“A child, who reads, will be an adult who thinks” is a well-known proverb that many people use while quoting the importance of reading habit and it is hundred percent true. But somehow, I don’t agree with the general perception that earlier children used to read and the millennial, Generation Z, I generation or Alpha generation does not read at all. They are more into mobiles, internet, watching movies blah, blah and blah…
Okay this may or may not be true but what I want to know is how many people of our generation read in their childhood and how many of them have continued this habit? I remember in my class of 80 in college, three or four of us went to the library regularly to borrow story books and all others just took accountancy textbooks.
But yes, one thing is true that in our childhood, at primary and high school level, teachers compelled us to read books and write reviews. For us, it was a fashion to read books based on murder, mystery and romance novels like Mills & Boons and Barbara Cartland and discuss it among friends for hours. But that was our need at that time; we had no TV, no mobile or no internet. In short, we had nothing but books to lure us away from the mundane life of school, homework, study and exams. The A, I and Alpha generations have too many distractions. And there is no culture of reading at home and in schools too, with maybe few exceptions.
But the question that I would like to ask is, if there was reading culture at home, how come it has not been carried on from one generation to another? All the puja, rituals, feast and festival are still passed on from generation to generation, so why not reading habits? Or is it that our society did not have a strong culture of reading habits? Many will not agree with me and will cite examples of Tinkle, Chandoba, Enid Blyton etc but I am not discussing the reading habits in childhood, I am asking about reading habits, “Till death do us part.”
I do agree that reading habit, either in a digital or print form is a must. It helps a person to build his or her personality but for that the books that we read should be of different genres, according to our likes and passion – fiction and non-fiction, mystery, sci-fi, children’s literature, historical books, comics, graphic novels, fantasy.
I would like to narrate a few examples from my life about how books helped me to be a better person. I have completed my primary education in Marathi medium. So, most of the books that I have read in my childhood are in Marathi. At high school, I picked up books in English. Our English teachers Mrs Gama and Ms Elvira would encourage us to read. They would tell us stories and as a child I would get engrossed in the stories that made me feel I must read. Later I got hooked on to Konkani literature; I started writing in Konkani too. Reading in all three languages helped me to build my vocabulary; it improved my language skills and filled my head with creative ideas. Even if I am alone, I never feel lonely because the wealth of knowledge that I got from the books always accompanies me.
When I began my career as a teacher, I believed that I am a sculptor, I will mould my students, I will create their future. I was full of ‘me’, full of anger and full of importance to me. If anyone distracted me in the class, lo and behold, I would lose my temper at the drop of a hat and go on and on about how ungrateful everyone is. One day when I was on one of my tirades, one student just got up and said, “Miss, we like you a lot but not when you are angry!” That was Aftab Khan Faroogui. Thank you, man! I was stunned! The whole class was stunned! I realised I must change and I did change.
My dear friend Dr Nishtha Desai is my fairy Godmother who has introduced me to many fictional and non-fictional books. She gave a book by Adele Faber ‘How to talk, so that kids will listen’, I read it. Understood it and slowly started practising something called positive ways of communication. Believe me I don’t require to lose my temper at all.
Another book that changed my life forever is ‘Feeling good’ by Dr David Burns. This book was gifted to me by Dr Usha Desai. That was the time I was going through depression and was on medication. I read this self-help book and started practising CBT techniques from the book and after 14 years managed to stop medication and live happily…
I feel I am a book-made person and not a self-made one. The different autobiographies, philosophical books, socialist and communist literature that I have read made me shape my perception towards self and the world. I strongly feel basic needs of human beings are food, shelter, clothing, sex and reading.
(The writer is an associate professor at Dnyanprassarak Mandal’s College & Research Centre, Goa)