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.