works of literature there are. From badly written and poorly illustrated fairy
tales to the best books one can dream of – all find space on shelves. When I sort
books that are donated, there are these children that help me. They are mom’s
helper’s kids and are being helped in their academics by her. Now the schools
they were earlier going to didn’t lay any strong foundations as far as any
language is concerned. So although they rocked at rote learning, they never
really understood what was going on on the pages of a book. And hence till the
library happened, didn’t really find it all interesting.
befriend books was a fairly distant and a bleak dream for her. That was two
years ago. Then a year back I started getting books for the library. And every
now and then they’d grab a book and open it. These weren’t the classics.
Princesses fascinated one of the girls and the books she picked from the pile
were fairly cringe-worthy. I was faced with a choice – I could tell her that these
were rotten and hand her a ‘better’ book or let her read whatever caught her
fancy and find her own reading journey. Thankfully, I stuck with the latter.
Today all of them look forward to the reading hour at home, accompany me to
my book-reading sessions, and jump at every opportunity of visiting the library.
adults. Yet they bought them, adding nothing but a big hole in my pocket. Every
time at a bookstore when they picked one from the series, with a big smile
plastered on their face, I had a strong urge to tell them that they were reading
crap. I bit my tongue and paid up instead. And it is all paying off now. They read a
vast variety of books from all sorts of genres. What I thought was a hole in my
pocket ended up being a milestone in their reading journey.
anything that gets a child or a grown up to read is good enough. This realisation
came with watching the boys and mom’s students blossom into readers. And
interacting with my own students who mostly come from rural backgrounds,
sealed it. These kids studied in the village school if you can call it that. I have
visited many of them – classrooms are dingy, teachers are either absent or busy
with their own chores, rote learning is the motto and there is no emphasis
whatsoever on the languages. The result is that a First year college student
struggles with a simple leave application, the examination answer-book requires
imagination while checking, and sometimes, teaching them the basics seems
tougher than scaling the meanest mountains. In this hopeless darkness,
sometimes a ray shines through when after much prodding they open books to
read for leisure (another alien concept). Now at that crucial time, if I tell them
that they are reading crap, would I be saving them as a reader? Am I doing them
a disservice since I am letting them read something that has been poorly edited,
has grotesque grammatical errors and a beaten down plot?
something better!’ I, on the contrary, do a little jig in my head every time I see
them with a book – no matter how ‘bad.’ Being a snob is the easiest thing to do
but all it does is reassure us that we are reading good stuff; it doesn’t help the
closet reader, the one who has always been scared of long sentences and thinks
that books are overrated. These bad books would hopefully form the foundation
of a life long love affair with reading. So I choose to be the drug peddler- get them
addicted to the idea of books first. Once you are sure they can’t do without them,
lead them to the better shelves and hope that they pick something less cringe-
worthy. Yet, if they do end up opting for the so-called inferior ones, I choose to be
thick skinned and not die of horror. I choose to wait and for now revel in the fact
that they are reading – disjointed, hesitant sentences but reading nevertheless.
And hopefully, they will not stop.