We asked them to give it a try….now they keep asking for more!!


- by Mala Balamurugan 

Mala Balamurugan is a former Corporate Banker ,currently a mother of two  and a homemaker. Mala realized that the field of education is where she wanted to be and has completed her B.ed and M.com. She is a Parent Representative and an active  member of  the Discipline Committee. Her daughter Anaghaa Balamurugan is currently studying in class 4, and her son Shlok joins Shishuvan in the coming academic year. She joined Shishuvan two years and thoroughly enjoys coming to school, even when she is unwell.


You must be wondering what this title means!! Maybe try a new food, a new hobby, a new sport…??

How about getting your grey cells ticking..you ask questions to your children, don’t you?..Now here’s your chance to answer!!

■        Sitting down with __________ provides children with a time for quiet and calmness in their busy lives.

■        ________ can stimulate  imagination and play.

■        _________ provoke curiosity and discussion.

■        ________ provides inspiration, thought and reflection

■        _________exposes children to a wide range of language features and vocabulary.

■        _________ fill a child’s mind with knowledge.

The answer to all this is just one word….did you guess it right? I am glad.

As a generation we are struggling with getting our children to hold a book in their hand, read, explore, think and walk on less travelled paths. We have been looking at ways to get them to leave that notepad, the mobile, the TV aside; even if it was for a little while. Many of us don’t know how to keep them gainfully occupied with something that does not harm them.

Most of us were looking for an opportunity that could help us do this. We had stopped believing that our children could have fun by just sitting calm – without a gadget or technology.

On 15th Oct 2015, World Reading Day, a day being celebrated in the memory of Dr. A P J Kalam; Shishuvan launched its maiden initiative of a Reading Challenge with the help of the British Council. The school’s Learning Resources Committee ( formerly known as the Discipline Committee ) was given full freedom and responsibility to run the challenge with the support of the Leadership and the Library team.

When we launched the programme we were not that hopeful of getting many registrations though we really wanted the parents to give this programme a try. But to our surprise we were able to convince over 200 parents and children from Sr.Kg to Std 7 ….and what a journey it has been!!

Children were to read atleast 6 books in 6 weeks, but many of them surprised us by reading so much more. As we were wrapping up the programme we glanced through many reviews written by the children and were so proud of the growth and enthusiasm in children. The best part was that they were themselves amazed at how they were able to read so much – so quickly.

The bookworm had bit them!! They had realised what we as parents and a school were trying to teach them for years…

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. 

The British Council conducted various workshops where we saw craetive young minds at their best. The session where they had to write their own limericks brought out the writing skills in so many. Our children surprised the facilitators by their talent, wit and humour. One of the facilitators commented that I never expected a sr.kg child to know and use the word “douse fire” when asked what will be another term you use to say put off the fire!! The magic of books had started rubbing off on them:))

The titles and the variety of BCL books, caught their interests and they realised that there can be so many different genres of books out there. By the end of the challenge many were so charged up that they wanted to read as much as possible and push their own limits.

The library staff shared:

Children wanted to keep exchanging new books and read different genres. Wherever they would see the library staff they would say…”Can we take another BCL book?”

The parents shared:

“Our children have learnt so many new words and are able to comprehend so much better. And the best part is they were gadget free!!”

I spent so much more time with my child during these 2 months, watching her read, reading some books by myself, reliving my childhood!!

 The children shared:

I didn’t know I could read fat books and complete them too!! The books were different – some stories scared me, some made me laugh, some were magical- but all were wonderful!! Can we keep reading more?

What else could we have asked for?

Even if we were able to ignite the minds of few children this year, we are hopeful this will inspire and motivate others to join the world of books and reap benefits of this silent friend for life!!

Thank you Shishuvan for this wonderful opportunity and experience!!

A peek into the Reading Challenge……


On reading – part II



Written by Menaka Raman.

Menaka Raman is a former advertising professional and freelance writer. Her son Sachit is in Sr Kg Shraddha. She loves reading, running and can often be found taking deep breaths trying not to yell at her kids.

One of the first things I ever bought for my older son when he was a wee new born baby was books. My mother I remember, looked on amused, as I swept passed the Baby Bjorns, nappy pins and nursing paraphernalia and headed straight for the small collection of board books, when we went to equip myself for motherhood. I stand by my actions. Every new parent should have a copy of Peepo by Allen and Jessica Ahlberg at home. I had read all about how it’s never too early to start reading to your child, so I figured we needed the books more than the swaddle cloths.

Our little collection of books though modest in origin (The Ahlbergs, Eric Carle and Jan Pienkowski) has become something of a behemoth. Initially housed in the bottom two shelves of our IKEA bjarngyarn (Ok I made that up, but it could totally be an Ikea bookshelf name) it went on to occupy a firestation shaped bookshelf and when that couldn’t contain it, we went and got our kids (by now the second one had arrived) a proper, grown up bookshelf. Which of course is now groaning under the weight of all their books.

I love buying my children books. I purchase books for them with the same enthusiasm I purchase shoes for myself. I cannot pass a bookstore, stall, roadside book vendor and not stop and pick something up. The joke in our home is that books and water bottles have now become monthly necessities along with sugar and tea and are no longer luxuries or treats.

