… a survey to get a sense of what urban children aged 3-12 in India’s metros are reading and the role parents are playing in shaping the habit.
The findings are interesting. For instance, 35% children spend an average of 3-5 hours on non-school related reading in a week, 77% parents said their kids read their first book at age 4 or before while 74% parents encourage their kids to read by getting them books home and 14% do so by reading out aloud to them. Parents will rue ‘it’s not enough’, but Anita Roy, children’s writer and commissioning editor at Young Zubaan, says the figures are heartening. “Being in this field, I spend 30-40 minutes a day reading for pleasure, so 3-5 hours a week is not bad. It’s also nice to learn that the attitude of the parents is encouraging,” she says.
According to the survey, while most kids – 72% – have read the authors (Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Tintin etc) that their parents did, it’s the contemporary foreign titles of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Diary of a Wimpy Kid series that are topping their lists. Sci-fi writer Samit Basu feels these titles signal a ‘golden age’ in children’s reading. “Potter, Jackson, Wimpy Kid are all fantastic books. They are well-told stories that work for all ages. Also, they are at the height of global popular culture at this time,” he says. In terms of genre, the survey threw up comics as the most popular (25%) followed by adventure (20%), fairy-tales (18%) and sci-fi (16%).
“Indian writers are writing stories set in their country. No more copying Enid Blyton,” says Sen Gupta. Adds Manisha Chaudhry, editor with non-profit Pratham Books, “Whether it’s a Paro Anand exploring the Kashmir insurgency or a Siddhartha Sarma grappling with the Assam conflict, Indian writers are taking on tough subjects.”
As the churning continues, some even forecast that the trend will reverse in just few years from now. “Foreign authors may occupy 65-70% of the pie, but five years from now, it’ll be the Indian authors taking on the scene,” says an optimistic Mago.
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