Need to inculcate reading habits in children in this age of audio-visual addiction

Love for book reading cannot take place overnight. All of us need to work together to make our children get into the habit of reading books. So on every occasion, we should gift books to children.

Anil K. Rajvanshi Feb 03, 2023
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Presently one of the biggest problems with students is that they are spending too much time on the internet and social media. Constant interaction has become a way of life. Youngsters are always looking at their mobile phones even when they are driving two-wheelers, four-wheelers or even walking! Without the instant feedback and gratification that they get in this gadgetry engagement, they feel like fish out of water. 

This constant interaction on social media has reduced the habit of contemplation and thinking and has made the students mostly react. Reaction mode helps them make instantaneous decisions about actions that may affect them but in absence of any deep thinking, results in creating anxiety and fear. This anxiety and fear stay with them lifelong resulting in the creation of psychological knots and scars.      

One of the ways for children to imbibe the art of thinking is to inculcate the habit of reading books. Book reading helps in articulating ideas, and thoughts and creates a habit of contemplation.                

Book reading, especially story books, also allows the imagination to improve. In fact, most often the reading of such books starts a movie in the mind. That is the best way to improve concentration and increase thinking power in children.

Too may distractions 

Children should be forced to read good and interesting books in schools. Such books should be made available in the school library. The use of mobile phones during school hours should be banned. Even a few hours of reading in school daily can help start slowly the habit of reading in them.  

Quite a number of students read books on the internet. However such reading is not very healthy for the eyes and also does not allow the process of contemplation. There are too many distractions on the net which are not conducive to uninterrupted reading. Reading a physical book will help bypass these distractions and should be encouraged. 

Besides all the visual devices like smartphones, PCs, TV produces visible radiation which flickers at frequencies between 60-120 Hz. We still do not understand how these continuous fluctuating signals affect the brain. Some scientists have suggested that it leads to addiction though very little research has been done on the detrimental effects of such radiation on long-term memory, thinking and cognition. 

At the same time, the radiation from these devices is in the blue region of the visible spectrum. Eyes have evolved to be responsive to yellow region of the spectrum and this blue shift is also detrimental to eyes and the brain. 

Books were the best present   

A book or a kindle type device does not produce radiation. We see the reading matter by the reflection of light and our visual cortex (part of the brain which makes us see) has evolved to see properly the objects and matter in reflected light. Hence reading a book is easy on the eyes. 

There is therefore a great challenge for the IT industry to develop low-cost kindle type devices for Indian schools and colleges. Another technical challenge will be to incorporate audiobooks in these devices. Audio books will help increase the love of books in children.       

During my childhood, I was very fond of listening to stories told by my grandmother.  Listening to spoken words and stories helps in improving concentration and imagination. Thus listening to excellent stories and good material in a classroom with kindle type devices will therefore be useful. 

The best presents for me in childhood were books. I would be completely lost in reading them. I was greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, PanchatantraMahabharataJataka Tales, etc. Plus I used to regularly read Chandamama a great magazine that carried stories from Indian mythology. 

Need for well-read citizenry 

Also the story of the Independence movement of India captivated my thinking. Once you get into the habit of reading books then it forms a life-long habit. Similarly, all my readings of spiritual books at the age of 14-15 came from my love of reading. 

Love for book reading cannot take place overnight. All of us need to work together to make our children get into the habit of reading books. So on every occasion, we should gift books to children. 

For the future of India, we need to create citizens who are well-read and aware of India’s great philosophical traditions. That can only come by children increasing their habit of reading good books.    

(The writer, an IIT and US-educated Indian engineer,  a 2022 Padma Shri award winner, is the Director, of Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute, Phaltan, Maharashtra. Views are personal. He can be reached at anilrajvanshi@gmail.com)

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