The year’s coming to an end and I’m looking at it with such strong contradictory emotions that it’s leaving me exhausted and confused. And no that’s not my excuse for not writing and curling up with a book instead! It’s been an eventful year and there’s a lot to be thankful for. But there are a lot of undone, incomplete things also which keep niggling in the back of the mind. Don’t you have such feelings, nagging and clawing in your brain as you try to ignore them? Anyways that’s not the point of this blog today. I want to talk about the rapidly disappearing reading habits.
My Incomplete Reading List
One of the things that got me to write this piece was the acceptance (albeit involuntarily) that I was way behind in my reading list challenge. What have I been doing the whole year if I’ve not been able to finish my target number of books? Unacceptable. I’ve been taking part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for quite a few years now. And I must admit that I’ve been able to read more than the target I set for myself every year! But this year….!!
Reading has been a big part of who I’m. Give me a book and I can spend days immersed in the parallel world, oblivious to the reality around me. There have been times when, because I was at some crucial point in the narrative, the house was ignored, cooking was near palatable, and sleep was a distant, disruptive activity. I would go to work, but my soul was stuck between the pages, my mind would conjure various situations or probable paths the narrative would take in the ensuing pages. It was pure torture going through the daily grind.
I don’t know about you but I feel books are like people; they’ve got a personality, an aura, a vibe of their own. With some books, the connect is instant. It’s like you’re destined to read it at that moment. With others, it may be a good book but somehow I just can’t get myself to read it with the same gusto. And then there are those ‘books’ which remain with you forever; don’t ask the reason why, it’s beyond comprehension or logic.
Every time I finish a book, there’s a united sigh of relief at home. And when I start a new book – well, I don’t want to discuss that. But to make up for the friends I miss with whom I could discuss books, I’ve developed this practice at home where we discuss whatever we’re reading, or have read, at the dinner table. It makes for very engaging conversation and is exhilarating and certainly very liberating. Also, it’s not restricted to just books but to anything interesting, like some articles online or some extracts. It’s made even the non-readers in the family join the club. Try it out at your dinner table and watch the conversation get animated!
Getting NEW Readers Onboard
Now I’m no longer alone in this journey. My little one has got captivated by this beautiful activity and is forever scouring the bookshelf at home or online stores for new treasures to discover. Reading is a form of meditation, self-care for me. It’s not just about developing a vocabulary (which is undeniably an important part of the process) but also about learning new things. Sometimes one comes across such beautiful lines that it’s impossible to ignore them; it lingers in your mind long after you’ve moved on to the next page or next chapter or even the next book.
I got totally enamoured by this habit of reading when my grandfather would get us to read his collection of books. Rummaging through his garage during the summer vacations was a must-do activity; you didn’t know what you’d discover. As the years passed, I would write to him about the books I had read, and their reviews and he in turn would recommend some other books. We would even exchange newspaper clippings of interesting articles from newspapers and magazines (we wrote letters as there was no internet so sharing links was off the plate) and write to each other about our views. His last visit to our place was when my younger one was a few months old. And my fondest memories are of him holding her in his lap and reading aloud from some book! Maybe that’s why she loves reading too.
Making Reading a Part of Our Lives
Let’s do this together now. Let’s make reading a part of our lives. Enriching it with knowledge, words, experiences and wonder. As parents this is perhaps one of the most important things we can teach our kids; think of it as a legacy.
Start by creating a cosy corner or comfy place for them to read. A bean bag could be a great addition to the room.
Step two, create a bookshelf. Let them stack their leisure reading books there. It can become a place of pride to show off to their friends the books they’re reading or plan to read.
Step three, encourage them to buy a book a month (if they want more, better). It could be a physical book or even an audio book. Let them take their time to browse and pick. Of course, they would need your guidance initially so be prepared with some titles you would like them to read. You could ask their teacher for some suggestions too.
Step four, form a small reading club among their friends where they can exchange books. This will also help them to stay motivated. Hold small competitions or activities to encourage them to learn new words. Games like crosswords, word search, and Scrabble are perfect for small groups.
Step five, why don’t you ask them to maintain a log of the books they’ve read? Why not start with what they read during the next year? It would be fun. It also helps to analyse and review what kind of books they like or prefer. Also, for all the older kids, make sure to make a small scrapbook or something where you can write down new or unique words – a fantastic way to develop your vocabulary.
I was talking to my niece the other day and that’s when we came up with this plan. Of course, I also got conned into setting a target and giving her a prize if she reaches the target number of books! But yeah, it sounds fun and exciting. At least the next time you are in the English class you can show off some fancy words and impress the teacher. Believe me, she or he will love it!
You can subscribe (if you haven’t already!) and download the FREE Reading Log so that you can start off at the earliest with the reading and tracking. Go on now, this is one New Year resolution that we’ll all try to keep going till the year-end.
Why Do We Need to Read?
The lack of vocabulary is something we need to seriously worry about. I saw a video shared on one of our many WhatsApp groups of some kids playing around and shouting profanities. Well, well, well! Using profanities and swearing is considered cool by our young ones, makes them feel all grown-up. But I look at it as a sign of un(der)developed thinking or cognitive skills. It’s their lack of knowledge of appropriate words which is making expressing themselves so restrictive.
“A man with scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker.” Wise words by some wise man. Schools do not insist on developing reading due to lack of time or disinterest. Most of the kids are happy regurgitating the notes and getting the required scores. So, how do they develop their vocabulary and learn new words? Simple – reading.
I feel like a cryptologist deciphering the language of pre-Mayan Age or something when I get a message from some of my younger friends. Where are the vowels, where is the punctuation, what’s the meaning of ‘k’? Aah, so frustrating. I’m telling you, reading as a habit is lying in the death throes gasping for any kind of hope of resurrection. And add to that Oxford Dictionary, or OED, is adding new (and ridiculous) words every year. “Goblin mode”, now what’s that? Can’t we just simply say lazy or slovenly or disinterested?
A Simple Reading List
This is the clarion call to all those who still think the bookstores are next to paradise. Let’s get our kids to experience the joys of reading, discover the new worlds between the pages, explore the hidden paths as they meander through the words. For starters, I’ve listed a few books for my teenage fellow bibliophile at home. It’s an eclectic collection and hopefully will keep her interest going.
- The Princess Bride – William Goldman
- The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonassen
- Treasure Island – RL Stevenson
- PG Wodehouse Vol 1 (The Jeeves Collection) – PG Wodehouse
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
- The Uncommon Reader – Alan Benett
- Becoming – Michelle Obama
- Rafa, My Story – Rafael Nadal, John Carlin
- The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
- Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Feel free to add to the list or if you’ve any suggestions about some interesting books, do let me know. Maybe we could create a booklist for our young readers for the coming year.