Can any of my young friends tell me which and when was the last book you read? I am not talking about the books in your school curriculum, but the ones you read for pure pleasure.
I am sure most of you will be groping for a suitable reply. If I want to find out the last movie/video game/TV programme you spent your time on, or how long you surfed on the internet or were on the social media each day, you all will have a considerable list of options.
Life has taken huge strides ahead with the fast developing technology. When I look back at the first forty years of my life, I feel that the changes in lifestyles and activities were slow paced. Those changes adhered to the passage of years, because it is normal for life to evolve with time.
you all will have a considerable list of options to disclose.
Life has taken huge strides ahead with the fast developing technology. When I look back at the first forty years of my life, I feel that the changes in lifestyles and activities were slow-paced. Those changes adhered to the passage of years, because it is normal for life to evolve with time.
And then came the era of the internet!
The last two to three decades have changed the world, its people, their way of thinking and their pastimes, drastically. Reading, which was considered a leisure and recreational activity in my childhood days, is considered a chore by the youngsters of today. Personally, I have not given up on reading, and I am always on the lookout for something good to read. Sadly, for the majority of people today, reading is a lost love. Easy access to the internet has lured most of us, especially children, to stowed away books in lieu of tabs, cell phones and net surfing.
A few days back, I suggested to my grandson to read more books, stressing on how reading would brush up his languages and general knowledge. His reply was what I am sure most of you must be thinking after reading these lines.
“What?” he said in a surprised tone, “How can you expect me to read after all the long hours I have to study for school?”
Although you all do not read much, I am sure you must be aware of the multiple advantages of reading. Just to refresh your minds, I would like to remind you that reading not only entertains you, it adds to your knowledge, sharpens your writing skills, improves your grammar and offers new avenues to your imagination.
Reading cultivates empathy and understanding of people’s feelings. As you go through a good book of fiction, you begin to relate with the characters. Their joys make you happy and their sufferings make you sad. As you read about the causes of successes or failures of different people, you learn more about life. This will help you when you step out into practical life and face different problems, which are a part and parcel of existence.
American essayist and critic Edwin W. Whipple has summed up the benefits of reading so beautifully, “Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.”
Today, I will not write much about the advantages of reading, but rather guide you how to get into the habit of reading and enjoying it too, instead of considering it an unpleasant task. Here are some simple tips which will help you become an ardent reader.
Make reading a daily habit
New habits are hard to form, but then it is said that ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’ Remind yourself daily about the numerous advantages of reading good books and how much you can learn from them. Sort out your routine and decide which part of your free time you can spare to read. Make a poster saying ‘I must read’ and put it up in a place where you can see it many times every day.
Do a bit of research
There are numerous books which you will find hard to keep down once you start reading them. The trick is to make the correct choice according to your interest.
Discuss with your parents, teachers and siblings which books are suitable for your age. You may find it hard to concentrate at the beginning, but remind yourself that you are cultivating a new habit and have to stick to it.
Take one step at a time
Start with an hour or a half, according to your temperament. Instead of a single stretch, you can break your reading into short sessions. Read as long as your interest is alive and when you feel your mind is roaming towards other activities and you are getting fidgety, keep the book aside. As you start getting involved in the story or the subject of a book, you will find yourself going back to your reading sooner than your expectation.
Chose a secluded corner
Always having been a bookworm, I remember how annoyed I used to get, when anyone interrupted me while I was enjoying a book. As I had a slight build, I had selected a high-back sofa on the opposite side of the entrance of my room, in which I could hide easily with my book and stay safe from interference.
While reading, chose a peaceful corner of your home, away from noise, the television and other distractions. Be sure to put your cellphone away, because a single beep may disturb your concentration.
Talk about books
In your language period, whether it is English or Urdu, tell your teacher about the book you are reading. Discuss what you like about the different characters and what you dislike. When a few of you will talk about the joys of reading, I am sure those of you who have yet to develop an interest in books will be intrigued. At home also, at dinner or when the family is together, ask each other what you have been reading lately. Exchange views on stories, facts and figures you have learnt from your reading.
Request your parents to provide you with good reading material. Weekly and monthly magazines for children not only give you entertaining material to read, they improve your general knowledge. They also give you an insight about important events, both current and from history. You can learn a lot about people and places through these magazines.
Exchange and gift books
Bookshops always intrigue and pull me towards them just like a magnet attracts iron. Visit bookstalls often to cultivate this feeling. Lookout for good bargains and whenever you go for shopping, add a book to your shopping list.
Exchange your books with your peers, so that you can read more even when you buy less. Books, with a handwritten note are the best gift you can give to a friend or sibling. Even years later, they will remind them of you and your affection.
Make reading a family activity
Reading together is a family activity which creates lasting bonds. Ask your parents to read out to you on weekends, when you can stay up late. When you will grow up, you will look back and remember the evenings when you gathered around your parents while they read out aloud to you. Discussing the characters and their experiences gives you a better insight into life and the problems which are a part of it.
Whenever you read something interesting, knowledgeable or humorous, remember to mark out the pages for your family reading hour. You and your siblings can take turns to read it out aloud. This will create in you a quest for more interesting read, be it fact or fiction. Your parents can also give you a token prize for the one who has come up with the most interesting read.
Encourage others to read
Once you discover the joys of reading, make sure that the younger ones around you also develop this habit. Give them a token reward, like a candy or a bar of chocolate, when they finish a book or a story in a magazine. This will make them eager to read more.
Childhood habits and interests are hard to break. I am deeply thankful to my late parents who helped me and my siblings in getting interested in reading.
So dear friends, go ahead and follow these simple tips. Before you know it, you will discover the joys of reading and love your new found addiction. And always remember what the famous writer/playwright and politician Richard Steele said: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
Published in Dawn, Young World, January 5th, 2019