'Parents should read with their children'

In transit

Hannelore Vogt, a member of the German Library Association and Phd holder in Cultural Management, has some very old-fashioned and yet charming ideas about books.

In the City recently to attend a Library Leadership Conference, aimed at spreading awareness about reading habits in young children, she spoke to Metrolife about her childhood, her perceptions about the City and just what teachers and parents could do to introduce their children to the magic of the written word.

As the director of a library, Hannelore feels that the reading habits of children both in India and Germany are deplorable.

“When it comes to reading, I think the situation all over the world is the same. Children are watching more and more television every day, which means they spend less time with books. I think it’s important to introduce children to reading early on, preferably before the age of ten,” she says.

In a move to reach out to the parents and caretakers of these children, she has introduced a few reading groups in her library.  In fact, one of them is meant specifically
for young infants who can’t even read yet. “We have this toddler’s group called the ‘Book Babies’. The children can’t read, but we read out stories to them,” she explains.

Hannelore maintains that as a child, she was an avid reader. “I absolutely loved reading. My parents were always very busy, and I had no siblings. So the books became my brothers and sisters.

I read so many stories, that they soon were a part of my family. There were no computers at that time, so I was always happiest when I had a book,” she recalls, adding that at the tender age of six, she actually went to the library all on her own to issue a card in her own name.

This is Hannelore’s first time in Bangalore, and one of the first things that surprised her was the amount of greenery she saw here. However, she says that the City
certainly lives up to the perceptions that she had formed about it. “When one talked about Bangalore, I had an image of lots of computers and information technology. My impression was definitely correct. It’s a very innovative City, with lots of young and smart people.”

In some ways, she believes that Bangalore is actually comparable to her own home town, Cologne. “Just like in my City, there’s a huge majority of young people and students here. Another similarity is that many of the people here speak several languages. In schools, children are learning English, Hindi and Kannada. And although you wouldn’t expect it of Germany, most of the people there speak more than one language as well,” she explains.

For both the parents and teachers in Bangalore, Hannelore has a bit of advice. “It’s important to start a child’s reading habit as early as possible. I think parents should read with their children, rather than just give them a book – especially one that makes you laugh. The combination of reading, being close to one’s parents and laughing as well, is really very good,” she says.

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