How to Cultivate a Habit of Reading Fiction in Children (Age 5-7)
Co-authored with Ritvvij Parrikh.
By now, Sabi had been reading for four years—two years as a toddler and two years in preschool. Reading had become a cherished activity for her. Beyond the usual contexts of reading during meals and while traveling, she now also carries a book to school and reads during her classes.
Increasingly, our role has become one of ensuring a consistent supply of reading material, helping her with planning, and brainstorming ideas she wants to discuss.
To avoid burning a hole in your pocket, we took the following steps:
Family and friends now know that Sabi loves reading, so they’ve started gifting her books.
- Her aunts gifted her an entire box full of books.
- A close school friend gave her the Amar Chitra Katha series on warriors.
- Another friend gifted her the Ladybird classics.
Reading Parties 🥳 🎉:
We continue to host reading parties with her friends, featuring fun food and drinks. Friends come over to our place with a book they like, which Sabi then reads, and they can choose a book from our library in return.
Brown Mommies Unite
To gather ideas on what to read next, we posted on Brown Mommies Unite—a community of over 85,000 South Asian moms worldwide who support, encourage, and learn from each other. The response I received was overwhelming, and I’ve curated the recommendations into a list.
Books That Influenced Her
Below are some of the books that Sabi loved:
By this point, we had introduced her to the world of Marvel movies. Consequently, we purchased Spider-Man Storybooks, 5-Minute Avengers Stories, and World of Reading Avengers for her. She devoured these books with great enthusiasm.
Geronimo Stilton Series
Sabi absolutely loved the Geronimo Stilton science-fiction series, which features Geronimo and his friends time-traveling to different historical eras. The catchphrases in these books, such as “Mouldy Mozzarella,” “Great Cheese Balls,” or “I’m quaking in my paws,” particularly amused her. This series also introduced her to history.
We initially planned for her to read one book a month from the Roald Dahl Series, but she ended up finishing all the books in just four months.
She found the series extremely entertaining, funny, and captivating. Her top three books were:
- Witches: Having watched Harry Potter, Sabi was already fascinated by witches and werewolves. This was the first book that delved into the details of witches, like how to recognize one.
- Matilda: Sabi had seen and loved the Matilda movie on one of the OTT platforms. She related to the character because, like her, Matilda is an avid reader.
- BFG: This book is about a Big Friendly Giant and a little girl named Sophie who is very adventurous. The book charmed her with its made-up words like “frobscottle” and “snozzcumber.”
However, two books—Boy and Going Solo—did not meet her expectations. According to Sabi, the author seemed to run out of ideas in Going Solo, and Boy focused too much on the topic of rats, which did not interest her.
The Famous Five Series consists of 21 books and is one of the longest series Sabi has read to date. As the summer break of 2022 approached, Sabi devoured the entire set in just 30 days. The books often depict cousins embarking on adventurous summer holidays together, which gave Sabi hope that she too could have similar adventures with her own cousins during the breaks.
Unlike any other books Sabi has read, the “Famous Five” series doesn’t include any pictures or illustrations. However, the character descriptions are so detailed and vivid that Sabi felt compelled to imagine and even draw the characters herself. Her favorite character is George, an 11-year-old tomboy who is fiercely independent and handles difficult situations with the poise of an adult. For example, George is capable of maneuvering a boat on her own and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and her cousins.
Sabi’s love for Enid Blyton’s books naturally led her to the next series – The Naughtiest Girl Series. She completed this 10-book set in just 10 days in August 2022. The series resonated strongly with Sabi, particularly because the main character, Elizabeth, is a strong-willed and spirited young girl—much like Sabi herself.
In the books, Elizabeth starts off as a spoiled child who is determined to behave so poorly at her boarding school that she’ll be expelled. She engages in a range of mischievous behaviors and frequently breaks school rules, such as staying out of bed after hours or visiting off-limits areas. Initially, Elizabeth also displays a rude attitude toward both classmates and teachers, often answering back, refusing to cooperate, or outright disregarding the instructions from her teachers and other authority figures at the school.
