Inculcating the reading habit

My 3 elder kids like to read. I would like to think that that was no accident. When they were mere pre-schoolers, their mom and I (being avid readers ourselves) decided on a strategy to how to make them take up the reading habit. We realise early on that to force anybody – let alone mere babies – to do a particular thing as a matter of self interest will not work. We need a hook-and-bait strategy.

Reading for the pure joy of reading and appreciating an author’s work is like an addictive drug. Let me explain: as is for any drug, you have to consume more to get more bang for the buck as things progress – to get your requisite fix, you need to wind up the dose.

And so we started the kids on comics. Yes, the really (dumb) kiddie ones. Then they upgraded to heavier stuff like Doraemon, Archie, etc. Notice what I said: they upgraded; these are their choices now: you can see the upgrade treadmill is about to start. Now, they are regular readers like me. There was a time when they tossed away novels that were less than an inch thick. Mission accomplished! Heck, my elder boy even reads Haruki Murakami (whose writings/protagonists are so dense even I won’t touch).

Personally I wanted them to read for a very specific reason. No, not the usual academic/knowledge reasons; the school can take care of that. I wanted them as young as possible to be introspective as they read about the characters in a novel: to learn how people think, their thought processes, how different people have various takes on particular situations, the many varied characters of human beings, etc.

If you have read through, for example, a Murakami novel you would know what I mean.

One parent long time ago argued, “Better I feed them with movies, they can be entertained while learning.”

Ha ha, but there is a huge difference: watching TV is a passive, non-participative consumption of essentially the screenwriter/director’s version of a made-up world. Reading, on the other hand, invites the reader, in her mind’s eye, to paint a vastly textured canvas and populate it with characters as she interprets the author’s vision.

Anyone who has seen the movie version of Laura Hillenbrand’s excellent book, Unbroken, will understand how shallow the celluloid story was compared to what was written.


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