“Children these days don’t read” is a common complaint nowadays. Teachers, parents and people in general are always complaining about the absence of reading habit amongst today’s children. As a parent of two little bookworms I am often asked what I did to encourage the ‘reading habit’?
“Nothing”, I reply . Or actually nothing that seemed like work to do!
I take pleasure in reading. It is my favorite pass time and so from the day I conceived ‘M’ I began to read to her. I wasn’t doing this as a mission or with an aim to gain something. I began to do it because it was fun.
Just when I discovered I was pregnant, I came across a book from Scholastic called ‘Read To Your Bunny’. It was the cutest picture book ever . It said “Read to your bunny often…it’s twenty minutes of fun… It’s twenty minutes of moonshine and twenty minutes of sun… something , something, something…and ended with …soon your bunny will read to you.”
Each night I read this little ditty out to the tiny one still in my tummy. Looking back it seems a bit crazy. I can now picture how completely idiotic I must have looked to an onlooker. A thirty year old holding a picture book reading out silly ditties to her oversized tummy. Back then in the midst of the new mummyhood bug I didn’t care! It seemed like the most usual thing to do.
After M was born our reading session continued almost without a pause. Regardless of how old or actually how young M was, and whether she was or wasn’t comprehending anything, I kept reading to her. I did it more as a method of bonding. It wasn’t designed to trigger her intelligence or catapult her into the world of geniuses! It was just fun and the only way I really knew to spend quality time with her. I am not big on gibberish talk and coochie cooing so reading provided me a ‘saner’ option for connecting with my little one.
I am not sure if it was this early exposure to books that made ‘M’ a bookworm. Maybe she would have loved books even if she hadn’t seen one till she was five!I know of some friends’ children who have been bitten by the reading bug after having led a ‘book-less’ life till they were much older and some who have been surrounded by books but haven’t picked up the reading habit. So like anything else it is pretty much a gamble! A gamble in which the stakes seem to be high. Teachers across the board seem to agree that children who are readers tend to be able to focus better, grasp more and have a stronger hold on language.
My own experience is that children who are ‘readers’ know more about the world. They understand situations and emotional dilemmas better. The right kind of books can help make kids more capable of dealing with challenging situations and making mature decisions. Most importantly I know from experience that a child who loves books is never without a friend. I am glad that my children read because it keeps them aware and sharp. But most of all I am happy they read because I know that no matter where they are, with a book by their side they will never be alone.
Life is full of challenges. Books provide not only escape and relief from these challenges but sometimes powerful insight and wisdom based on others experiences and thoughts. And I hope that when faced with choices that require them to make difficult decisions, books will provide my children the extra leverage they need to make the right decision. I also pray that no matter how harsh life’s realities get my kids will always have at their beck and call a world of fantasy and comic relief that makes every trouble of theirs appear small.
Books have been my friends and guides in times when no one was and I am relieved to see them extend the same hand of friendship to my little ones. My kids and me are truly blessed.