The habit of reading

The habit of reading

The secret is to let the child grow up in the company of books and reading-parents.

More often than not, I wind up recruitment interviews with my stock question to candidates: “Do you read?” or “What are you reading right now?” Over the past 7-8 years, wh-en I must have interviewed not less than 30-40 enthusiastic, young lawyers, the answers that I have got, not surprisingly though, range from “Hmm…I don’t read much,” “I read occasionally, whenever I find time” or “Yes. I read online!”

Bookshelves today, in most households that I have visited, don’t seem to favour more than a Chetan Bhagat or an Amish. Rarely do I hear anyone tell me that they are reading Ruskin Bond or Rushdie or, rate R K Narayan or Saki amongst their favourites. Most children today have not even heard of their works. Yes, that’s sadly true. When did I last hear “read more” or “start reading” or “join a library” as someone’s New Year resolution? I simply can’t recall.

Maugham’s view, that to acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life, seems to be relevant today only with a rider: the strength of the refuge that you construct for yourself depends on the strength of your reading!

I have no hesitation in declaring that reading has vastly enriched my life, deepened my moments of solitude and has empowered my understanding of hum-an nature, its virtues and oddities. Books have warmly welcomed me into the world of history, wildlife, warfare, crime and several other absorbing and fascinating genres. I can proudly say that bo-oks have helped me live a thousand lives.

“Always a book for the road” has been my motto. Long drives with family are never laughter and chatter always. They are interspersed with quiet moments of reading from our “carbrary”. Whether it’s a wait at the dentist’s or for a flight, my book has never left my side. My favourite books are always by my bedside, waiting to be read, re-read, marked and then, again read.

When anxious parents ask me, “How do I inculcate the reading habit in my child?” my impulsive responses are either “Do you read?” or “Do you have an atmosphere of books at home?” If the answer is “yes,” then I tell them the task is not difficult at all. If the answer is “no,” well, even then I tell them the task is not difficult at all! The secret is to let the child grow up in the company of books and in the midst of reading-parents and, he will become a reading-parent himself.

To read the right book by the right author of the right genre, in my experience, is one of the easiest habits to cultivate. I never fear picking up a wrong book. After having read a couple of pages, if I am unable to continue, I simply toss it and go for another. There are a million others out there patiently waiting to be read.