Thursday, November 26, 2015

Things I thought as a Kid

Things I used to believe when I was a kid:
  • I thought we lived inside the world, not on it. I once asked my mother why we couldn’t see the floors above our heads where the people in the north lived. Not until my parents bought me a small globe and explained that we lived and walked on the surface did I understand this concept. 
  • an older cousin once convinced me that vhs tapes could record our dreams, you just had to sleep with the tape under your pillow and if you played it in the morning, your dream would be on tv, but only if you woke up really really early. Alas, I was never early enough. 
  • another cousin convinced me that pink tissue paper, properly crumpled up and twisted around a few times was an easy way to make cotton candy at home. I don’t know how he got me duped, but I embarrassed my parents a couple of times at other peoples houses, asking if I could borrow that pink tissue paper to eat as cotton candy. 
  • I used to think people went to restaurants to read a book and then have food. Like you sit around a table, read the book, and then order. It was extremely important. I often demanded the waiter give me a book to read whenever we went out to eat.  
  • i thought there was a special cloud that collected stray balloons that floated away in the sky, they probably gathered into a single colorful cloud and lived happily ever after. 
  • Because I was so scared of lightening and thunderstorms, my dad convinced me that the lightening was just a flash of God’s camera, He was taking pictures from the sky. 
  • I believed my dolls and toys had feelings, if I didn’t hug them or play with them equally every day, they would feel sad and hurt and lonely. I did have favorites, but I always tried to make up to the not-so-favorite ones. 
  • I thought little tiny people lived inside the tv all day. 
  • I thought elevators could go anywhere in a short time. When my aunt got married, she stayed at a hotel for a few days with her husband before leaving for New York. I thought we went all the way to New York in the elevator to see her when we visited her in the hotel. 
  • I thought London, England, and Britain were three different countries. 
  • I thought Iraq and Iran were the same country, only spelled differently by different people.
  • I thought Kenya was another name for all of Africa.
  • I thought lakes were just stations for rivers and streams to rest in a place, like train stations. 
  • I thought MQM and PPP (the political parties) were actually NTM and PTV, the two television stations. 
  • I thought cats were people in disguise, always keeping an eye on us. This was probably inspired by my aunt telling me she went to my school every day as a cat, and she used to sit on the wall and see me around, so I wasn’t lonely. 
  • I also thought all teachers were supposed to wear heels, and their hair in a bun, and chew gum after lunch, this was all part of their job description. 
  • I thought writers sat and wrote the books all day, every single copy of the book by their own hand, and also colored the illustration. 
  • I thought things we bought at the store, like cake and pudding mixes, would come out looking like the pictures on their boxes. When my mother made them, they never looked anything like on the box. I was always so disappointed. 
  • I thought some eyeglasses could make you see right through the floor. This is probably because I often borrowed (stole) my grandfather’s glasses when he was taking a nap in the afternoon, and they made everything look a little hollowed out. 
  • The Morven Gold cigarette ad with the tag line “har dum tawana” (english: Always strong) made me run from the room every time it came on. I believed the guys enjoying the cigarette and grinning into the screen were some kind of monsters like the dracula with their pointed flashy teeth. 
  • I got annoyed whenever my uncle sang the song “gorey rang ka zamana” by Vital Signs for me (which he did often)  I thought he was making fun of me.
  • The same uncle used to dissuade me from touching his shiny-rimmed glasses by his classic quote “don’t touch the glasses” in a sing-song voice. I used to repeat the rhyme anytime I saw another person wearing glasses and tried to touch them anyways. I thought it was necessary and I was asking permission. 

Now I think about it, I was pretty gullible. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why kids don't read

This is for Sadia

Why kids/students don't read:
They have not been introduced to reading properly. Unfortunately kids view reading as a "chore" or "work" and not as a "fun" activity like playing sports or playing with toys. Secondly, the stories kids have access to are also "boring"- I mean the assigned reading in class. The teacher is boring, the environment in the class is boring and sleepy, kids are forced to stand up and read aloud- which is a nightmare. Third, there is more emphasis on spelling, new words, underlining and bringing heavy dictionaries to school and trying to find the meaning of those new words. It is highly discouraging. I almost hated reading at school because of this. Lastly, some kids just aren't readers at all. They don't have any natural inclination towards books and stories, you can't force them to like something they don't.

How to inculcate reading habits in young children:
Parents/Grandparents/home environment are vital for young children to take an interest in reading. There is no replacement for these factors, not even school. Each child is interested in "stories" from a young age, and parents can utilize this interest for an easy transition from "story-telling" to "reading". Parents can limit watching movies to after the kids have finished reading a book. Also, avoiding "preachy" books with a clear-cut "Moral" at the end of the story goes a long way. Having a story "preach" makes the fun activity into something less fun. At school providing too many aids, (drawings/animations/using props) actually spoils the fun in imagining the story as it is read.
Finally, limiting kids with downright stupid "library" rules such as only allowing them to borrow books if they have purchased the library "bag" or brought it with them on the designated day should be avoided. I remember clearly how many times I was told I could not borrow a book from the school library simply because I forgot to bring the stupid library bag with me. I also remember the librarian being a strict lady who would not let me touch certain interesting books because they were for "reference" only (Illustrated history books, books on pyramids and books on rainforests were out of question- I was only allowed to borrow books from a selected shelf).

How can reading be made fun:
Again, some kids are naturally inclined to reading books, others simply don't like it that much. It is nice to encourage those who have the natural bent in them to read more. On the other hand, forcing non-readers will only push them further away.
Having interesting books is also key. If it is boring there is no way a kid will like it. No matter what grown ups think. Urdu books in particular suffer a lot from the boring syndrome. We simply do not have interesting enough stories for the kids. Also, forcing your own culture on kids just to counter the stories from the West is not a good option. I fell in love with "reading" by reading the "Wide Range Readers" they have been conveniently chucked out of school because they apparently converted kids to Western thinking and Christianity. That's just stupid. Don't bring religion and culture in to reading please.

Having separate spaces/cafes for readers to socialise:
No, I don't think these are necessary. Socializing and interaction can't be forced. Having artificial conversations to fit into a "cliché" is not a good thing. I do believe there should be open public spaces where people can meet each other and enjoy a cup of coffee. The book lovers will come when they feel like it.

Your idea:
Yes, I think it's a good initiative.  Not all kids are lucky enough to have a family environment or parents who encourage reading. Some kids do have it in them and they need a push in the right direction, so yes I agree with that. Bringing story telling and "reading" as an activity in the classroom will encourage these kids to pick up a book.

Monetary value:
I don't know how to answer this question, really.

Schools/Parents should pay for activities:
Schools should pay. Parents should not, except if they want to for activities outside school. The costs should not be outrageous. Book fairs at schools are so ridiculously expensive, parents just buy flashy looking books for their brats to show off. That's the unfortunate reality.

Making it sustainable:
This will take time, efforts. It will not take a few years to change the scene, it will take decades to make reading a success with the masses. We have a long way to go. We need to read more so our kids will see it and learn. We need teachers to read more, books to be cheaper, writers to write more, and parents to take an interest in reading with their kids too. It takes the whole community, not just a few scattered activities in schools. We also need more libraries. We need to make reading fashionable, and not an escape for the lonely child to spend time at lunch.