Babybookaholic’s creator Yashaswini is from Davangere, a city in Karnataka. Youngest among her three siblings, she did her schooling from Davangere, and later moved to Mysore for college. She is a BA graduate in Public Administration, Journalism and Optional English. During her second year, she was part of a student exchange program (SUSI) organized by the US consulate. After her graduation, she worked as a reporter with the Times of India, Mysore Bureau. Now, a mother to a 3 years old daughter, she is a stay-at-home mom, journaling her motherhood reads through her Instagram page Babybookaholic. https://www.instagram.com/babybookaholic/
In conversation with Yashaswini, we learnt more about her journey as a reader-mom to now an author –
Yashaswini – Mom Turned Author
I was always a reader, even before I became a personal reader to my Baby R. That is one reason why I wanted my child to be a bibliophile too. Not just in theory, I knew I would have to imbibe that culture around her. Before her birth, I was only aware of popular childrens’ books like Disney classics. However, after her birth, I rejoined Instagram and began learning about the wonderful books that were hidden from the public eye. Hence started my journey of sharing the same with those who may be living under the rock. As a book-lover myself, introducing books to Baby R came naturally to me. Babybookaholic is my daughter R’s journey with books.
Through this page, I have made friends with other moms who shared a similar routine as mine. This mother tribe is very kind and supportive. In case of doubts, be it about books, about motherhood, or any other regular topic, you can talk to them without any hesitation and they will guide you. In fact, I have not met many of them and the bond is stronger than those I meet regularly. When Baby R joined school, she had separation anxiety. Next, all of a sudden, she started talking about death when school started and I did not know what to do. I contacted a mother friend who conducted a workshop and I learnt how to deal with this. We also inform each other about books. That is how I learnt about Indian children’s books by Indian publishers, in Indian languages.
My Reading Journey
I like to call myself a reader, however I may not be as dedicated of a reader as other dedicated readers. If I go down my memory lane, my father used to bring me Champaks and Balamangala. There was a private library near our house where I got introduced to comics such as Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, and even Harry Potter. Coming from a small town in Karnataka, my grasp of English was not great when I was in middle school. I remember reading my first Harry Potter (because I read about it in the newspaper) but I could not understand anything and everything went over my head. Disheartened, I kept it back. In high school, particularly in 10th standard, I restarted my reading journey with Harry Potter, successfully understanding it at this point.
My Amma is an ardent reader as she reads Kannada books. She read, rather narrated, Panchtantra to me. Her narrations inspired me to pass on the storytelling legacy to my child. I recall her bringing Kannada books at home (not children’s books in particular). Since it was my only source of reading, I used to pick them up and read. My motto was to read, unstoppably.
My previous reads include novels such as Kite Runner, but lately I also get to read Baby R’s books. Now that she has started going to school, I get more time to read Indian authors. At present, I started the Ram Chandra series by Amish Tripathi: first being Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta, then Sita: Warrior of Mithila, then Ram – Scion of Ikshvaku, and now I am reading War of Lanka.
Introducing Baby R to Kannada through books
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Let me tell you the process of reading to her – even when I read English books to her, I simultaneously translate them to Kannada because we hardly speak to her in English. This was the first step of narrating in Kannada. So the first five to ten times, I narrated to her in Kannada, and once she understood the story, I switched back to English. She has learnt English only through books, and for a non-native speaker, I must say she has a very good vocabulary, even better than mine. (chuckles)
The process behind curating posts
When I started this page, I wanted to document her journey, what she thinks when I read to her, what goes in her mind, and how she felt and reacted to that story. For instance, when we read Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham (confirm), she didn’t want to pick it up again because Sam forces the other person to eat green eggs and ham. Therefore while drafting my posts, I think from my child’s lens, and how another child will perceive and read my captions.
Sources for children’s books
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Books by Indian authors can be purchased directly from their websites. Then there is Tara Books (exorbitant), which I mostly buy from when it’s raining offers. Then there is Blossom Book House in Bangalore. Not to forget, there are Instagram book stores where you get preloved books on a first-come-first-serve basis, at affordable rates.
Do you resell books?
Although we do not resell yet, only recently Baby R started sharing her books with her neighbor Baby T of 2.5 years. Baby R learnt that giving books meant getting to read new books in exchange, and so she liked the idea. Reluctant initially, now she is eager to go to Baby T’s apartment to get new books.
What to read to a baby and when?
I started reading to my daughter when she was just six months old. As a few months old baby, she absolutely loved looking at the pictures and was glued to the pictures of a dog, a cat, and a bird. As a toddler, she started understanding what the sentences meant and enacted sitting on a chair, and eating with a spoon. I look forward to her revisiting the book once she learns to read her alphabet. Through episodes like these, I learnt that Baby R loved animals – be it toys or books. In fact, I believe that she loves animals more than humans. Whenever she sees animals, she can reconnect them to the characters she read about. Instead when people look at her and greet, she looks away.
