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       Volume 10 |Issue 14 | April 08, 2011 |


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Of Children and Reading

Tulip Chowdhury

Getting children to sit down to read books is a challenging task these days. Children will play video games, watch television, play games on the PC or they will log on to a social website and spend their leisure hours but they are extremely reluctant to take up a good book and spend some quiet hours reading it. There are few children who go to the library or a bookshop to hunt down a good book beside their text books. But they will go to CD shops to find the latest action movie or to get the latest game CDs. We, the older generation just wonder what happened to the habit of reading books before bedtime? What happened to the days when children saved their pocket money to buy some story books? The glaring truth is that reading books has been replaced with technologically advanced forms of visual entertainment. Delving into bookshelves and reading through the pages? Ah, no! The better option these days seems to be the entertainment that only requires the clicking of buttons.

Whenever I find a child reading a story book I feel like getting him an armload of books from the market. It makes me so happy! I wish I could find hundreds of other children doing the same thing. Children need to be guided as they grow and develop their habits. Where are the mothers today at the children's bedtime? And what happened to grandmothers reading stories from “Thakurmar jhuli”? Families with both parents working, the parents have little time to help the children with additional reading besides daily homework. Busy work days and piled up pending housework on weekends leave the parents with little time to take the children to libraries or bookshops. Children are more attracted to browsing on the Internet or playing games on the PC. They settle for those when they are done with school work. Even on weekends you find children visiting their cousins and friends to play some video games or they sit down to watch movies. These days few families have extended family members living with them. As a result the help from grandparents or uncles and aunts in bringing up the children is rare.

This is a fast moving world. People seem to be more hung up on activities that are done round the clock. Watching a two- hour movie seems to be a better choice than putting a book in a child's hand, a book that would require at least a week to read. Watching National Geographic or Travel Living channel on the television is an easier option than going to the library and searching for a book of knowledge. Of course watching educational programmes on the television does help the child to learn. However, the satisfaction of reading books to the joy of one's soul just is missing. A book is there to be read and re-read, to fill the mind with information, to provoke the imagination, from the first sentence to the last. There is a different kind of ecstasy in reading. When one finishes a good book the heart seems to be fulfilled with a goodness of its own kind. The hours spent on reading the book seems to be more rewarding to life. Once a child's habit of reading starts, he or she is bound to hunt down books and open the countless doors of knowledge. The bliss of reading, once found, soars higher and higher.

These days there is a dearth of bookstores and libraries all around. Photo: Zahedul I Khan

We cannot lay the blame game on children for not getting into the habit of reading. There are some children who are glued to books and regularly visit libraries and these children also find time to play video games. Parents need to set the family routine on spending quality time with their children. These days there is a dearth of bookstores and libraries all around. There are only a few libraries to which the public have access. Many bookstores are cutting down on size or are closing. There are few markets other than New Market, Nilkhet book shops and Aziz Super Market where one can hope to get a wide range of fiction and non-fiction in Bengali and English. The existing bookshops have continued to serve their English readers through the years. But children's books are rather limited in supply even in these shops. The fight for knowledge, if there is one, must be with whatever resources we have and we should try to increase the number of bookshops and libraries while at the same time see that our children catch up with reading.

Guiding children to become successful adults is our responsibility. Guiding them through their academic curriculum has to be there to help them join the bigger world. But reading other subject matter beside the school books is a prerequisite for broadening their knowledge. Nothing can give a sense of accomplishment that a good book does. A good book is like thousand stars lighting the dark sky. A good book is like a good friend who helps you with wisdom. The day and time must be set aside in the routine for the children to read. Some children start reading with comics and magazines. There is an existing myth that reading comics is harmful to the reading habit. There are many people who began reading classics through comics. Catching the interest of the child in reading comes first in the making of avid readers; it can be done through Archie, Tintin, Peanuts, Illustrated Classics, or through sports magazines. We cannot force the children into reading something they find no interest in. Just as food not liked cannot be eaten, we cannot make our children read what does not please them. Why not take the children to the bookshops or the libraries and let them find what interests them? These days there are books sold online. If bookshops or libraries are out of reach buying books online may work magic for children. E-books are there in great numbers, waiting to be chosen and read. Schools can help by arranging book reviews to be done and rewards be given to the best reviewers.

Reading allows children to become imaginative and helps them to be creative. Through reading the children learn to interpret the world and beyond in their own ways. What is a nation of growing citizens without imagination and power of literary creativity? Is it not literature that binds us to the everyday life like the spider's web? Besides learning about science and technology we need to read hundreds of other things that make the core of life. The innermost secrets of the human emotions have to be read and then shared and given out to the others. Books inspire the questions from deep within; they ignite our imagination with the fictional characters. General education alone cannot instigate and strengthen our thoughts and imagination. Reading stretches the thinking power like the ocean leaving countless secrets to be discovered as more and more books are read. Let us help our children to cross all barriers into becoming avid readers and discover the unknown!


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