Thursday, March 02, 2017

Day 2 - Readers, unlimited

Back in Bangalore, Puttachi was one of the very few children I knew who liked to read. I can think of just 2 or 3 more children of her age who loved books and read as much as she did. Some read off and on, others read just the popular books doing the rounds, but the majority of them didn't read at all.

In contrast, here, I'm yet to find a child who does *not* read. All the kids I've met in our circles, and among Puttachi's friends, are not just readers, but voracious readers. Some of them seem to gobble down books, and they recommend books to each other, and then when the friends are done gobbling the books down, they discuss the stories and characters endlessly.

Kids in stores bring along books while their parents shop for groceries. There is a boy I see in the elevator who reads all the time, even in the elevator, on the way to school. A boy we met recently was shy and reticent until I asked him what he reads, and then he blossomed into a talker who wanted to talk about books and nothing else.

Is this a Bay Area phenomenon? - Was my initial thought. But my friends in other parts of the US tell me that their children love to read too.

All those doomsday prophecies of reading and books going out of fashion, and television taking over -- they all sound ridiculous. 

What is the reason for this book mania? The main reason that pops out at me is the availability of books - plain and simple. Puttachi, for instance, has access to three libraries. The public library, the school library, the class library. She can read, borrow and enjoy multiple books from these collections. And remember, access to all these libraries is free.

The second reason seems to be that books are an integral part of school -- public school, at least. Silent reading is encouraged in class. The librarian at school reads out from a book, continuing each week where they left off the previous week. Their teachers read out books to them. They have projects at school revolving around a classic children's novel each year. Children are encouraged to read for at least 20 minutes every day at home, and they have to submit reading logs each week, for credit. Their schools organize programs (like Bookleggers) where the love of books is kindled.

Obviously, it is hard not to get drawn into the world of books when you are surrounded by books. Besides, with more and more children reading, their peers who aren't too enamoured by books get drawn into conversations, and they probably end up reading too.

What do you think?


Aarthi said...

Correctly said Shruthi. The biggest thing I miss in India is the libraries. In a country with space issues, lack of resources; kids should be be able to borrow and return but the only option here is to buy if you want to read!

Radhika said...

Perfect reasoning Shruthi! I agree it is the school system which is influencing the kids to hooked on to book. Back here, I feel it is the family or friends which does the job. Also frequent interaction with fellow readers inspires a lot. Connecting with the right people matters.

Nithin said...

Welcome back to the blog.I did miss reading your narrations about Puttachi.

As far as books concerned more than the schools I think it is the parents who encourage/inculcate reading habits in the children.If the children see the parent with a book on a chair they will definitely think of picking one up. One good idea is to keep the books front facing like on a display rather than vertically stacking. That helps my kid to choose the book he wants to read and even a 1 year old will pick up the book and settle down.
I also think the books situation in Bangalore is not that bad as there are so many libraries and book stores. My favorite was the childrens library(not a section but a whole library) in the Indian institute of world culture. They have a dedicated library for children with a wide variety of childrens books. Reading books in that ambience is such a wholesome experience that the kids should not miss.

Maha said...

Very true! The first time I came to the US, I was wonder struck by public libraries and all the amenities they offer - the museum passes, the enrichment activities, not just books so much more. I also love that being read to is encouraged right from the start - I started reading to my kids right from when they were one month and till date that has been the greatest joys of my life...! I will say though my first born's reading has taken a back seat now that he is in middle school.

Shruthi said...

Aarthi, exactly! And how much can you buy? Definitely not as much as you want to read!

Radhika, I agree! Parents and peers are the biggest influencers.

Nithin, thank you! Yes, parents and a book-friendly home are essential. Which is what leads me to think that the school must play a role, because I've seen many non-reading parents here who have reading children. Similarly, I know readers back in India who are disappointed that their kids don't read, so though parents do play a role, evidently, it might not be enough! It is probably a combination of may things.
Also, Bangalore is very book-friendly. But from experience, the libraries are expensive, and buying books is not always an option for everybody.

Maha, yes, reading to your children - that is a post that I plan to write shortly. And yes, I've heard that as they go into middle and high school, getting to read is not so easy. But once a reader, always a reader - says the optimist in me!

Anu said...

I completely agree with your reasoning Shruthi and I am sad that we don't have a better library and reading system in the schools here in India.
I wanted my son to pick up the reading bug from a young age and started off by reading out loud to him since he was few months old. Though initially he was interested, of late he finds it a chore - it could be because of the lack of reasons you mention - not much encouraged in school, not having discussions with peer groups etc. Also TV is such a shiny attraction!
I picked up the reading habit in school - though we were always encouraged to read at home, my parents didn't exactly have resources to buy us all the books. That's where the school library helped and my dad always got books from the nearby Central library which opened up another source of books for me. My reading habit rubbed off on my sister too and we both love our books - although we can't seem to find enough time to read these days!
Thanks for writing this post - I think I now want to write a post of my own!

Shwetha said...

I was lucky to grow up on a staple diet of library books :)

My love for books started with Tinkle/Chandamama/ Dinakondu Kathegalu and then there was always Enid Blyton from the school library :)

I guess access to different variety helps keep the reading bug alive.

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