How To Build A Love Of Reading In Your Kids

Reading books is a life skill.

Srishti works as a senior manager in a multinational company. She and is highly upset with the new batch of trainees that has entered her organisation. "Every year the problem seems to be getting worse," she complains. "These guys can't even draft a letter properly. If I ask them to quote someone, they wouldn't have even heard of the names! I wonder if they read anything while they were growing up. I give them a list of books to read and they hardly manage to finish even one over a three week period. They are good with their content but when it comes to reading, they just don't want to go beyond the newspaper!"

This is not an isolated case. One of the major problems faced by many senior level managers today is the resistance of employees to reading new stuff. A sense of complacency settles for many people once they have finished their college education and are well placed in their jobs.

Reading may look passive but it is actually highly active in nature.

The key to surviving the competitive market today is communication. The most important tool that aids communication is good language. And good language stems from good reading.

That brings us to the question of the day. How do we address Srishti's problem? Are we rearing a generation that is slowly losing out on reading skills? If the answer to this is yes, then it's time we got up and took stock.

I can hear voices that ask me, why do we need to read? If it's for information, then it's all there on the internet. If it's for entertainment, then I have a movie to watch or a game to play. Why something as passive as reading?

And this is exactly where the misconception lies: Reading may look passive but is highly active in nature.

Reading activates synaptic connections in the brain that impact other sensory interpretations also. While the mind tries to discover how the characters feel and respond, it also tries to see, hear and think like them. Meanwhile it tries to decipher counter arguments for the ones placed in the book.

"Most of my trainees," says Srishti, "inform me that they never read anything but school text books through school. They were never encouraged either. A few of them read despite their schools but stopped somewhere down the lane." This is why reading needs to be cultivated as a habit for life. It's not difficult to get kids hooked on to reading. We just need to figure out what is it that encourages them to read. Without trying to impose what we think is right reading, we need to encourage the habit. If your kid loves fiction hand him The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid. If she adores nonfiction, the latest National Geographic could do the trick. The process of initiating kids into reading has to be pleasant. Many kids read all their school books but do not step out of that domain. Forcing kids to read will only drive them further away.

Set up a reading time at home when all members of the family settle down to read. Switch off the television, keep your mobiles on silent...

Set up a reading time at home when all members of the family settle down to read. Switch off the television, keep your mobiles on silent and enjoy the session. Let your kids read light material if they do not want to get into anything dense. Display good books around the house. Some day she will be curious enough to pick them up. Take them book shopping, when you shop only for books and nothing else. Get them a library membership. Read the book she is reading and discuss it with her. That sends out the signal that you care about what she reads and you share her tastes. It might motivate her to pick up what you read so that she can discuss it with you!

Reading helps create pictures in the mind. These connections are highly important to the development of the brain. Programs on television offer the brain pictures and the brain finds accepting this less challenging .Hence it doesn't take in as much. Ask anyone who has watched a movie made on a book they have read, they will always tell you that the movie disappointed them.

This is where the genre of comics plays an important role. Superheroes fascinate. So let them revel in the worlds of Phantom, Superman, Batman or any other legendary hero. The Amar Chitra Katha Series is a major source of edutainment and has held generations captivated. Comic reading abounds in fantasy and fiction. The light reading that it provides along with images has the motivational power to get kids to read heavier stuff at their own discretion.

If your kid loves fiction hand him 'The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid.' If she adores nonfiction, the latest 'National Geographic' could do the trick.

Srishti noticed that her trainees used the most basic vocabulary. Even if she returned their project reports, they never came up with outstanding work. Most adults often find themselves at a loss for words. This is because they lack a vocabulary at their beck and call. The brain divides vocabulary into active and passive. Active vocabulary is relatively easy to recall and used regularly. Passive vocabulary however is in the subconscious mind, which comes to the fore when needed. The passive vocabulary bank is built when one reads and deposits words in them. The brain then attempts to use the words appropriately.

Srishti also realised that most of her trainees were as comfortable with technology as they were ill at ease with books. Every succeeding generation is exposed more to technology than ever before. Every home today is a technology treasure trove with innumerable gadgets that garner the attention of kids. These offer games, songs and other predetermined programs that have limited value in igniting the greatness of each individual mind. They keep the kids entrapped with more noise and glitter than substance. A growing dependence on the internet, search operations, algorithms to monitor what sites we visit ensure that we are flooded with similar materials at all times. Reading becomes the poor second cousin.

Can we then tap the power of technology to get kids to read? E-readers like Kindle and Nook offer books on the computer, and there are also many books available for free download. With technology in their hands, they feel they have something that belongs to them and something that they identify with.

You might not have kids reading 50 books in a year—but even half an hour a day of proper reading will lead to lifetime of experiences. Real or virtual, reading books is a life skill.

As Atwood H. Townsend, former editor of Good Reading opined, "No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self chosen ignorance." These ring true even today.

Kashmir Winter Wonderland