Reading for Pleasure By K.Lakshmi Rao

          Reading for Pleasure

In the digitalized world where technological distractions have made the love for books rare, an educator shares her love for reading, and asserts the need for cultivating the habit of reading among children.

                                                          By K.Lakshmi Rao

Reading habits have almost got extinct in this digitalized world.  It might appear cynical; however, the fact is that  we – from a small child to an  old man- are finding immense pleasure in downloading games or videos or mobile Apps than spending  time in reading: failing to understand the fact that reading increases our knowledge on varied cultures and civilizations and also enhances our imagination. Above all, the books are our most reliable  friends.  Studies and survey reports reveal that  the number of people who read for pure joy and pleasure is too low due to lack of structured reading  programmes at school level. Basically one shows disinterest towards reading additional content other than the textbooks for two reasons :  he /she is not motivated for additional reading; and  he/she lacks the ability to comprehend .

Reading   is an important skill  a child ought  to acquire in the first few years of school career as it has far-reaching implications for future progress. The child who fails to make sense of reading and cracking the code will be denied access to the huge body of information.  In order to get the solution for this complicated problem, one should go deeper, and  understand  the reasons for declining interest  among students towards reading, apart from  being distracted due to technological advancement. Hence, before introducing reading habit among students it is important to classify them into three categories.

Category 1: The advanced readers who can code and decode the phonetics, words, sentences and the whole content, and comprehend it successfully. They can also comment critically on the style and content and appreciate it.

Category 2: The intermediate readers who can decode, and understand the phonetic implications of the words and understand the synopsis of the content as a whole, but fail to understand and read in between the lines, and are unable to comment or appreciate the content.

Category 3 : The beginners are the students who can only read the words and simple sentences as they have the skill to understand the phonetics  and know the meanings of the words, but fail to understand the content as a whole as they need a structured programme to make them understand the huge content. Among beginners there may be few who can’t identify the phonetic implications on the pronunciation of the word and thus can’t make sense.

While introducing reading as a joyful activity we need to focus on the advanced and intermediate readers because the third category needs special and structured programme to improve their skill.

True, it is quite challenging to introduce reading as pleasure; but it is not impossible. We can think of a set of  strategies  that schools can incorporate in their day to day activities to improve the reading habits among children: Introduce high incentives in the form of awards for best Book review. This activity can be introduced from Grade IV onwards where a child is asked to read a book of her/his level and give a review of the book in about say five hundred words. The teachers can prepare parameters for selection of best review, and share the same with all the students before introducing this activity. Few awards like best reader of the month for those who read more than two books in a month can be announced. Apart from the above, the school can introduce more Library periods, and few activities like collective silent reading classes of story books followed by discussions and incentives for the best students. Teachers need to discuss the books that they have read and can suggest the same to students.

The reason for most students being away from reading is that the students encounter dozens of new words that are beyond his or her level of prowess /comprehension. These issues are compounded by the fact that the new words once read, often do not appear in the next text.  This sort of  passive vocabulary will not be converted to active vocabulary, and thus most of the content will not  be  deciphered by the readers. Nobody likes to  read the book only to identify the words and sounds. Hence the comprehending skills need to be developed among students to introduce reading programmes to them.

A structured programme like Story Tree programme can assist the beginner as well as the  intermediate reader to overcome the problems of understanding phonetics because it  commences with teaching small sentences,  and then the concept of memory driven reading is used. However, in this practice we need to focus on sight words: sight words are frequently used words in order to introduce the students all the words in the print/ text. The Story Tree programme is a great experiment by Dr.Jessica Grainger; it  introduced Detextualisation method in which a story would be written in no particular sequence like introduction, body and conclusion: each sentence makes a separate statement, but since the characters and setting for each sentence are essentially the same,  the story the child reads makes sense irrespective of the sequence in which sentence cards are arranged.

A similar programme was introduced by Orient Longman Publications two decades ago to introduce reading skills and improve comprehending abilities of students. A reading kit was developed to encourage children   to read the story cards ( each card containing not more than  500-1000 words) and  to answer the associated questions.

When we look for a large number of readers who really read for pleasure I feel that schools need to design a structured reading programmes at Primary as well as in Pre-primary. One should understand the fact that the more we listen the more we develop the skill to speak (as we have acquired our mother tongue); the more we read the better we write. If all the schools focus on LSRW( Listening … Speaking…Reading… Writing) in the right order and right sense we will achieve a great deal.

Apart from the above mentioned programmes at the school I feel  that parents can also  play a vital role in inculcating this habit among the children. They can inculcate reading habits among the kids  by introducing bedtime stories. They  can read the stories aloud by introducing pictures to the child thus making her  acquainted with the pictures and sounds of the word even before entering the School. A child who grows in such reading atmosphere would certainly understand the beauty of reading as and when he grows. A prudential parent can gift a Tab/android/I-Phone and still encourage a child to become a good reader by downloading e-books and spare few hours making the child read these books. I used the word “prudential” because when we are exposing students to the digitalized world we need to be extremely   careful in monitoring their online activities

Reading  skill need to be enhanced to increase the number of readers. The skillful readers too need to be properly motivated through various strategies to improve their reading habit.  We need to introduce reading readiness programme from primary level onwards   and thereby we can have more readers across the world. We can revamp the curriculum focusing on the importance of reading through programmes like newspaper reading competition, book review completion, Collective reading on a particular day and at particular period.  Such programmes would enhance the reading habits of the children. It  will  enhance their critical   thinking, problem solving and analytical skills. After all books are our best companions.

[ K.Laxmi Rao is Academic Director of Jain Group of Institutions]

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