Interestingly, the series had such a profound influence on Sabi that she subconsciously began to emulate Elizabeth’s behavior in her own school. During a parent-teacher meeting that quarter, while Sabi was engrossed in the series, her first-grade teacher raised concerns about Sabi’s behavior. Specifically, she noted that Sabi was becoming increasingly rude, answering back to junior teachers, and failing to get along with classmates who weren’t her close friends. 🤯
The Secret Seven Series is another series by Enid Blyton that comprises four books that served as Sabi’s introduction to reading denser content. In this series, seven young detectives come together to solve various mysteries. They convene in their secret meeting place—a shed in Peter’s garden—to discuss and unravel mysteries that arise in their community.
Each book presents a new adventure, which could involve anything from locating missing persons to recovering stolen property. Equipped with notebooks, badges, and a strong sense of justice, the Secret Seven rely on teamwork, ingenuity, and courage to solve each case.
Sabi was so inspired by the series that she started incorporating elements of it into her daily life:
- Secret Hiding Places: Sabi created her own secret hiding places at home.
- Treasure Hunts: Sabi organized treasure hunts in the park, hiding boxes filled with shells and other items for her friends to find.
- Secret Meetings in the Park: Sabi and her friends even had secret meetings in a treehouse in the park.
- Builder Club: The series led Sabi to found the “Builder Club,” for which she distributed badges to her close friends who became members.
- Moral Lessons: The series also reinforced Sabi’s commitment to doing the right thing, setting her apart from peers who acted otherwise.
During one occasion, I took Sabi to one of my meetings at a coffee shop. While there, she noticed someone entering who seemed suspicious to her. True to her detective spirit inspired by the “Secret Seven,” Sabi began to jot down notes, observing the person in a detective-like manner.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
Initially, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series captivated Sabi with its humor and engaging illustrations. However, we soon realized the series was having a detrimental influence on her. The protagonist, Greg, often resorts to manipulative behavior, shirks responsibility, and places blame on others for his own shortcomings. Moreover, he is obsessed with social status and superficial markers of popularity.
Our major concern was the lack of a strong ethical foundation in the series. While it did mirror real-world behaviors and challenges, it failed to provide constructive solutions or lessons that could aid Sabi in better navigating similar situations in her own life.
Given these concerns, we decided to discourage Sabi from continuing with the series.
This refined version aims to maintain the essence of your observation while ensuring clarity and coherence in the narrative.
Sudha Murthy – My First Collection
We got good reviews about Sudha Murty books. So we bought her the whole collection:
Sudha Murthy – Mythology Collection
Sudha Murthy – Gopi Diaries
Sudha Murthy – My First Collection
All of Sudha Murty’s stories address moral and ethical issues, placing emphasis on values, ethics, and human character. Her writing and storytelling style is so simple and engaging that Sabi devoured all of her books one by one. In fact, she finished reading all of them and even wrote a letter to the author, requesting more books for children. Here are her top three picks:
- “The Gopi Diaries: Coming Home” and “The Gopi Diaries: Finding Love” were emotional stories about pets. After reading these books, Sabi persistently asked us for days to get her a dog. She became particularly upset when a cat abandoned her three kittens. Despite our busy schedules, we bought kitten food, but they wouldn’t eat it. Eventually, we took them to an animal shelter where they are now thriving.
- “The Sage With Two Horns: Unusual Tales from Mythology” caught her attention, especially one story about Kannagi and Kovalan, as it discussed the Chola and Pandyan dynasties.
- “The Upside-Down King: Unusual Tales about Rama and Krishna” introduced her to different dynasties, such as the solar and lunar dynasties.
Before picking up the Harry Potter Series, Sabi had already watched all the Harry Potter movies. Her older cousin insisted that she explore the books instead. To her surprise, she found many details in the books that were not covered in the movies. While the books sparked her imagination with magic, wands, and potions, she felt she didn’t learn much beyond that.
Other books she read
- “The Treehouse” Series
- “Magic Treehouse” Series
- The “Big Nate” Series
- High Tide in Hawaii
- The Knight at Dawn
- Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities Book 2)
- Keeper of the Lost Cities VOL 1
- A Curly Tale / Gole Mole
How Reading Posture Evolved
She also went through a phase where she experimented with different reading postures. These six months were quite amusing.
After several months of trial and error, she finally settled into the reading posture that most people use.