We read everything in our house. Mog, The Gruffalo and Knuffle Bunny have met Gajapathi Kulapathi, Sunu Sunu the Snail and The Why Why Girl. Our shelves are like an inventory of Tulika and Katha and everything the wonderful Ms. Donaldson has ever written. Amazon.in and flipkart.com don’t help matters at all. There’s a package coming in every other day, and I can’t seem to stop myself. My husband preferred my shoe addiction.

We’ve gone from strictly reading fiction to branching out in to other areas. Tulika has a great set of Science for beginners books which even my two year old loves. The DK set of young encyclopedias is glossy and full of great pictures and easy to understand factoids. And of course The Magic School Bus is a favourite, though I haven’t figured out quite how to read the story and all the little notes and asides in one go.

And then this year something magical happened. Something that I’ve been waiting for since I went and bought that very first book. My son has started to read himself. Tentatively. Small baby steps. Reluctantly at times, enthusiastically at others. But he’s getting there. And it’s amazing how much joy this can give a parent. These small little things our children do – the first time they roll over, walk, babble, put two pieces of a puzzle together… the first time they can read cat. It’s these moments that make the sleepless nights and brain frying tantrums worth it. That pride bubbling away inside, threatening to spill over and explode… it’s amazing. The intensity of it never ceases to surprise me, and I have to remind myself to reign it in, lest I become one of ‘those’ mothers.

I hope both my sons love reading as much as their parents do. In fact, I would go as far as to say, that if they didn’t, I would consider it a great failing on my behalf as a parent. Books are a solace, a joy, have taught me things I might have never learnt otherwise. Instead of sending our kids to GK Classes we should just read to them. There is more in a book than you will ever find in an hours worth of such a class. If you have the time, I urge you to read Neil Gaiman’s piece in The Guardian, about the importance of libraries... and why we should read to our children. The man is far more eloquent that I will ever be.

For some help on what to read to your kids, head to Saffron Tree, a great resource.

My father made me the reader that I am. I hope I can do the same for my kids.

On reading – part 1

Menaka Raman is a former copywriter and freelance journalist. Her son Sachit is in Sr. Kg Shraddha and she has another son Shyam all set to become a Shishuvanite this April. Menaka is a bibliophile, runner and eats too much cheese. 

Some time ago, I came across an Emily Buchwald quote. It read: “Children are made readers in the laps of their parents”. So lovely, simple and true.

My own childhood memories of reading are vivid. Dick Brown’s ‘Miffy’ stories, Mr. Men and Little Miss books, breezing through Enid Blyton before devouring Roald Dahl and then heading in the direction of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and Sweet Valley High, the last a precursor to a year wasted on Mills & Boon.

My parents had one rule, if you wanted to read books you borrowed them from the library. Thankfully, growing up in Chennai you were spoiled for choice when it came to them, and still are.

From the imposing Connemara Library to the modern edifice that is the Anna Centenary Library, Chennai is a city filled with book lenders. But the city’s favourite establishments are perhaps the more humble ones, often named after a family deity: Murugan Lending, Rajyalakshmi Lending and Vinayaka Library. Crammed with books from floor to ceiling, most do brisk business on the strength of their Harlequin Romances and David Baldaccis, but you’ll often find Ghosh, Rushdie and DeLilo sitting quite comfortably next to them.

Every fortnight, my father and I would venture out post our post Saturday lunch siesta. He would kick start our Kinetic Honda to life and we’d head sraight to Eashwari, our preferred book house.

Once there, my father and I would part ways, surely an exaggeration given that the library was no larger than our living room. But those few hundred square feet were divided with enough racks to make it look like a book lined rabbit’s warren.

There was no limit on the number of books I could take out.

My father never grumbled about the dozens of books I would bring home, even when all of them were treacly Mills & Boons with titles that no doubt made him shudder in horror (The Spaniard’s Virgin Mistress; His Pregnant Secretary).

When I was ready to leave those granite-jawed Spaniards behind, my father was patiently waiting in the wings, ready to shepherd me towards other literary realms, some which I took to quite happily. Others not so much. P.G Wodehouse was a success (but then perhaps he is with all Tam Brahms of a certain vintage). Louise L’amour sadly didn’t make the cut.

But it wasn’t always my father guiding me through the maze of books. We made many a discovery together, and I still remember our mutual joy on reading Dalrymple and Theroux for the first time. And there were the times we disagreed “How can you read this Rushdie fellow?” he would often exclaim.

Books selected, we would head off for tiffin to the Woodland’s Drive In, a Chennai institution now sadly turned into a park with a duck pond. We would order our onion rava dosas and filter coffee, pick a book and start reading till our orders came.

Our conversations over tiffin and coffee often centred around books but also touched upon my father’s days at DU and my tween-ridden dramas. He would ferry me back and forth and make quiet suggestions, astute observations and sometimes, wisely, say nothing at all.

Our fortnightly library trips were something that happened all through school and college, rarely disturbed but in the case of out station visits. They didn’t stop even in the midst of board exams and college finals.

While I’m sure I sat on my parents lap and was read to as a child, I sadly have have no recollection of the same. But our fortnightly trips to Eashwari are still fresh in my mind. They made me the reader I am today.

I guess I was made a reader riding pillion on my father’s Kinetic Honda.