New paperback editions of Srimad-Bhagavatam: A Comprehensive Guide for Young Readers Cantos 1, 2, and 3 are now available on Amazon.com, along with the just completed Canto 4. The first three cantos in the series, compiled by Aruddha Dasi, were originally each released in two parts starting in 2016. However the new editions, redesigned by Raghu Consbruck, and featuring new illustrations by a variety of artists, have been revised into a single volume per Canto, making them more affordable.
Aruddha Dasi is known in ISKCON for homeschooling her sons Radhika Ramana Das and Gopala Hari Das using the Srimad-Bhagavatam, through which she taught them language arts, critical thinking, debate, and communication. The idea for a comprehensive guide to the Bhagavatam for young readers began to develop as she was invited to conduct seminars on homeschooling and Krishna conscious parenting over the years.
“I met many parents who wanted to teach their children Srimad-Bhagavatam but who needed more guidance on how to do it,” she writes in her introduction to Canto 3 of the series. “It was then that I started doing workshops, during which we would sit together with their children and I would demonstrate how to guide a discussion in a way that evoked the child’s curiosity about the nature of the world, God, the self, and the purpose of life. Together, we would read the translations of a chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam and discuss the stories, main themes, and great personalities. We would talk about the relevance of Srimad-Bhagavatam in our own lives – how it provides spiritual solutions to material problems. Both the children and parents were thoroughly enlivened and absorbed in the discussions.
“When I explained at my seminars how I taught my boys Srimad-Bhagavatam through interactive reading and discussion, hundreds of parents were inspired to follow. However, many parents who wanted to study the Bhagavatam with their children were uncertain about how to do it. They needed a formal curriculum, and I pondered how I could help.”
Over five years ago, Aruddha started a collaborative project, involving devotee parents from around the world, and formed an online group in which approximately fifteen parents – from Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States – worked together to create study resources for each chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 1.
The team of parents, which included English teachers, musicians, artists, and computer professionals, brought their own skills to the table, and used the curriculum with their own children as they designed it to see the results firsthand. After every chapter was completed, Aruddha gave her feedback. The material was then systematically edited, organized, compiled as a book for use by parents everywhere, and the first book was published by Torchlight in 2016.
The book series, Aruddha explains, can be used to make Srimad-Bhagavatam the core curriculum for homeschoolers, teaching language arts and the humanities, with math, science and music taught separately. Alternatively, Srimad-Bhagavatam can be taught as an extra supplement to homeschoolers who are learning from a different curriculum. For children attending school, meanwhile, Srimad-Bhagavatam: A Comprehensive Guide can serve as their sastric education.
Over the years, the books have also been used to teach English and sastra in ISKCON schools and Sunday Schools in Krishna Valley, Hungary; Krsnuv Dvur, Czech Republic; Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia; Delhi, Mayapur and Vrindavan, India; and Toronto, Canada; as well as Hillsborough, Chicago, Houston, Indiannapolis, Cincinnati, and Tampa in the U.S.
Earlier Cantos of the Comprehensive Guide are primarily geared towards children aged between six and twelve, although much of the material can be adapted for children younger than 6, or older than 12. Canto 4 is aimed more at ages 12 and up.
“The books’ main objective is to provide children with spiritual knowledge from the Bhagavatam, and to give them an opportunity for personal realization,” Aruddha says. “The primary process for doing this is by first reading translations from Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam with the children; discussing the stories and philosophical content of the chapter; and then providing the children with the opportunity to make their own enquiries and share their personal experiences.”
After reading and discussing the translations with the children in their care, parents or teachers can use the guidebooks in Aruddha’s series for chapter summaries, key themes, character descriptions, higher-thinking questions for both younger and older children, and fun activities to help kids understand the analogies in a chapter, as well as writing, introspection, and critical thinking activities.
Depending on the chapter, there are also art and drama projects, crosswords, games, language puzzles, quizzes, poems and songs, word jumbles and word searches that help children to understand and imbibe the points Srila Prabhupada conveys.
Aruddha and her team of parents are already working on their Comprehensive Guide to Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 5, which she expects they’ll finish in about seven to eight months.
Over the past six months, Aruddha has also been offering PowerPoint overviews of one chapter every Saturday over Zoom, to help parents teach Srimad-Bhagavatam to their children. In addition, she has been providing Zoom training sessions for teachers to introduce study of Srimad-Bhagavatam in their online Sunday Schools.
Aruddha hopes that parents and teachers will take up the study of Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam with the children in their care, so that they can “experience the amazing effects firsthand.”
“If we give children this foundation, they become confident of their spiritual identity and also do well academically,” she writes in her introduction. “Parents and teachers who have taught their children Srimad-Bhagavatam early in life have experienced how easily they pick up English language skills, especially reading, comprehension, and analytical reasoning. Srimad-Bhagavatam is full of analogies, allegories, figurative speech, and metaphors. Even a seven-year-old child can grasp difficult concepts because the subject matter of Srimad-Bhagavatam encourages higher-thinking skills.”
She adds, “Srimad-Bhagavatam is a wonderful book to teach from because it gives the philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita through stories, and children love stories…. As children grow older, they learn to appreciate the instructions given by Queen Kunti, Prahlada Maharaja, Dhruva Maharaja, Kapiladeva, and so many others. In fact, many of the devotees described in the Bhagavatam, such as Prahlada and Dhruva, are children themselves, so our children have perfect examples and heroes to follow.”
Finally, she says, “Children develop good character, saintly qualities, and pure bhakti by readingSrimad-Bhagavatam.”
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