Nidhi D. Bruce On Raising Readers In A Visual Content Heavy World
We shall first thank the Lord that the question is no longer, “Why to raise a reader?”.
Every millennial parent worth their weight in completely organic food consumption and investments in Mars exploration vehicles, is now asking this question. I think all of us have understood that reading is an important skill and has a farther-reaching impact than just giving the child an ability to absorb information. However, the fact remains that this knowledge is met with a big firewall of resistance (to reading) by our children.
Many parents who are readers themselves feel frustrated that their children are not reading much and are not as excited by the thought of books as much as they are. This is becoming a very common concern among the circles that I interact with – which is majorly made up of avid readers and published writers! Into the dustbin then, goes the theory that if you are a model reader yourself, your child is more likely to be one.
I have come to realise that children today are honestly experiencing the world in a different socio-physical sphere than what we did when we were growing up.
As much sense that the statement ‘children do as they see’ makes, it may not hold much water when it comes to emulating parents’ interest in reading. This may seem baffling at first. But on closer inspection, I have come to realise that children today are honestly experiencing the world in a different socio-physical sphere than what we did when we were growing up (and by that I mean growing up in the eighties and nineties). The schools they go to, the media that they are exposed to, heck, even the food that they eat is very different.
Think about it: For a child who has grown up seeing pizza being ordered in and noodles and pasta being cooked in kitchens, what charm would there be in reading about scones being served on quaint English countryside?
How does that help in raising readers you ask? Well, to begin with, it tells us that we need to recalibrate our own definition of raising readers. We seem to have unconsciously defined a reader as being someone who can pick up a book (or a Kindle) and consume some volume of text with some degree of enjoyment and engagement. Isn’t it? We get disappointed when we see our young ones not following suit according to said definition. But the truth is that more likely than not, these kids are exposed and attuned to a whole variety of storytelling that we may be missing.
We must take into account the fact that we are bringing up a generation with a keen ‘visual’ mode of engaging. TV, cinema, video games, social media are all visual content heavy.
It may just be an idea of storytelling or narrative that may be alien to us. We must take into account the fact that we are bringing up a generation with a keen ‘visual’ mode of engaging. TV, cinema, video games, social media are all visual content heavy. The simplest (and this may seem oversimplified) way to encourage reading may be to help build cross connections between existing media habits and reading.
I’m not just speaking of a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan picking up ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’. I am also speaking of the very young reader who follows up a ‘Daniel the Tiger’ episode with ‘reading’ a Daniel Tiger bedtime story.
And this is where the modelling behaviour will have to start honestly. With a little turn of the logic on its head – we need to be the ones who have to start and correlate various modes of storying in our lives. Our kids need to see us making the connection before we start attempting to do the same for them. And it honestly is not as difficult as it sounds.
Mixing up a little Netflix with Penguin classics and live performance events and literature festivals is all it takes to show our children how books are much more than a few pages strung together.
Picking up a book is after all not a goal for just today, but for a lifetime. Building up to it will be a process, and has to be an enjoyable process which rings true too. The caveat remains that not all children will grow up to be readers. And that does not mean that either they or you have failed. It just means that they have found a means to access information and entertainment that suits them better.
Nidhi D. Bruce is the founder editor of www.mumbaimom.com. Writer, mother and entrepreneur – she can be found on twitter as @TypeWriterMom and on Instagram as mumbaimom.