Back to resources

Author Rohini Nilekani On How To Get Your Kids To Read More

Education | Nov 15, 2020

Author Rohini Nilekani, whose latest book – “The Hungry Little Sky Monster” has been published by Juggernaut Books – joins us to talk about just how you can get your kids to read more.


00:00 Speaker 1: Well, this year has been like no other. On children’s day today, we’re going to talk about how children who’ve been deprived for the most part of the year of classrooms, of friends and of the outdoors, how they’ve spent a large part of the year glued to screen? This is a whole new problem that is being faced by parents now, which is the increased screen time. Well, we have a very interesting guest who joins us, Rohini Nilekani, the author of Hungry Sky Monster published by Juggernaut Books, joins us to talk about just how you can get your kids to read more? Rohini, thanks so much for speaking with us. The question that’s on everyone’s mind is, when should kids start reading, what’s the right age to get them to start reading?

00:49 Speaker 2: Well, thank you for that question, but Rishika, first namaste and Happy Diwali to all our viewers, and now I’ll come to your question. Thank you for having me on your show. And yeah, it’s a very important question to ask because especially in the lockdown, right? Especially in this pandemic rather, parents, poor things I’ve been seeing them being really nervous about children and screen time, and so it’s a very good question to ask, how should you get children to read more physical books, how should you… How much screen time should you use so that their brain doesn’t get fried, and they keep learning stuff, right? So when we were parents, it was much easier. But I would say that I’ve been doing some research on this, and there is research to show that of course, children need physical books around and the earlier the better. So I would say as early as six months. But then research is showing that so long as they have been exposed to physical books to cultivate and sustain the reading habit, it is quite alright to allow them to look at digital books for a certain amount of time. But to the question, how soon should we start children reading? Well, actually, possibly when they are in the mother’s womb, you can start reading to them, and they should receive their first book when they’re six months old.

02:08 S1: Alright. So start them young is essentially the message that you’re sending out. The other obvious question is, what should you give kids to read so that they get hooked to paper bats or to text into books, and that wins over the screen?

02:29 S2: Right. So since I’m most interested in the reading of very young kids, and when I co-founded Pratham Books also, we did a lot of focus on early reading and early readers. I would say children are naturally drawn to colourful books. I mean, holding a real book in your hand, right? And feeling it… This is, of course, my book, but just feeling it’s pages, right? Looking at the illustrations, you can’t beat that experience, you simply don’t get that on a screen, and for young children, tactile experiences are very important. So physical books are critical for very young children. And frankly, they would rather have a physical book that is well-produced and a good story, it will definitely engage them. I don’t think they’ll be wanting to tear away from it, especially if a caring adult is around who is interested in that book, who is sharing that book experience with them. So I think that’s very important to start early with physical books, that’s what gets little children hooked on books.

03:29 S1: Well, before we let you go, start early, clearly is the message but how do you sustain the practice of reading among kids?

03:38 S2: Well, if you’re having a family meal, you’d really don’t want to encourage anybody doing anything private, hopefully, dinner times and lunchtimes are meant for family conversations, not for doing individual activity. So as far as possible, I would recommend we do that because when otherwise are families to talk to each other. But in terms of sustaining a habit, I think parents, teachers, grandparents, everybody has a role to play in, libraries, everyone has a role to play, the samaj has a role to play in sustaining a reading habit in this nation because we need children to read more and get parents reading with them, parents buying books, parents telling their children to gift books forward. Now, all these are very important things that helps sustain the habit of reading, making sure they have diverse books of all kinds because children have very different taste. You don’t know which child will like what kind of books. Some people will like fiction, non-fiction. Expose them to all kinds of books and be there for them for a little while till they sustain that habit and then you will have the opposite problem, you will have to wrench them away from their books, I can guarantee you that.

04:50 S1: Well, I think that’s very useful advice, Rohini Nilekani, thanks so much for speaking with NDTV.

More like this


EkStep - Re-Imagining Primary Learning Learning Opportunities

Ek Step Mission: Improve literacy and numeracy by increasing access to learning opportunities for tens of millions of children in five years. View PDF
Dec 1, 2016 | Presentation


India booked!

To keep its date with the International Literacy Day Pratham Books, an NGO in the space of literacy is attempting to bring together children from across the country in a uhique book reading endeavour. Says Suzanne Singh, managing trustee, “We have a mission to see a book in every child’s hand. This endeavour is just one step in this direction.” View PDF
Sep 8, 2012 | Article


Gift a Reading Life to a Child this Festive Season

What is a good time to introduce a child to books? Different parents may have different answers. I found the right age to be six months. For both my children, I had cloth, plastic or board books about animals or very simple stories with repetitive words. I would show them the books, and slowly read […]
Nov 14, 2020 |

Education  |  COVID-19

The Unexplored Potential of Learning Beyond Schooling

The COVID-19 crisis should push us to re-imagine education in radical ways that we’ll be thankful for. At six, in grade 1, my daughter returned from school in a chirpy mood. “What did you study today?” I asked. She was puzzled. “I didn’t study anything,” she replied, “but I learnt a lot.” Education in the […]
Mar 30, 2020 | Article