Cultivating reading habit in children

Ashok Sharma
‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body,’so says a writer. Books, indeed, are our best friends both in joy and sorrow and no doubt,they take us ‘ from skies to seas and everywhere’.But there is a general complaint of the parents and teachers that modern generation of children lack interest in reading books, especially other than those prescribed in their respective courses of study.There is no doubt that reading is a useful hobby and lucky is the man who has cultivated this hobby.But these days children are devoting so much time to electronic gadgets such as mobile phones, television, computers , ipods etc.and giving sleepless nights to their parents that they are left with little choice but feel worried. However, with a little bit of ingenuity and effort on the part of the parents, teachers and this extremely useful hobby can be developed in the today’s children. It is an admitted fact that parents are the best teachers of their children.So the parents must take sincere steps to foster the hobby of reading for pleasure in their children right from the early years.Studies have shown that the more kids read, the better they read and the more pleasure they derive from reading.On the other hand, children who read very little generally have poor reading skills.First of all, parents ought to find out the reason why their child avoids reading books and then take corrective measures.Some of the reasons as to why children avoid reading are that they consider it difficult irrelevent and boring to read books and wish to devote more time to television, computer, video games, sports etc as they derive more pleasure out of them than from reading.Reading of school books for better performance in school also prevents them to go in for reading other books for pleasure.Whatever be the reason,the parents should strive hard to inculcate this fruitful habit in their children and encourage their children to read independently.To begin with, parents should encourage their childre to read beautifully illustrated story books to develop their interest in books in ways that foster life long devotion to books.They should not force their own choice of books on the children and allow them to read the books of their own choice and interests They should realise that reading something is better than reading nothing.Parents should also leave all sort of books i.e.story books, magazines, comics etc and notice what attracts their child.In order to develop this habit, parents themselves should read a lot and let their child see them reading for pleasure as it has been rightly said that ‘when the older cock crows, the younger learns’.Pressurising the children too much to read books is no way to cultivate interest in them for reading.They may read to please their parents but not out of interest.They may be offered meaningful reward in the form of a book or magazine for finishing a book.Slowly and steadily ,the child will start experiencing that reading is its own reward.They should also be encouraged to voice their views about burning social issues and air their opinions without passing judgements on them.They should also stop nagging and lecturing children about the value of reading and hounding a child for not reading.Children should also be taken to library quite often and encouraged to search the books they are interested in.They should also be encouraged to read books to their younger siblings and should be profusely admired and appreciated.Parents should also share their reactions to what they have read. Occassionally,parents should read aloud to their children to let them enjoy the pleasure of listening to them and get them hooked to books. Parents should also provide sufficient time to their children to explore and discover, day dream and roam about.Reading aloud will surely restore the lost confidence of the child if he has poor confidence and he will feel encouraged to read aloud whatever interests him. Books and magazines that interest the child should be gifted on the child’s birthday and other gift giving occassions.A particular time should be set aside for reading just before or after dinner or whatever fits in the household.There should be a particular place for placing children’s books. Reading should not always be considered as a serious activity.Now and then jokes should also be read out to the students and children to entertain them.Positive experiences of children should be extended and sustained.For example,when the child finishes a book on wildlife, he should be taken to a zoo or sanctuary to show him wild life in natural habitat and thus sustain his interest.Children’s time for viewing television and playing games and sports should be limited to take out time for reading.But viewing television should never be offered as a reward or punishment for reading or not reading books.Parents are the best teachers of their children and schools and books cannot accomplish what the parents can do in the education of their child. Teachers too have an important role to play in inculcating this useful habit in the students.The schools library should be student friendly having a rich stock of books catering to the need of students of different interests and aptitude. Governmental institutions and NGOs too can also do a lot to inculcate this fruitful habit in the students in particular and people in general.More book fairs at district, provincial, state and national level need to be organised by such institutions as National Book Trust, Children’s Book Trust etc to make standard books easily available to the students and other book lovers. (The writer is serving as lecturer in English, Govt.Hr.Sec.School, Barolla ( Udhampur )