Recently, a student writing an article for her school newspaper asked me what I thought about present-day reading habits; did I believe children read less today, and how could eone ncourage them to read more?
This is one of those topics that is endlessly debated. Most people from our generation believe that the youngsters of today “just don’t read!” I work a lot with students and I can safely say that they are a well-read bunch who analyse what they read and use it to introspect. Granted that I work with a small bunch of students who are anyway interested in writing (and by inference, reading). But following conversations online, the number of young people I see discussing books and the number of young people in bookstores and libraries, I don’t think it’s true that teenagers and young children today are reading less than we did.
Yes, they read differently—on the iPad, on Kindle. But this just means that their reading experience is different, not that they are reading less. In fact, I can confidently state from personal experience that having a Kindle encourages one to read more, because you now have so many more books to choose from that are instantly accessible and easy to carry around!
And yes, they read different kinds of books than we did. But again, who is to say that Enid Blyton is a better read than Elizabeth Dami, or Erich Sehgal than John Green, or even J.R.R.Tolkein than the other wildly popular R.R. (George Martin)? After all, if reading is about exposure to new thoughts, new ideas and new vocabulary, any book that is reasonably well-written will open up new horizons and unlock the imagination.
So in short, yes, I believe that the current generation of teenagers is pretty well read and are as hungry for books as we ever were! Having said that, here are some simple tips for anxious parents looking to make readers of their young children:
- Be a reader yourself and let your child see you read! So many of my friends ask me—“Hey, how do I get my kid to read?” and I retort, “Do you read?”. The standard response is “No yaar, where’s the time?”. Well if you are more hooked on to your iPad and the TV remote than you are to a book, chances are that your child will be too. If, on the other hand, she sees you reading and really enjoying reading, she will take to it as well, if only because she is curious to see why this activity gives you so much happiness!
- Allow reading to be a pleasurable activity—this means that if your child simply does not want to read, don’t force the book on her. There is no better way of getting her to hate reading faster than telling her a hundered times a day to read. Instead, be clever—surround her with books! Place some age-appropriate books with attractive covers on themes that she would like around the house so that she is tempted to pick up one when she has nothing to do. There is nothing wrong in her reading a Barbie book or one on super-heroes. Eventually, once she has discovered the joys of reading, you can gradually recommend books to her.
- Read with her—this especially works well with young children. Start reading with them and they will eventually want to handle books themselves, and graduating to actual reading when they are older. Sometimes when I really want my daughter to read a book that she is not too keen on, I will read her one chapter in an exciting manner and we will discuss it in some details. More often than not, that is enough to hook her on to it.
- Which leads me to the next tip. When your child begins to show some interest in reading, you should put in some effort to discuss the book with her, allow her to tell you the story, etc. Make reading a book a social and interactive experience so the child can get more out of it.
A book that is made into a movie? This is a personal choice, but I would rather have my child read the book first and then watch the movie. Nowadays, movies are made quite well and are easier to digest than books so a child who has watched a movie may not particularly enjoy the book. For example, The Lord of the Rings is a brilliantly made trilogy and once you have seen the movies, you may find it difficult to read the lengthy book. But there is something to be said for reading a book with its myriad nuances and insight into characters and situations that are lost in a movie. A book adds active imagination to the passive scenery of a movie. So I would recommend—get the book first, and then watch the movie.