Every book was unplanned. We never introduced her books to learn anything, books were never an imposition. It was just another book. Even now I haven’t taught her the alphabet. She knows numbers from 1 to 10, and colors she started recognising only after 3 years of age. I wanted her to know that books are fun, just as toys, with no pressure whatsoever.
Daughter R is specific about the stories she wants to listen to. She skips the pages or just says ‘no’ if she doesn’t want to listen or read a story. I have to figure out her criteria for deciding on stories to listen or to read. I ask myself time and again – is it about the pictures or the characters?! I still have answers to find.
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Bookaholic Baby R in the age of smartphones
As parents, we did not want to introduce screen to her. When she was just one year old, we used to carry board books for her so that she doesn’t get impatient when we are eating or while waiting for the food during outdoor dinners. Until 2 years, she did not know about phones at all, except she did video calls but very rarely. She knew phones existed but only for conversations. She has no clue about this page and in fact, she gets screen time very rarely, every two weeks, that too with a timer. She sincerely turns off the TV when asked to. However, at times she won’t and I give in to her demands.
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Life Lessons in a picture book
I started reading about safe touch and unsafe touch to her before school started. I asked her to communicate if she does not feel comfortable with Amma’s touch. Baby R is very vocal about her feelings, in fact the first word she learnt from books was ‘no’. I have always encouraged her to express her emotions. As a kid, when she felt angry, she asked me what she should do. I suggested we go to the balcony and she screamed which served as an outlet for letting out emotions. Even now when she gets angry, she opens the door, screams and comes back. She understands that every emotion is important.
Talking about separation anxiety, I learned about it through her reluctance to go to school as she was too attached to me. Through the story of Alfie and of the owl mother, she learnt that the mother returns after a short journey away from the child. This helped her cope with her anxiety and spiral back stronger.
One more life lesson that she learnt through her book was that not everyday you feel like sharing. While we tell our kids sharing is caring, we often forget that it is okay to not always share. Some days she states she is not in the mood to share and I tell her that it is okay. And that is what we as parents also need to learn, it is okay to not share some days.
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Baby R was herself interested to know stories – she would ask me to create imaginary stories for her. This is when I created stories on the spot, just the way my mind worked at that point. Hearing these stories, my husband encouraged me to write children’s stories.
A realization that occurred to me was that even if there were Indian publishers, there were not many regional languages books, especially in Kannada, which is her mother tongue. I wanted her to read kannada books as well. My very first book is, in fact, about our roots in Kannada to familiarize kids about the same. So this is my first book titled Chinniya Rajayi releasing this Sunday.
My husband did give the first push, but Baby R was my first reader and listener. Her reactions were gravely important for me as I narrated the story to her first and if she found it boring, I altered the story a little. I never wrote stories on paper – I sewed the stories in mind and made edits mentally and simultaneously. And once it did make sense, I put it on paper.
My first book talks about a not-so-known quilt stitching of Karnataka. I knew about this stitching since I was a kid but I had never seen anyone stitch it before, although I come from that part of Karnataka. There is a community in Northern Karnataka, especially women community, who stitch this quilt by going from house to house to collect old sarees/clothes. Whenever the ladies came home to collect clothes and stitch, I was either at school or college. During my pregnancy days, I saw them quilting for the first time. I was amazed at how they stitched such big quilts in a matter of minutes! That was the reason that made me think that the kids would be as fascinated as I was as an adult. Hence, the story of Chinniya Rajayi took its form.
The second book titled ALilu Seve is part truth-part imaginary. When I was working at Times of India, I used to write this column called ‘Citizen of the City’ which was about the people’s contribution. I met this coconut seller who used to give coconut meat to the squirrels. There are episodes about this in my second book. Some kindness and animal imagery to cater to children’s imagination.
Your books cater to which age group?
The publishers believe ages 6 to 12, but from what I have experienced is that one must not limit a child’s potential. Do not go by an age slate, I believe anyone can enjoy a book as each child is different. Even when my friends ask me what book their child must read, they forget that my recommendations do not matter more than a child’s willingness to read.
Where can we read your books?
It will be available 16th October 2022 onwards on Harivubooks website and its bookstore. By next week, you will be getting it at Sapna book house in Banglore. I will be posting the details on my account as well.
You can get the copy of her books by visiting the Harivu Books website links below,
ಅಳಿಲು ಸೇವೆ – https://harivubooks.com/products/alilu-seeve-kids-book-kannada
ಚಿನ್ನಿಯ ರಜಾಯಿ – https://harivubooks.com/products/chinniya-rajaayi-kids-book-kannada
Will your books be translated to English?
No one has approached me yet, and I am not sure if I can translate them into English. I am open to the idea of the books being translated, definitely. I will also have to discuss it with the publishers.