The reluctance to read

The man who is fond of books is usually a man of lofty thought, and of elevated opinions – Christopher Dawson (an English scholar, who wrote books on cultural history and religion).

FOR many years, I tried hard to get my students to read. I pulled out as many tricks from my hat to get them into the reading habit, but somehow it seemed like a Sisyphean challenge.

When I asked them why they shunned reading, they claimed it was boring, and while I gently nodded my head in fake understanding, on the inside I was shell-shocked. I know they say ignorance is bliss, but this is unfathomable. Reading is … boring? Honestly, I was praying for an answer on how to get them to fall in love with this endeavour, as I know that there is no virtue like reading.

One day while reading The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, a teacher walked past and said: “Why are you wasting your time reading books on black guys?”

And suddenly I understood.

The first word revealed in the Koran is “read”. It is perhaps the most poignant advice that religion can ever offer because reading liberates people from the looming darkness of the mind.

People who read extensively have a stoic confidence about them.

You will find that they are highly resourceful, extremely creative, and have a way of thinking that is completely disarming.

A thirst for knowledge

They generally understand issues on many levels and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

I often imagine ideas radiating from their minds on multiple levels. You will find that they are flexible in both their thinking and their ways — they have so much to offer because they have limitless resources. Readers fountain knowledge from the very core of their being, and it is impossible not to be affected by their charisma and love for life.

According to Dr Ambigapathy Pandian, who did a study on the readership behaviour among multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Malaysian students, those who saw teachers reading in school had a tendency to acquire reading materials and read more books themselves.

The best teachers I have known are all ravenous readers — one teacher who invited me home had shelves of books adorning the walls of her house.

She was mentally strong and one could never gauge her profundity — for in that single human being, there was a universe of books, and somehow, I had trust and respect for her because of her voluminous knowledge.

How do we get our children to read if we do not have a passion for it ourselves? Atwood H. Townsend said: “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

Children are silent watchers and they emulate our actions, not our words. We should encourage the reading of fiction.

Many teachers make the huge mistake of saying “do not waste time reading storybooks”.

by Lynn D’ Cruz.

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