Fostering reading habit

Fostering reading habit

Fostering reading habit

The tremendous pleasure and relaxation that comes from reading books has been spoiled for generations of students by the prescription of materials that kill the joy of reading at schools, reckons Srijaya N Char.

Ten-year-old Jatin would hop into the library often. He was a voracious reader and would collect 8 to 10 books at a time to take home to read. One day his father accompanied him to the library and saw all the books that his son had kept ready for taking home. He did not seem happy.

“I don’t want you to read all this muck,” He told his son and replaced them on the shelves.

He went around and chose a few books which he thought were the right ones for his son. Leaving them at the counter, he said to the woman at desk, “Madam, put these books in his name,” and left.  None of the books had any resemblance to fiction.

Jatin looked at his father and nodded his head. After his father left he put all the books that his father had selected back on the shelves and selected the ones he had chosen earlier.

“I will take these,” He said.

“Will your father approve of them?” Asked the lady.

“He will never know. He never sees what I read, as though he has the time. Ma’am, is it true that what I chose were muck?” He asked.

He was a smart kid and would pick up good readable books for himself. What his father chose for him were his father’s choice and not his.

In another instance, a 17-year-old girl returned a Mills and Boon book at the counter of the library with a new brown paper cover. When asked why she had covered the book, she told that she did not want her mother to know what she was reading.

Children as young as seven or eight hide comic books inside their practical records to avoid unnecessary arguments with their parents.

Frankly, escapist fiction can take children to a different world, somewhere they have never been. There is nothing wrong in encouraging them to read fiction. There are a number of adults who think that fiction is a cheap opiate. Not at all!

Many parents destroy their children’s love for reading by preventing them from reading what they want to and giving them uninteresting books that they think will improve their reading habit. Some of them are instructional books which do not interest them.

They must know that they will wind up with a generation convinced that reading is a boring and an unpleasant proposition. Children should get into the habit of reading anything that they love and enjoy, be it comics or other books, even if parents do not find them worth.

Creating love for reading

To understand something we need not pore over every word. It is enough if we get the big picture first. It is not difficult to open oneself up to a passage to really understand it. The school and the teachers teach us to read everything in detail word by word.

In fact research has shown that understanding a passage or a book calls for exactly the opposite procedure. It is unnecessary to understand the dictionary meaning of each and every word. It kills the joy of reading.

Mortimer Adler, the American philosopher, educator and author said, “The tremendous pleasure that comes from reading Shakespeare was spoiled for generations of high school students, who were forced to go through Julius Caesar, Hamlet or Macbeth scene by scene, looking up all the new words and studying all the scholarly footnotes.”

The result of such reading is that many have not really got down to reading Shakespeare at all. It is enough to teach the abridged versions of his plays to know the stories which will encourage one to read the original. Prescribing Shakespeare as a compulsory text book for students is not the right way. It kills one’s curiosity to read Shakespeare at a later stage.

When we read for pleasure from childhood, the reading habit gets inculcated and at a later stage in schools and colleges, when reading for the sake of writing examinations becomes compulsive, it will not seem a burden.

Prescribing enjoyable curriculum

Reading should prevent boredom and promote relaxation. It is not to simply decode words or decipher the meanings of words that one does not understand. Some of the books are so complex and jargon-ridden that it just does not interest an average reader who is interested in getting some relaxation through reading.

Many seem to think that reading is a chore because it is connected with school, text books and education. Reading should not become a chore and come to an end the day we leave school or university.

Some of the text books of school going children make us feel a bit suffocated, as often, the selection of lessons for English and the second language seem boring. Curriculum designers often regulate what students should read, which do not represent the real material that children enjoy reading.

Though there is nothing wrong in prescribing certain books that entertain children, bring smiles on their faces and laughter in the classrooms, adults fight shy of bringing in such materials.

By prescribing material that are complex, they will only prejudice the reading youngsters against certain genres of canonical and seminal text books, which in turn will diminish their interest even in good reading materials.

It is not necessary to govern someone else’s reading choices, be it children or youngsters.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox