These days, kids spend a lot of time on gadgets and not reading books as a leisure activity. Through my column, I want to encourage kids to read more. I am sure there are many kids who still enjoy reading. I want to applaud them and encourage them to continue reading, which will help them in future.
Reading has several benefits. It not only improves your vocabulary but also broadens your mindset, enhances creativity and imagination, opens a new world of knowledge, which helps the child in the long run. Flipping through pages of a book is way better than mindlessly scrolling through social media or playing video games.
During my childhood days, after finishing studies, I would pick a book and read. I enjoyed it and my parents encouraged me to read. In fact, my brother and I used to visit different bookstores in Mumbai and roadside stalls and pick up books of our choice. The choice, however, mostly depended on how fancy the book cover was. But, hey, we were kids!
Later, I understood the importance of ‘never judge a book by its cover’! That said, irrespective of our choices, what excited me was the thought of reading or going book-shopping.
I loved Panchatantra, Enid Blyton books, Nancy Drew, and even TinTin when I was a kid. Later, I moved to Agatha Christie — mysteries and thrillers were my genres. Of course, during teen days, I had my share of Mills & Boon as well.
Reading brought me joy; it was never a chore or a mandatory activity. When I say kids should read and parents should encourage reading, I don’t mean making it a forced activity. The child shouldn’t feel burdened to read. Encourage the child till it becomes a habit. S/he must look forward to reading and not dread the activity. Let your child choose the book. It will add to the excitement of reading. Don’t make your child read what you want him/her to read.
I know there are some kids who don’t like reading (and I mean as a leisure activity and not in the academic sense). If your child falls in this category, don’t force him/her. Let ‘reading’ be a calling for your child.
I want to repeat one point from my previous columns — children mimic parents. Hence, parents need to be good role models for their children. I am an avid reader. When my daughter was little, I would read out to her. I remember, sometimes she would take a liking to a particular book and urge us to read it repeatedly. But as years went by, she drifted away from reading and got busy with other activities. However, I still encourage her to read and let her pick the book she wants. But I don’t force her.
I am also happy that many schools have library hours. That’s one way to motivate children to pick up books.
Today, there are numerous options like e-readers or apps that allow you to read a book on a device. But nothing beats the feel and smell of a physical book, the pleasure of flipping through either a brand new book or an old, worn-out one.
I am not saying the child should give up on play-time. Reading could be done as an activity after play-time or before going to bed. There are also audiobooks, which the child can listen to. I just want children to dedicate a little time to reading. I say this from experience, the joy is unexplainable.
Five points to remember
Parents can read along to motivate children
Give your child the freedom to choose the book that s/he wants.
Create a happy and enjoyable environment that would excite the child to read
Take your child to libraries, bookstores, and book fairs. Make it a family outing or bonding time, where parents and children can pick up their fave reads
Most importantly, don’t ‘force read’ your child. Let him/her decide the pace and get into the habit
(Riddhima Kapoor Sahni is a fashion and jewellery designer, and daughter of veteran actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor)