Shweta Taneja is an author and comics writer based in Bangalore. She loves to prod into the paranormal and ask uncomfortable questions about everything. Her book The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong which is packed with mystery and adventure is a big hit among children.Her other published works include Krishna: Defender of Dharma and The Skull Rosary. Find out more about Shweta whose one motto is to stay curious and get some great advice on do’s and don’ts to promote reading among children.
- What inspires you to write for children?
I have an itch called curiosity. So you would find me prodding into a bug, or staring at a crow’s wings wondering what about them makes it fly (is it the colour or the way they shine?). This itch to solve mysteries of life, to question everything makes me write. I have no choice in the matter really. If I don’t write, I will have to sit all day scratching myself to get rid of the itch. Which is not a great alternative to writing, is it? So I write instead.
- Tell us about a book that you loved as a child and that you revisit even today
I have read, reread and even stared at Alice in Wonderland. It’s a fascinating book, full of nonsensical characters, all of whom I simply adore. At every age, I learn something new from it and it still makes me sit in a corner and giggle every now and then.
- What are the three effective ways in which schools can promote reading for joy?
Excite them about stories: Children don’t distinguish between different media like books, television, games, etc. What gets them going are stories. If they’re curious about how the story goes, nothing in the world, including food will stop them from finding out. So as a definite first, I would suggest doing activities that make them curious about the new books in your library collection. Maybe tell them what the story is a little bit, do a mystery class and then dangle the book like a carrot in front and see them all turn into hungry rabbits!
Don’t handhold them: Many a times in India, I’ve seen schools and parents become strict about what their kid should be reading. Kids are rebels at heart (aren’t we all?). If you tell them read, they would want the telly. If you tell them read this book, they would want some other book. So the idea is not to tell, but show. Don’t force ‘good’ books on them. Instead, let them decide what they want to read. Let them pick up a book after wandering in the aisles and daydreaming. Guide only when strictly required. Set them free and they would figure what they like and read it.
Stock all kinds of books: Not only moral stories or stories that ‘teach’ the kids some kind of values. You should stock mysteries, thrillers full of ghosts, naughty stories and all kinds of things that make you want to sit in a corner and giggle all afternoon!
- Name three contemporary authors which you feel children should be exposed to
Oh, that a really difficult one. Three would be too limited to list down the lovely contemporary writings I see around me. I would suggest you to explore all beautiful writing that is coming out in the genre. Just read and then read.
- Which are 5 books which every school library should own?
I have a soft spot for fantasy so here goes my list (mostly for 10-upwards and most are series): The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, all books by Roald Dahl, His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll, Ramayana by Ashok Banker.
- If you could become any book character for a day, who would you choose to be?
I’ve always been curious on how it would be to become someone non-human. So I would be torn between Casper, the friendly neighbourhood ghost, and The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland who can become invisible and only presents itself to make mischief. Yum!
Connect with Shweta Taneja online at www.shwetawrites.com