I think it made all the difference.
She developed a real interest in stringing words together, and at the age of five was already reading pretty well. Now, at the age of eight, she takes us aback at the speed at which she goes through books. It's not an exaggeration to say that she can easily go through a book in a day.
Her twin brothers, who also like stories but are nowhere near her level of capability, often protest that 'Peanut-didi isn't listening' because she's got her nose buried deep in a book and isn't interested in playing with them. It's the Great Escape for her, given that she's able to tune out the boys who annoy her a lot of the time. But they come up often and complain to me in a conspiratorial whisper. 'Peanut is READING. Again!' The disgust is clear on their little faces. They don't get it.
I get it. I was like that as a kid. I would hide under my bed to read my brother's books. ( Yeah, we weren't big on sharing.) Those were wonderful afternoons, even among the dusty cobwebs. I devoured books just like my kid does today. Except that she doesn't have to hide anywhere. She has a shelf full of books. She has access to a library in the neighborhood. Kind neighbours have given us boxes of books outgrown by their daughters and Peanut has happily added them to her bookshelf which is now overflowing with books.
While I felt a sense of pride and wonder everytime she announced she finished a book ( coupled with suspicion that she wasn't really reading properly, and I was proved wrong here after a few attempts at quizzing her), I also felt a sense of dismay shared by Vijay -
'What do you mean?' He would cry. 'You finished all four of the books we bought you day before yesterday? What a waste of money!'
It was true. You'd think it would occupy her for at least a week, but no, she'd be done in a couple of days.
The solution - at least in part? Kindle Unlimited.
See, I quite like Kindle Unlimited. I think it may not always give you exactly what you wanted to read, but it certainly works to help you discover more. Still, it was with a sense of trepidation that I let her download a couple of books and read them on my device.
It's clear that kids already get too much screen time between TVs and Tablets. Peanut even has her own computer, the Micromax Lapbook, which was a gift from the company when I was leaving ( and incidentally, something I worked on as part of the category I was leading there for a year). So I wasn't feeling too good about giving her access to yet another device.
I made her promise she would only read the books that she had downloaded and leave MY books alone ( her teacher has asked us in the last PTM to be watchful of what she reads - apparently not all of the stuff in the boxes from the neighbours was completely age-appropriate). When I came back, she was bouncing around in excitement.
'The Kindle is GREAT.' She declared.
She'd read a book called '500 jokes for kids.' Peanut is a big fan of jokes and riddles and loves parroting them to anyone who'll lend her an ear, even if she doesn't quite get the joke herself. She laughs heartily as she finishes each joke and often if you ask her what's so funny, she admits that she doesn't know but giggles anyway. The other book she'd read was the Mardi Gras Chase or something. She called it Mardi Grass and I gently corrected her, recalling a quote I read recently about never making fun of someone who mispronounces a word because it means they learnt it from a book, and I thought that was exactly right for little Peanut who often gets pronunciations wrong because of this reason.
'What's so great about reading on the Kindle, though?' I challenged.
'Well,' she began immediately. 'I like to read books for FREE.' She knew I'd subscribed to Kindle Unlimited for her.
'Okay, what else?'
She described how nice it was to be able to hold a book with one hand. And how everytime she put it down and picked it up, it opened up to the exact page she was on. And how you could even change Font sizes, and if you didn't know the meaning of a word, you could look it up.
'It's like,' she finished. 'You know, it's like a TV and a book, but better.'
I asked her how on earth it was like a TV, but it turned out that she just meant it was another screen and it was entertaining. 'But informational too.' She added sagely.
I sighed. Okay then. It made sense. I don't know if I'll be able to figure out a way to hide my books from her on the Kindle - don't really want her reading them. But then, even my physical books lie around the house and there's no way to keep her from sneaking a peek at them. I did throw out one particular book after I heard her say 'Hey! How can there be FIFTY shades?' I batted her hand away real fast that time. But in general, it's hardly like I'm reading really raunchy books. Well, these days anyway.
I see real benefits in letting her read on the Kindle - with my new Paperwhite, I don't feel the kind of strain that I used to on the earlier version that I had. You've got to progress with the times, and all that jazz. Right? Right.
Still, this weekend, when she returned from her Grandma's house with an armful of my old Archies, each copy musty and yellow and frayed around the edges, and smelling suspiciously like my old spot under the bed, I must admit I was incoherently happy.
The old and the new. Mix it all up. As long as she's reading, it's a good thing.
I think it'll make all the difference.