The Reading Trend In India & How This Can Impact Children

Over the years, India has seen a wonderful trend emerge. 

First, Amazon India’s Reading Trends Report released in 2017 showed book sales picking up across all levels in India – English books in Metro and Tier I cities and translations in rural areas. Later, they also claimed a steady growth of book sales over the past five years, with adult non-fiction growing by 22.8% and young adult (fiction) book sales rising by 21.4%. 

Then, in 2020, Nielsen released a report on the Impact of COVID-19 on the India Book Consumer and found that reading time has increased from nine hours a week to 16 hours a week.

This trend is not a surprising one, given that India has been a seat of learning, literature, and knowledge since ancient times. Reading is a prime source of information and knowledge, and these past book sales show us just how much Indians love this activity.

This trend has even touched the lives of children in India, as Scholastic has found. This independent publisher regularly surveys young children aged 6 to 17 across India to provide insight about reading habits among this population. Their latest report – published in 2020 – found that 92% of the surveyed children read books for fun at least one day in the week. Their survey further found that younger children love reading short stories with pictures, and their interests leaned towards comics, fairy tales, books that made them laugh. Slightly older children (aged 9-11 and 12-14) want books that tell the truth about life, and have smart, courageous characters. 

The young Indian reader is well on their way to becoming a literate adult who reads for fun. However, much of the data collected so far only reflects certain segments of the population. The popularity of this activity needs to reach even the hinterland before we can say that our children are developing a reading habit.

Why Reading Is Important, Especially In Early Childhood

  • Kids that cannot read, cannot learn. Reading is the basis of learning; geography, history, and even math problems require good reading skills. Additionally, studies by UNESCO in 2012 show that kids who cannot read according to their level by the time they are in the third grade often drop out of school altogether.
  • Reading makes you smarter. Reading helps enhance the learning process. Each page opens up a new world; new words enhance an ever-increasing vocabulary; even childrens’ confidence gets a boost. This is why we require more people who are learning to read right from childhood, and developing reading skills, to build a more literate India.
  • Research into reading often talks about how it enriches minds, imparts wisdom, and even helps shape readers’ personalities to a certain extent. In fact, Harvard Business Review publishes that having a good reading ability and a regular reading habit makes you better placed to be a business leader.

As a nation of readers, we need to bring these emergent literacy skills to our young children and inculcate a strong reading habit in them.

Inculcating A Reading Habit In Young Children

An ebook on Alice in Wonderland

The reading habit — like the reading trend itself — is constantly evolving. Reading does not always have to be on paper anymore; there are other means to access books for children: ebooks, edutainment apps, and even audiobooks can be leveraged to deliver content to young readers. 

Reading needs to be treated like a favoured friend and given constant and devoted attention. This learned activity can start with quick word-of-mouth stories and move to other mediums that children are comfortable with. 

See how much effort it really takes for the brain to learn to read.

Book Recommendations For India’s Multilingual & Multicultural Children

📒 The Gopi Diaries by Sudha Murty
Available In: English
Who can read it: Anyone aged 2-4
What is it about: This three-book series is told in the voice of the main character – Gopi the dog. The series follows Gopi as he gets adopted into a brand-new home, and then describes the world and the people around him.
Where to get it: Amazon, Flipkart

👣 पायल खो गई or Payal Is Lost by Maheen Mirza and Shivani Taneja
Available In: Hindi
Who can read it: Anyone aged 2-6
What is it about: Exactly what the title promises.
Little Payal is lost, and the children of her basti are searching near and far to find her. Until finally, they find her in the most unlikely place…
A sweet tale written for children who are just beginning to read, Payal Kho Gai is a simple tale filled with animation that is intentionally vague to further engage target readers’ imaginations.
Where to get it: Amazon

🦠 Germ Academy by Rea Malhotra Mukhtyar
Available in: English
Who can read it: Anyone aged 3-8
What is it about: Written by a teacher, this book is geared towards helping adults explain the pandemic to little kids, in a way that does not seem overwhelming at all. The author states that this book has something for everyone, from “pop-culture references and scientific formulae to cleanliness tips and silly sounds.”
Where to get it: Amazon, Crossword

