Let them make some noise

Last Updated 14 September 2011, 11:22 IST
Let them make some noise

The ‘silence’ rule in libraries neglects one key aspect — the sharing of thoughts and opinions between young minds.

When a child expresses enthusiasm for a particular book, others naturally want to read it too.

Ideally, children should be allowed to chatter as they choose their reading material, and chatter as they return what they’ve already read!

Don’t worry about those who want to read in silence – once they are engrossed in a good novel, their classmates’ talk can’t disturb them.

Of course, ‘talking’ should not degenerate to indiscipline, and silence might have to be the rule during some hours of the day.  In a controlled atmosphere, let students discuss their reading material — it only generates better learning.

Spontaneous or planned?
Students tend to exchange information about the books they have read, spontaneously. The librarian could spark off a discussion by asking, “How did you like this book?”  when a student returns it. A more organised approach is not difficult – the librarian can make chits of paper with tags that read — ‘My favourite character’; ‘My least favourite character’; ‘What made me laugh’; ‘What frightened me’ and so on — topics which could pertain to almost any book of fiction.

Then, students who wish to can pick up a chit and speak for a minute each on the topic picked, about the book they have just read. Students need to learn to entice others to read the book without giving away too much of the story!

Involving young students
Primary and middle school students love to stage performances. Let them perform for the younger students. Choosing a short story and having students either read it out or enact it for a younger class works wonders for the enthusiasm of both age groups. If they’re reading it aloud, involve as many members of the older class as possible. Let them either read a paragraph each, or let them read the part of a particular character throughout the story.

Everyone loves a good quiz. What works well is for the older children to read to the younger ones and then ask questions about what has just been read — this levels the playing field for the younger ones present. Short stories (fiction) or topics like ‘endangered animals’ are popular for such ‘read-aloud-and-ask’ sessions.

The other option is to choose a series of books — like Noddy by Enid Blyton, or Tenali Raman. The older ones prepare a quiz based on these books. The younger ones are given time (two weeks to a month, depending on the series chosen) to divide into groups and read the books in preparation for the quiz. The quiz is then held with formal time limits and scoring.

Behind the scenes
Students are fascinated to know how something came to be. So, tell them about the people who make a book — the author, illustrator, publisher, editor, layout artist, printer — and the task each one performs to create a book.

If possible, let them make their own books for the library. Using their original stories and poems, let them pick a team and either hand-write or key in the text, create illustrations on A-4 size sheets, and staple or tie the sheets together to make a book. Books that are presented well can actually be stamped and given an accession number in the library.

Please remember — you cannot force students to love reading. Making it compulsory for them to write book reports, or participate in activities when they are clearly not interested is counter-productive. Let participation be optional, provided that those who are not participating in the activity aren’t disturbing those who are. Chances are the non-participants will soon see how much fun it is to get involved, and will participate on their own.

When having a quiz or any activity, try to limit the number of ‘prizes’ given. Better still, don’t have prizes at all. Let the reward be internal rather than external — the child should, ultimately, want to read for the joy of reading, not because s/he got a chocolate for answering a question!

Also — try not to interfere with a child’s choice of book. Students of the same age group may read at different levels, so having shelves designated to particular classes leaves out those who read at a different level.

One of my students, a girl in Std. IV, read the unabridged version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and told me of the horrors of slavery it contained! In short – to encourage children to read, let them use their voice and make a choice!

(Published 14 September 2011, 11:17 IST)

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