Friday, 30 November 2012

Why WRITE, when people DON'T read?

"I Hate Books" - A children's
fiction by Kate Walker

I came across this interesting blog-post (also published on ToI edit page today, 30.11.12) by one of my favourite author-cum-journalists, Jug Suraiya. The blog post, titled, "What's for launch?" (Read the blog here) is an open and frank take on the razzmatazz that goes on in launching books round the year (as per the author, it's almost half a dozen in every other big city around the world every day). The launch party almost certainly has a chief guest, who may or maynot have anything to do with literature or writing in any way, but is only there to add the glamour quotient! The unfortunate reality, which is of a bigger concern today (and that is what I want to stress on in my post here), is the fact that people have almost stopped reading - books, blogs, newspapers, etc. And what the author cites, "... it is generally accepted that books are injurious to mental health in that they distract from watching Bigg Boss, doing Sudoku puzzles, and catching up on the latest tweet that's doing rounds on Twitter. Books, shooks. Who's got time for them?" intensifies the concern further.

I have worked with students closely. Most of them (nearly 100%) are within the age group of 17-22 years. By the time they joined our (IIPM's) management programme, they have almost lost the tendency to read. By reading, here I do not mean mere text books, which of course are the only source of getting pass marks (an unfortunate truth of our education system), but fictions, newspapers, magazines, anything that would give these wise souls some more wisdom in life. At our institute, we even went to the extent of creating special incentives for students to read more often by sharing a list of some of the best management titles, works of fictions, notable websites, etc through an initiative called Read to Lead! As expected, there were not many takers. We even had 'negative consequences' linked with this initiative of ours, trying to put to task these kids who otherwise would not fall for the more positive strokes, by engaging our communication faculty members to monitor their progresses. This also had least reaction. So where did we all go wrong?

Pic courtesy:
Analysing back every aspect of these students, their areas of interest, their schooling, their social environment, we did reach a conclusion: these students hardly had any orientation towards reading. It was not only the school system (which we always tend to find the lone scapegoat), but also the parents and the family environment, that had to be blamed. There have been no extensive thrust put on by the parents to 'educate' their offsprings in the real context of education, beyond those text books (to be read as 'test' books). Schools have also failed to cultivate the interest of reading in their students by not attaching sizeable incentives to this exercise. Every school, from the primary to the high school level, has a dedicated 'Library' period attached to their curriculum, once a week. Why have they not given some weightage to these library periods in ensuring students imbibe the practice of reading, lifelong? 

So, when we looked back at these 17-22 year olds, we somehow realized that it must be too late now to make them pick up an interest in reading. The interest in reading should be nurtured from the early days, even before the kids start reading all by themselves. There has to be a culture in the family for the father or the mother to spend some time with the kid reading out stories from a book. Here, I would emphasise on the word book more as it becomes a visually accepted tool for the kid to lay its hands on, by the time it grows up and starts reading all by itself. Atleast once a week, even when the kid is going to the primary sections at school (that is upto class 5), parents should spend a few hours together with the kid in discussing books, interesting articles in the newspapers, joint reading of some science fiction or even reading out a story on Akbar and Birbal or Panchatantra together. Development Psychologists believe that most of the development in our interest areas happen within the age group of 6-12 and that is the time wherein more focus should be given in reading - not for the kid to grow up to become an anchor or newsreader, but to carry on the legacy of read to lead in every important milestones of its life.

Reading is so boring!!Pic courtesy:
Thanks to technology, books and articles are easy to access these days. One need not go to a bookshop anymore to locate a title and pick it up. You may order a book online or flip through the pages of an e-book as per your convenience. But what is the use of all these technology, when it fails to excite the human brain to READ? I may have an access to e-book through kindle or other e-book readers, I may also have an option of placing an order through the likes of Flipkart, but why should I? I don't enjoy reading. Period. The future looks really scary with our new breed of youngsters who have lost the enthusiasm or excitement of reading. Jug Suriya rightly points out, "As it is highly unlikely that anyone - least of all those present at the launch - will actually ever read the book being launched, wouldn't it save the writers a lot of time and effort not to write all those different books - all those novels, and memoirs, and factual fictions, and fictional facts...?" The question is quite loud and clear, while the answer is still pretty blur, blurred by the haze of consumer-centric-obtrusive dissipation on unworthy lifestyle. So, the choice is in our hands - should we read to lead (more effectively throughout our life) or we decide to destroy this practice for our progeny, once and for all!