Reading to Your Kids in Your Mother Tongue
Although my daughter is fluent in our mother tongue( Tamil), we haven’t really read many books written in Tamil with her. We’re teaching her to identify some of the alphabets and make the effort to ensure that she speaks in Tamil at home( and believe me, it’s tough, once kids start going to daycare or preschool on a regular basis and are exposed to more and more of English everyday). However, we haven’t been able to lay our hands on too many good children’s books written in Tamil. I’ve come across a few that weren’t very well produced. And the ones that I’m looking for don’t seem to be available anywhere.
However, a few days ago, I came across Pratham Books, a non-profit trust in India that offers beautiful picture books for kids in Indian languages. The best part is that some of these books are available online on Scribd, so I didn’t have to wait. I just started reading it to my daughter right away.
And boy, was it a delight to watch her!
Tamil is one of those languages that doesn’t sound exactly the same when you speak as when you write it. No matter how casual or conversational you try to make the writing sound, written Tamil always seems to come across as a little formal and ‘purer’ than spoken Tamil. As a result, when I read to my daughter from the book, the range of expressions that crossed her face went from interested to puzzled to delighted to confused to one of comprehension and wonderment. How I wish I could have captured it on video! Had I plotted her reaction on a graph, the spikes would probably have made a porcupine retreat in defeat.
What’s beautiful though – is how she loved the novelty of the experience. She may not have understood all the words at first, but that perked her interest. She could figure out the plot from the visuals, and so tried to relate the story with the images. She was intrigued by the fact that we were reading in Tamil – a language she knew well – and yet, there was something about it that she didn’t fully understand.
We read it a couple of times and I explained to her what some of the words meant. Then she asked me to read it again and seemed to enjoy the experience even better.And if your mother tongue is an Indian language, then children’s books like those from Pratham Books are a great place to start.
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