Off I went in 2012, when my baby boy was born, to fill up my bookshelf with amazing, colourful and engaging children’s books. Of course, I soon found out that not all books were made equal. There were limitless options for English books – board books, touch and feel books, lift-the-flap books. However, when it came to Tamil books, the choices were rather dire. The few Tamil books that my mum sent from Singapore were of poor paper quality, text-heavy and contained illustrations that looked a little scary. As a child growing up in Singapore, Tamil was always one of my favourite and strongest subjects at school. And I did read loads of Tamil (and English) books. Back then, the difference between Tamil and English children’s books was not as stark. Both contained simple black-and-white illustrations and were mainly focused on imparting basic language skills. However, English children’s books have progressed by leaps and bounds in the last 30 years, providing multi-sensory experiences for kids, while the Tamil counterparts have stayed stagnant.
In addition, I realised that Tamil is readily available in Singapore – it is an official language of the land, it is part of the national school curriculum, it is present in the signage throughout the country, there are Tamil TV channels and a Tamil radio station... It is just present everywhere and seeps through to the Tamil households. Having moved to Australia, where Tamil is rarely spoken around my immediate surroundings, I find that I have to work a lot harder for my children to be exposed to the Tamil language and culture.
And that is why I decided to produce my own books that Tamil children, from all over the world, can benefit from. I formed Vaaranam Children’s Books and have just completed my first project - 2 Tamil alphabet board books which highlight the vowels and consonants of our language – with many more exciting projects in the pipeline.
I want Tamil kids to reach for the Tamil books on their bookshelves and I hope that by producing books which are of good print quality with colourful, engaging illustrations, I will play a small part in passing on the Tamil language and culture to our children.
I do believe that this is the first step towards encouraging our kids to read Tamil books. Which in itself is a small, yet essential step towards nurturing a love for the Tamil language – Tamil which is one of the oldest languages of this world… Tamil which is close to my heart.