Children’s Books: ‘A Bit of Imagination and a Leap of Faith’
Reading a book can open a window to unknown worlds; many avid readers have nurtured this passion ever since they were children. Once they get hooked, there’s no turning back.
As the world marks International Children’s Book Day on April 2, we asked some literature-loving Indonesians about their reading habits when they were children, and if and how they helped change their views of the world.
Rizal Iwan, 37, freelance journalist
When I grew up, I was considered a boy who was a bit “different” because I wasn’t into sports or other stuff that boys are supposed to be interested in. So I didn’t have a lot of friends. I guess I turned to books because they provided me with an alternative universe, in which I felt like I belonged and the characters in the books became my friends to play with.
My favorite children’s books were Astrid Lindgren’s “Pippi Longstocking” series, Enid Blyton’s “Malory Towers” and “St. Clare’s” series, the Hawkeye Collins and Amy Adams mystery series, and Enid Blyton’s “The Family at Red-Roofs,” which I considered to be the first real and full-blown novel I’ve ever finished and was truly affected by. I also read Henry James’ horror novel “The Turn of the Screw” and it’s still one of my favorites today — although I don’t know if this is considered a children’s book or not.
What I like most about reading is its ability to transport me to another reality, and the fact that it’s so private. Watching movies is a shared experience, and it has its own charm, but with books, it’s always one-on-one, just you and the book. There’s a certain satisfaction from being sucked into an entirely different realm from the person sitting next to you — in the waiting room, on the train, or anywhere — while that person has no idea what you are experiencing.
I think it shaped me as a person, especially since most of the reading I did was when I was younger, when I tended to absorb things faster and better, and was more much more impressionable. Reading opened me up to new ideas, different cultures, different people, and different ways of expressing oneself. Thus, it taught me to always keep an open mind.
Zefanya Samantha, 23, lawyer
As a child, I wasn’t eager to read books because I thought it would be boring and I preferred watching TV or playing with my friends. It was my older sister who then first introduced me to books. She continued to give me books as birthday presents or just as a simple gift, so one day I finally decided to start reading. It turned out that it wasn’t boring at all! I remember I started reading a book in the afternoon and didn’t stop until the next morning. I stayed up all night. I realized that when you’re reading, the world instantly expands in an unexplainable way. It feels like the stories are actually happening, and you’ve become a part of them. I fell in love with reading.
Since I only began to read in my last year of elementary school, I’m not too familiar with children’s books, although I remember “Gulliver’s Travels” being one of my favorites.
For some people, reading is just another activity to kill some time, or they feel that it’s a boring hobby. But to me, it’s so much more than that. One of the first books I read, for instance, “The Flame Tree,” was about two kids who came from different cultures with different religions, yet they were able to become friends despite the challenges they had to overcome. Even though it wasn’t an easy read, it taught me a lot about faith, friendship, and most importantly, forgiveness and empathy in a different way than what was taught to us at school. And this was just from one book. Can you imagine what kind of impact on your life literature can have when you read another 100 books? So I think that people who aren’t reading yet should force themselves to pick up a book — and those who already love it, well, I guess, they will never stop again anyway.
My parents always recount how I started reading at age 3, which I find hard to believe but I do know that I’ve always loved books, libraries, bookshops, and, of course, reading.
I don’t know if there was one thing in particular that started me off reading. I suspect the reason was more economical than anything else. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have much money. My dad was a poor student on a scholarship and my mum wasn’t allowed to work as his dependent under the student visa. So libraries became the perfect baby-sitters and entertainers. I was lucky to discover the wonder of libraries very early on.
“The BFG” and “George’s Marvelous Medicine,” both by Roald Dahl, were my favorites. They still are.
[The best thing about reading] was and still is that element of escapism. From a very young age, my dream was always to run away somewhere, go for an adventure, travel around the world. I love how books are able to pull you into these perfectly constructed alternative universes. Reality is suspended. The only thing you need to take with you is a bit of imagination and a leap of faith. Next thing you know, you’re at the end and feeling a bit wistful about not spending more time there when you could.
Has reading shaped me as a person? Clearly — although it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. I’m rather introverted so the best thing in the world for me is to curl up on the sofa with a book and a cup of tea away from the madding crowd. I prefer that to all other activities to the detriment of my social life and sometimes even my relationship — although I have to say I’m lucky to have the most understanding partner and friends.
One day, I would like to write my own novel, ask readers to journey with me through my own painstakingly constructed alternative universe — and I hope they enjoy their time there.
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Source: The Jakarta Globe