By Rajni Rethesh
World Book Day 2020: Shashi Deshpande, a renowned Indian author, writes in her autobiography, Listen to Me, 'If I am asked by whoever is supposed to ask the question, what have you done with your life? I will say, I have read, I have read many books, I have read many good books, some great books ...' I totally resonate with her feelings. I am sure every bibliophile on the planet will resonate with that feeling. If you ask any reader why you read so much they will not have an answer. Reading is an extension of our lives. It's something that's natural to us, like breathing.
World Book Day 2020: The Importance of Reading
I grew up watching my father read. My father was a voracious reader. I remember an incident that had happened at his workplace. My father used to work with the Premier Automobiles Ltd. He was a mere technician over there. A job he never found interesting but took up for his family at the young age of 17. His interest in studies (which he had to leave half way) and reading was so much that he couldn't keep himself away from books even at his workplace.
Once he was caught reading during his work hours and had got suspended for a specific time period. That didn't stop him from reading but he did stop reading at his workplace! That was the kind of passion he had for books.
He never though forced me or my brother to read. Never even tried to inculcate that habit in us.
World Book Day: Nurturing love for books
I don't remember when my love for books started. Today, when I look back, I feel the constant discussions and conversations we used to have during our supper and other family time must have been the initial propulsion towards books. My father used to discuss everything right from politics to mythology to music, arts, literature with us. He used to tell us stories from old scriptures and folklores. He used to give us a fresh perspective on everything that was there. He used to make us think.
I remember him telling us a story about the great Asura King Ravana from some Tamil book. While narrating the story from that book, he showed us Ravana in a fresh light. He taught us to question when in doubt. He kindled curiosity in us. The will to know more. The thirst for knowledge.
World Book Day: How parents can create readers
As a mother and an avid reader, I tried to instill a love for books in my child but I was not successful at it initially. I was distraught but in introspection I realized it was okay if my child didn't read, at least not in his formative years.
The age from 1-12 is the age when a child is using all his sensory organs to learn. He is seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. His sensory organs are developing. His mind is a clean slate. You can either fill it with all that is there in the books or you can help him create his own thoughts through his observations and feelings.
For instance, instead of reading in the book about how a caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly or how a rainbow arches in the sky, he can look around and know it for himself. This is the age when a kid should look around him in wonderment. He should look at the slug wriggling out of the mud and be amazed. He should observe the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. He should dash into the puddle when monsoon arrives. He should make castles when he sees warm dunes on the shore. He should bask in the colours of the sunrise and sunset. He will learn many lessons just by living in his natural way.
A child will miss this fun if he or she is immersed in books at this age. We should not misunderstand knowledge with reading. Knowledge is awareness. Awareness about life. It is a tool that should empower us to live our lives. Books should add value to that knowledge.
Talk to your kids. Tell stories. Recite poems. Listen to their stories and banters. Show them dreams. That is how we can create readers.
That is how we can create thinkers. That is how we can create leaders.
We are living in a world where intellects are living in ignorance and ignorant are leading on. This world has many readers and book lovers. Now, we need more builders. Builders of peace. Builders of knowledge. Builders of love. Builders of dreams. Books should not be the pill that you swallow to escape reality.
Books should be a means to an end not an end in itself.
There's a beautiful saying by Swami Vivekananda, 'Books suggest the inner light and the method of bringing that out, but we can only understand them when we have earned the knowledge ourselves. When the inner light has flashed for you, let the books go, and look only within. You have in you all and a thousand times more than is in all the books. Never lose faith in yourself; you can do anything in this universe. Never weaken, all power is yours.'
With over 12 years of professional experience in the media industry, Rajni Rethesh has also worked with leading B2B magazines. Views expressed are the author's own.