Mohan Raj, a voracious reader was presented a set of picture books for his six-year-old son by a colleague. Pushing the books deep into his laptop bag, Mohan said to his colleague, “My son has exams this week, I’ll show these books to him after he’s finished the exams.”
Since when has reading become a distraction? Since when have books been in the same league as Evil TV, Horrid Video Games, Bad Munchies? The pity is that in this instance, the child should not have been having an examination at his tender age! And even if he did, the parent should be have been happy to ‘distract’ him with story books. But that’s my view, and as an editor of children’s books in a publishing house, this could be considered professional bias.
Kids today have stories in comics, on television, in video games and movies. Vinayak Varma, feature writer, illustrator and graphic designer, said: “I don’t think we can compare one media with another. If there is new technology then we have to be excited about it…for these come from the same DNA as books.”
“Books, toys and TV are all vying for time. That some children still like to read books shows that there is considerable magic in books,” he added.
“It’s precisely because there is so much information that they need to read books — you get a world view,” said Gita Wolf, author and founder of Tara Publishing.
So what kind of books should children be reading? “Just surround children with good books,” said Usha Mukunda, bibliophile and librarian. Added Roopa Pai, author of the recently launched book, The Quest for the Shyn Emeralds, “As kids, no one told us what to read, and we each discovered our own tastes in reading — we can read ‘bad’ books and still learn something from those!”
For parents who are not yet convinced that books — all kinds — help their children, there is news from the Central Board of School Education. Students from class 5 onwards could soon be rewarded on their reading habits under a CBSE proposal to use a new evaluation system to encourage children to read storybooks.
Not all children like to read. This is perfectly normal, just like not all children like ice-cream. And just as there is a need to surround children with books, there is a more important need for parents to avoid forcing books down the throats of unwilling readers. Experts suggest that a child who sees his peers and parents enjoying the act of reading is more likely to become a reader. Finally, award-winning author and illustrator of Are We There Yet and other books, Alison Lester had this to say about children and the reading habit, “If you can read, you can go anywhere.”
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Image Source: Pratham Boooks