The Dying Habit Of Reading

By Published On: February 7, 2021Categories: Musings0 Comments on The Dying Habit Of Reading

They say,’ You read, and the world is yours.’

What a fantastic way to make the world yours! Who wouldn’t want to do that?? Apparently, quite a few people if we were to look around us.

Reading, an activity that enables us to make sense of the printed word. It allows us to use our minds to recognise, identify, and comprehend what is written in front of us.

It stimulates our brain and makes us think. To be able to absorb what is in front of us, we have to focus and concentrate. The text has to be patiently read.

As a result, our patience, concentration, focus all improve. Other than that, we get to hone our linguistic skills, conversational and writing, and build up our vocabulary and general knowledge. Not only that sitting in one place we can travel to any part of the world, to a world of fantasy, history, anywhere we want and when we want. Our memory, imagination all get better. Thus reading benefits us in more ways than one.

So if this activity is so beneficial, why does it no longer excite people? Why don’t people and in particular children want to read? Why do they find it to be a difficult, time-consuming and dull activity?

Reading was something that we, as children loved doing. The habit of reading books had been inculcated in us. It was as they say our favourite pastime. When we were getting bored, didn’t know what to do with ourselves we picked up a book. And when we picked it up, we didn’t want to let it go [ At least I didn’t!!! And would often end up getting reprimanded by my mom for believe it or not ‘Wasting my time!!’].

I remember having these reading competitions with my neighbour Geetika which actually helped me to read fast. The two of us would decide to read a book, finish it in a couple of days and then discuss it threadbare. Apart from testing our understanding of the book, it proved that we had actually read it! I loved doing that.

 One of the reasons why we probably took to reading was because we did not have too many options to choose from. In those days you either went outdoors to play or indoors there were board games or reading. Though TV was there, it wasn’t there all the time. It was only in the evening that one watched it because that is when Doordarshan would begin telecasting and then too there were very few programs that one wanted to watch. I remember reading at bedtime also. Maybe I was a bit extreme, but reading was a part of most children’s lives when we were growing up.

And I firmly believe that we were much better off without these million options that children have nowadays, which may not let them focus or concentrate.

The reason for this lack of interest is not hard to understand. We only have to look around us to know why this is no longer a preferred means of spending time. Reading requires effort; reading requires patience, and reading requires concentration—too many requirements. In a world where we can, get things done at the click of a button, who has the time or the inclination to spend time and a lot of it just doing one thing. We feel that we could probably do so much more in that time.

So if the choice is between a laborious activity and a not so laborious one, obviously most people, children included will opt for the not so laborious one.

But just because reading requires time doesn’t take away the innumerable benefits which it has. Therefore, we the adults should understand the need to inculcate, encourage this habit in our children and perhaps in ourselves too.

But to be able to do that we have to see what reading is up against.

In today’s technology-driven world, children have many entertainment options; reading is just one other option. And considering that the others are far easier in terms of the effort to be put in, obviously reading is not a preferred option. So they’d rather be on their play stations, on social media, chatting, messaging on their phones which are pretty mindless activities and don’t require much effort.

All these are instant forms of entertainment, and in a world which is not only on the move but on the run, so to say, they suit everyone. Instant gratification is something everyone is looking for, so why blame only the children. Who wants to pick up a book and read it page after page, word after word, spending time when there are easier options?

So how can this be fixed?

I think as with so many other things, once again the ball is in the parents’ court. They need to work on their children from an early age to inculcate this habit in them.

I agree that technology has a critical role in our lives, but does it mean that we need to give phones and I pads and other devices to almost toddlers to entertain themselves. I cringe when I see some parents trying to distract the child by encouraging him to play games or watch cartoons on their phones/ I pads. What’s more, they take a lot of pride in so doing as they feel that it is a sign of their modern and advanced minds. I beg to differ. Just because you want to get your child off your back, you don’t offer them these devices/ options which can become pretty addictive. It is not a sign of your advanced mind but a sign of your bad parenting where since you cannot spend time with your child, you are giving these option to them. Is it a wonder then kids get into the habit of latching on to these instant forms of entertainment from a young age and don’t want to use their minds to do something that would be far more beneficial?

Parents I feel the need to refrain from doing that. On the contrary, they need to expose their children to other activities like maybe a sport, trips to the museum, libraries, fairs and books from a young age. Rather than handing over a device to play a game or watch a cartoon, I think the better option would be to spend time with them and involving themselves in the child ren’s lives to bond with him from a young age. You could read to the child. Get a book, a picture book for the young kid and show them the pictures; this way very smoothly and gradually, the child can get familiar with the idea of a book.  This could be followed by books with words that are easy to read.

As a parent, you do have the liberty of exposing them to what you want. Therefore, why not expose them to an activity that will make them work by maybe just turning a page, to begin with, and then to start joining alphabets to begin reading, a great way to develop their minds.

Bedtime stories is also a very effective way of exposing a child to the world of reading and books. Make it a habit, make it a ritual and see your child loving it.

I also feel that parents can encourage the habit of reading by setting an example for their children. Even if you don’t like reading books, at least read magazines, journals, newspapers. Make reading a natural part of your household. When kids grow up seeing something, it is not a big deal for them, and they just get into the habit of doing that. If they see books/ reading material in the house, it will pique their interest sooner or later. They will realise that reading is a good habit.

It doesn’t mean that children should not be given gadgets but not at the cost of other things, including reading. After all, excessive screen time can mess up with many things, their eyes, mind, and health. So give them devices but limit the time spent on them. Reading should be as natural as switching on a device.

When encouraging children to read, parents should not impose books/ genres on their children. Yes, when they are young, you could introduce them to authors/ books of your choice but refrain from doing that once they grow up. You could give them choices, suggestions, take them to book fairs, libraries but having done that step back and let them decide. Let them take ownership and let them read what they want to. Just because they are your children doesn’t mean they are your clones and should be reading what you like. I have observed that it isn’t as though children don’t want to read. Often, they don’t like to read what their parents force them to with the result that they completely lose interest in reading. Reading is boring is what they end up believing. So I would like to tell them that it is not reading that is boring but what you are reading which is boring. And I would put the blame squarely on the overbearing parent.

Therefore if children have to be encouraged to read parents have to work at it. They have to encourage children to pick up the habit of reading books. They need to step up their game and do whatever they can to prevent this habit from dying.

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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