Joyful memories remain intact like a dab of honey on a spoon. Both are slow to drift away and resistant to removal. Although my sons are adults, I have sweet recollections of our summer excursions to nearby libraries and bookstores. My children strolled through the maze of bookshelves in hot pursuit of their next reading encounter. A library sponsored contest usually topped off their summer reading experience with simple rewards. Finding the “right book” was made easier by these summer reading incentives.
Vacation reading programs do not exist in India. Libraries are in short supply and so are award winning books. Other than the few international schools that follow a western school schedule that includes a summer break, most children attend school during the summer months and instead have a shorter vacation in the late spring.
Before school adjourned, I polled a few of my former Indian colleagues about their current students’ reading preferences. Not surprising, none could answer immediately. Unlike American classrooms that mandate independent reading programs, my former school only required students to keep a reading log that included the title, author, and time spent reading. Without oral or written interactions and/or designated times for silent reading, the teachers were unfamiliar with their students’ reading preferences.
While in India, I tried to create a classroom library, but I became frustrated by the lack of resources. Books were cheaper than in the U.S., but the selection was limited to a few British and Australian authors with a handful of American authors. Blossom, a used bookstore in Bangalore, became my source for award winning American authors and some British and Indian authors. I also instituted several American reading strategies that fostered more reading.
One of the staff members, who has traveled outside of India, candidly stated, “Certainly we don’t have access to excellent libraries easily here, but it is easy to buy books, and they are not expensive. Having said that most book shops have a very poor choice of kids’ books, and certainly people living around here have to travel a reasonable distance before finding a good choice, or use Flipkart.”
One of the 3rd grade teachers felt that the authors, Enid Blyton (British author, 1897-1968) and Ruskin Bond (Indian author of British descent, and the Panchatantra (ancient Sanskrit stories) were all-time favorites. Enid’s work has had a lasting effect on Indians. Every Indian bookstore I visited had her books along with Ruskin’s. The kids in my class were astounded that I had never heard of the “Famous Five”, a series that was written in the UK during the 1940-1960s.
Another 3rd grade teacher responded by listing the following authors Jacqueline Wilson (British), J.K. Rowling (British), Michael Scott (Irish) as well as abridged versions of the classics such as Robin Hood, King Arthur, The Swiss Family Robinson, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Popular series included the American Girls Series (American), Nancy Drew (American), and the Geronimo Stilton Series by Elisabetta Dami (Italian).
I was surprised that the list did not include any Indian authors. In response to my inquiry about Indian authors my friend added, Sudha Murthy, Panchatantra, Amar Chitra Katha, Chandamama, and Garima Gupta and also the following foreign authors-
- Andy Stanton (British),
- Paul Gallico (American),
- Eva Ibbotson (Austrian born- British),
- Tanya Landman (British),
- Malorie Blackman (British),
- Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking),
- Francesca Simon (Horrid Henry Series),
- Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid series),
- Cathy Cassidy (British),
- K.M. Peyton (British)
- Joan Lingard (British)
Another faculty member sat down with some of the fifth grade students. She told me that the vast majority preferred fantasy. This group of fifth graders created a top 10 list of foreign authors and added only one Indian author, Sudha Murthy.
- Rick Riordan (American)
- Cornelia Funke (German)
- Eion Colfer (Irish)
- Suzanne Collins (American- Hunger Games)
- J K Rowling (British)
- Roald Dahl (British)
- Christopher Paolini (American)
- Eva Ibbotson (Austrian born-British)
- Jacqueline Wilson (British)
- Terry Pratchett (British)
When questioned about their preference for fantasy, many stated that they “like to read fiction that takes them out of their normal existence.” Many felt that “Indian authors write in a different style that doesn’t really appeal to them and the selection of books and authors is too limited.” Ironically Murthy is liked because her books are autobiographical.
I also asked teachers from my neighborhood school.
Dawn Mangus, a 5th grade teacher at Eldorado K-8 wrote,
- “The Hunger Games was very popular this year – all 3 books. Kids still love Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. My room had a really wide variety of books, but Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay were the only repeated visitor.”
Molly Theodorakos, a 4th grade teacher provided the following list:
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series (Jeff Kinney-American)
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket– pen name for Daniel Handler- American)
- Swindle, Zoobreak (Gordan Korman- Canadian living in NYC)
- The School Story, Lunch Money, Frindle, etc. (Andrew Clements-American)
- The Lightening Thief, The Last Olympian, The Last Hero, etc. (Rick Riordan-American)
- Of course, they still love Beverly Cleary, Magic Tree House books, Roald Dahl, and Judy Blume
If you are teaching the intermediate primary grades (3-5th grade) or have a child in that age range in the U.S. or elsewhere, please share your students’ reading preferences for 2012. Do your kids read foreign authors or authors that are born in the country you live in?
I’d love to hear from you.