A recent question over at Booking Through Thursday caught my attention. It is something rather close to my heart, and something I have been pondering over myself for quite some time now:
How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teenager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?
In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother’s requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don’t need to “turn their lives around,” but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, “I just don’t like to read.”
I have SO been thinking and talking about this!! I don’t know if I am qualified enough to answer the above question, not having had the experience so far of encouraging a non-reading child to read. I don’t even know someone in routine life who has had to do it. But, of course, I do have my two cents.
I am addicted to books; I love books of all kinds, and I can’t pass by a book store without at least browsing through it. I have more books stacked up on my bookshelf to be read than I can hope to comfortably handle in the near future. The smell, the feel of books puts me at ease. I have a soft corner for people who share my passion for books. I have connected with people through their love for books. It fills me with pleasure when someone likes a book I recommended and thanks me for it. Likewise, a good book recommendation has my hands itching. I wouldn’t mind spending a free day or a few free hours at a bookstore. It gives me a cosy feeling, of time well spent. Children and adults lost in books at bookstores bring a smile on my face. I get lost similarly in the books I read. Ok, I guess that’s enough said. You get the picture.
Now, the better half is a non-reader. For the life of him, he cannot pick up a book and read it. Does not want to, rather. The only book he has read so far is Chetan Bhagat’s One Night At The Call Centre, which I gifted to him in our courtship days, in the hopes that he would get the bug too. Unfortunately, he didn’t.
As the better half and me grew closer, I realised that we pretty much share the same values in life. He has learnt the same lessons as I have. The difference is that I have learnt mine from my books and from life, while he has learnt his from life and his extensivetravels. It does sadden me at times, though, that he has not known the joy of discovering a new author or falling in love with a literary character.
The better half, though not interested in books per se, is awed by my passion for them. He is amazed at how I can steal a quiet five minutes of reading in the middle of something. He makes sure he knows what book I am reading at the moment. He loves the way I devour book after book, and it makes him happy to see me reading away. He encourages me quite a bit. In fact, these days, I find that I’m the one shrugging away from buying books just because I already have so much to read, and he is the one to say – ‘Weren’t you looking for this book? Why don’t you pick it up?’ He surprised me on one occasion by buying a book that I admired and put back at a book fair, hiding it and then sending it with our office security the next day. Needless to say, I was smiling the whole day through! In fact, books were our first gift to each other! He has never questioned my love for books so far. He has never questioned my need to buy so many books. He has accepted it, and he loves it too. He loves to browse through my bookshelf, but never picks up anything to read. He loves the way I connect to book blogs and bloggers, and is awed by the whole process. He actively listens when I share with him plots of stories I have read, and moral dilemmas that the characters face. He doesn’t mind taking me to a bookstore or book fair, but himself gets bored beyond a point. For him, time is a really major constraint, though. Being the techie that he is, he has no qualms about reading complicated manuals on fixing the TV or the DVD player, things that I detest. I can say the better half is supportive of my reading habit at best, though he might not understand the book world completely, as was the case with my parents as well.
I don’t think I can ever give up the habit of reading for anyone or anything. Even now, with the highly hectic schedule that I have, I try to smuggle out some time to be with my books, though it is not as much as I would like to. So, I am sure our kid would pretty much be exposed to reading and passion for books. It is a question of choice whether he or she chooses to read or not.
I know interests cannot be forced on anyone. I can only give my child guidance and introduce him/her to the world of books. I can encourage him/her in various ways. I can buy books that would interest him/her at different stages of their life. I can read out loud to them, somehting that I REALLY look forward to doing. I can try my best to make reading interesting and not a chore. I can pique their interset in books by getting them graphic books and audio books. The rest I would leave to God and to them.
There’s a fifty-fifty chance that our kid would be a reader. It sends a chill down my spine to think that he/she might not be. I have dreams of passing on my library to my kid. I am keeping my fingers crossed, and tightly. But even if he/she has no interest in reading, I am sure they’d be safe. They’ll learn their lessons their own way. It would just make me sad, that’s all.
To cut a long story short, I would say that I am sure our kid would never have to see lack of passion for literature or exposure to books, nor would he/she lack encouragement to read. If he/she doesn’t take kindly to reading in spite of our efforts, so be it. I believe that some kind of passion is essential in one’s life, be it reading or painting or music or whatever. I am ready to indulge our child’s passion, whatever it might be. I’d just be very happy if reading were a part of it.
What say you, folks?