Current read-aloud with my 4 year olds: Ramayana for children. Ramayana is an ancient Hindu epic. We have read about 15 chapters so far where my boys were introduced to a world that is completely new and different. The names, the pictures, the language, the characters, everything was new for them. There was a lot to absorb. I was a bit concerned about how they’ll take this, but they are loving it. They don’t want me to read anything else these days, except this one book. I am doing my best to make this an interesting reading experience for them by simplifying the language and the stories, changing my voice often, and making the read-aloud more interesting overall.
Let’s talk a bit about reading ancient literature to kids. I cringe when reading stories with traditional, outdated, confining values that do not align well with my modern, liberal and open-minded values, to my kids. Which is why, I feel that it’s important for me to understand why I want to read them in the first place. For me, it comes down to giving them a taste of their cultural heritage. I feel like they need to know both the good and the bad aspects of their cultural heritage, in order to contribute towards positive change. I also feel that these read-alouds in particular, need to be done more proactively, with some upfront thought put into them. For example, I try to have some age appropriate, open-ended questions ready to present to my kids. It’s a great way for me to gauge where their moral compass is, and also to encourage critical thinking in them, as opposed to blindly accepting what’s being presented to them.
This strategy should apply to all read-alouds if you ask me, but I feel like this becomes more important while reading ancient literature. This is all hard work for sure, but if I am going to go down this path, I would rather put in the effort and try to do it right. I personally don’t want my children to blindly accept everything written in these ancient texts as sacred and unquestionable. To that effect, our nightly read-alouds of Ramayana have been demanding a lot from me, but hopefully it will all be worth it some day.