For “instant parent” Padma Zachariah, 50, reading books together with her adopted son Sean not only brings them closer, but also gives her a chance to relive her own childhood.
The project manager and her husband, Soman Zachariah, 51, adopted the boy in 2012. Aged two then, Sean had already lived in three shelter homes.
Padma said when he first came home, he could only speak a few words in Malay.
“We didn’t really know what to do with kids then, but we became instant parents.
“We, especially my husband, read to him every single day and night. Sean started picking up the English language.
“Reading together really helped us bond as a family,” she said, adding that they don’t own a television at their home in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.
Padma said that Sean, now seven, has developed “amazing” verbal skills and is articulate for his age.
She added that books have helped her son immensely with his mental and emotional growth.
“Sean is a very empathetic child. Last year, we watched Korean film Train to Busan with him.
“At first, the zombies scared him, but he really got into the film, reading subtitles.
“After the movie ended, my husband, Sean’s godmother and I sat down to discuss the film for 1.5 hours.
“Sean, then six, was able to articulate the characters and their personalities well,” Padma related.
For Padma, the simple act of reading books with her son also transports her back to her childhood years in Ipoh, Perak.
“My parents were poor. Every weekend, my brothers and I would spend hours at the Tun Razak library.
“We practically grew up in that library. I read my first book at age five,” she recalled.
The Zachariah family have collected more than 4,000 children’s books since 2012, which they have added to their home library, named Kutub Khanah, whch is Urdu for “library”.
Recently, they put up about 2,000 books for sale at their condominium.
Padma said about 30 people came to the event on Aug 19, many of whom expressed delight at being able to buy the books at marked-down prices.
“We are selling off books because we want to buy more books – my son’s exact words,” she said.