I was truly fortunate I spent lots of time in my formative childhood years in the company of my grandparents. Each of them individually, and collectively also, impacted my life in numerous little (and big) ways. Which is why I do know that grandparents influence love for the written word – for reading, writing, for story telling, and for all the joys and uses all those words bring us ultimately!
And this is what happened to me….
My Granparents Influence: Not the Beginning
- The year: 1993 or 1994.
- The place: Jayanagar, Bangalore (now Bengaluru), India
- The memory: Almost daily walks with my maternal grandpa (and sometimes grandma or both of them)
- The destination: The closest local lending library, which was located in a garage of the house owner.
Then press the rewind button just a little to 1992.
I lived in a hostel which was walking distance from my college. While I traveled back home (a six-hour bus ride away) as often as I could, I eagerly awaited for letters from loved ones as well. And some of my most cherished ones were those from my grandfathers. They made it a point to write regularly to me, and ensured I wrote back to them as well. If I failed to reply, I would not hear the end of it from my parents:) Just kidding! It was pure joy to write to and hear from them.
Going Back in Time a Few More Years
Looking in Lending Libraries and Scouring Secondhand Stores
- The Time: 1980s
- Places: In and around Madras (Chennai, as it is known today), India
My maternal grandparents spent a large part of my childhood years in Chennai with my uncle and his family. They moved a few times to different towns in and around the Chennai area due to his job. And we spent many summer vacations with them.
What I recall was that before our visit, my grandpa would scout the area (if they had moved there recently) and find out the location of the closest lending libraries as well as those second hand bookstores we both loved spending time in.
That way, the moment I landed, he could take me to the library and ensure I had enough books to keep me occupied for the rest of my summer. Like in later years (as I mentioned earlier), he accompanied me on my regular visits and patiently browsed books with me. He even read many of those books with me (sometimes it was a competition)!
- The years: 1980s
- Places: My childhood hometown of Harihar (in the southern state of Karnataka, India)
My paternal grandparents spent a few months every so often with us (just like my maternal ones too). And during the time they were with us, my grandpa always made it a point to check on my schoolwork. He would quiz me, give me spelling tests, and give me feedback on my homework. And he would recommend books too. One specific memory I have is of him asking me to read Anna Karenina when I was in high school!!
In fact, both grandpas spent time looking over my writing and giving me feedback when they were with us; when they were staying elsewhere with other uncles and aunts, they regularly wrote letters and looked forward to my replies!
Further back in time and back to the future
- Time: My Early Years and All the Rest Going Forward
- Places: Various
My grandparents’ life-experiences, their intelligence (I often wonder what my grandmoms would have accomplished given their smartness if they had been born today!), their own reading habits — all of this helped them build treasure trove of stories! And for us kids, they looked like magicians pulling stories out of their magic hat with practiced ease, each time, a wondrous new story that we had never heard before (or had we!!)
My maternal grandmom devoured weekly magazines and mini-novels we picked up any chance we had along with the daily newspaper; and she especially loved thrillers!! I recall her telling me stories of Tenali Rama followed by a story of a detective solving a murder mystery!!
My paternal grandmom had a superb memory; and she could tell stories from oh-so-long-ago in her melodious voice that it seemed like we were listening to a performer.
My favorite stories were the ones from their own lives; I truly wish I had more of those stories to treasure.
And I can go on and on….
& That is How My Grandparents Influence (d) My Love for the Written Word
Their penchant for storytelling, their rich life experiences, their intelligence, and their love for me, as well as their desire to both indulge me and empower me made my grandparents wonderful influencers in the subtlest of everyday ways.
And each of these things I mentioned today helped increase my passion and love for all things words; for both reading them and writing them.
So How Can (Great) Grandparents Influence Love for the Written Word?
Based on what I have learned, here are some tips to help grandparents influence and well, everyone who wants to help instill the love of the written word in young ones… (though this is addressed to the grands!)
- Tell Stories: Stories you have read, made-up stories, stories from your life, from those of your kids (your grand-kids parents/uncles and aunts!) and so many more options.
- Read to and with your grand-kids: Read their favorite books, your childhood favorites, and discover new favorites together. And today’s world provides options for reading together even when on different continents. Another delightful option I have discovered is options that help you record reading a story for loved ones. One of them is Readeo (note: not an affiliated link; just sharing)
- Exchange Letters With Them: No matter what, there is magic in the handwritten letter. If that is difficult, you could still send emails but in the traditional letter format to make it more personal. I still have and treasure letters from my grandparents; and have saved some for my kids as well from theirs.
- Provide Feedback (and given you are grandparents, all feedback is welcome and loving and loved!): This works for all ages of grands. I know that I never found issue with any feedback my grandpas gave me on my writing. Simply because!
- Browse Books Together: Spend time with books together; browse bookshelves in libraries, scour used bookstores to discover hidden treasures, and surround yourself with books as much as possible at home. Help build a library for your grandchild at their home; and ensure access to books in some form or the other at your home when they visit. (It could simply be a favorite book of theirs)!
- Have your own grand-book-club! In a way, I did with my grandpas.. We read books together sometimes; at others, I read books they had read previously and recommended to me. When the reading was done, we talked about it purely for the joy of it.
While my grandparents are no longer with us, their memories remain; and those memories, lessons, and sweet influences are what I hope to pass on to my own kids, and in the future (though that is a long way yet!), to my own grand-kids.
Books For & About Grandparents, and To Share With Grandparents
Here are a few books I recommend (about the grandparent-grandchild relationship – about the special love and the joys of this relationship, as well as how to deal with separation or loss; about how grandparents influence our lives forever; as well as books that are perfect for grands to share with each other)
- Looking for Bapu is a poignant story I read years ago and recently republished my review post here.
- Old Man of the Sea is a sweet picture book, perfect for a shared read. The dedication at the start says a lot: ‘To grandparents who enchant childhood.….’
- A Stopwatch from Grampa is a bittersweet read that will help young ones deal with the grief when grandparents pass away
- Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs is perfect for reading when grandparents and other loved ones are away from the little ones. Grandparents could read this over a video call to their grandkids.
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret is also a book that explores this sweet relationship, though subtly.
- And there are so many more that I will continue to add here