🧆 Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by Farhana Zia
Available in: English (Hindi words interwoven for a multilingual experience)
Who can read it: Anyone aged 4-8
What is it about: Aneel is an excited little boy…his Dada-ji is coming to stay with him all the way from India. 
This multi-cultural tale effortlessly weaves in Hindi and English terms into a warm family tale with incredible illustrations. At the heart of it is the relationship between grandfather and grandson, and a lesson on how food fills your tummy and warms your heart.
Where to get it: Amazon

👩‍🦱 I Hate my Curly Hair by Diyva Anand
Available in: English
Who can read it: Anyone aged 5-7
What is it about: It’s never too early to start teaching children about body positivity and self-acceptance. Diyva Anand’s poem aims to do exactly that, in a humorous tale about a little girl and her hate for her long curly hair.
Where to get it: Amazon

👡 Phani’s Funny Chappals By Sridala Swami
Available in: Hindi, Oriya, Gondi, Kannada, Tamil, French, Chinese, English
Who can read it: Anyone aged 5-9
What is it about: Phani’s footwear causes all the trouble in this book. All he wants to do is be an obedient boy and a good student, but his chappals won’t let him!
Where to get it: StoryWeaver

🐬 Putul and the Dolphins by Mariam Karim-Ahlawat
Available in: Bengali, Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu
Who can read it: Anyone aged 5-14
What is it about: Introduce children to nature and the environment with Puchku, a girl who lives by the Ganga river in Bengal. Her chance meeting with two dolphins sets the stage for a lovely folksy tale about life in a village, and the close relationship people share with animals.
Where to get it: Amazon, Flipkart (in certain languages)

🧑‍🦯 Kanna Panna By Zai Whitaker
Available in: Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati
Who can read it: Anyone aged 5-14
What is it about: When the lights go out and his family cannot get out of the cave temple, little Kanna comes to the rescue. The presence (or lack of) lights do not make any difference to Kanna, as he cannot see anyway. The author changes the common perception about ‘disability’, creating a warm, strong, and funny protagonist to teach children about visual impairment.
Where to get it: Amazon

🐆 Leopard in Mumbai by Lubaina Bandukwala and Allen Shaw
Available in: English
Who can read it: Anyone aged 6-15
What is it about: A new tourist is in town, and she’s causing quite a stir! Why, though? All she wants to do is everyday touristy things in Mumbai, but she can’t figure out why everyone is so nervous? Maybe it’s because she’s a leopard? 
What is it about: A new tourist is in town, and she’s causing quite a stir! Why, though? All she wants to do is everyday touristy things in Mumbai, but she can’t figure out why everyone is so nervous? Maybe it’s because she’s a leopard? 
Supported by hilarious illustrations by Allen Shaw, Lubaina Bandukwala’s funny take on the leopard sightings in Mumbai are a breath of fresh air, and make you see wildlife (and conservation) in a different light.
Where to get it: Amazon, Karaditales

👹 Moin and the Monster by Anushka Ravishankar
Available in: English
Who can read it: Anyone aged 8-10
What is it about: Moin was sleeping peacefully in his room until he heard a noise under his bed. Now, he has to share a home with a monster that loves to sing, eat bananas, and create new hairstyles. All this while trying to keep this a secret! Award-winning author Anushka Ravishankar crafts a wickedly funny tale that reviews rate as ‘laugh-out-loud.’
Where to get it: Amazon, Flipkart, Google Play Books (audiobook)

If you are looking to engage beginner readers, why not try out the Square Panda Early English Learning App, which you can download for free on the App Store and Play Store?

Want to develop your students’ foundational literacy skills or learn more about the programs Square Panda India has to offer? Visit ecce.squarepanda.in.

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Written by Square Panda India
Empowering children with the power of literacy and languages, Square Panda India provides an adaptive, multisensory, phonics learning platform to early learners everywhere.