunty's house and that aunty. She is very kind. I thought that she would get upset or angry because it was close to lunch time and I was taking so long to choose books. But she was very patient. I actually wanted to bring all those books home! I liked all of them!"

But what astounded me the most was Raghav's choice of me, they clearly reflected his state of being.....and it was quite uncanny. He chose a book with a story about mice who were scared of the darkness above a flight of stairs, a book which talks about how every one of us is special, another which talks about how a mother loves her child inspite of everything the child does and makes her feel, and another one with only pictures - no words at all (I realised later that this book was really interesting actually as one could imagine and give one's own words and it could help one reflect on the body language of people - something that I think Raghav has yet to understand). There was another one about a pigeon being asked to take care of a bus that he so badly wants to drive that perhaps reflects Raghav's struggle with us or other people too, when he wants to have his way and people say NO  and his determination to persist and keep trying to change or control things.

So how do kids know what books they need to read or want? I don't know. But what I know, believe and have faith in now is that when one is in tune with everything that is happening, and one is ready within, one is shown the way - whether it is through books, people or other avenues. A true seeker who seeks with faith, gets what he needs for his personal growth.

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