I have always been a reader, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book in my hand, reading anything and everything I came across – even newspapers wrapped around purchases! Growing up in India in the eighties, there were not many opportunities to read books, unless you had access to well equipped libraries or had relatives who were willing to buy and bring back books from the west. So most people depended on school libraries with public libraries being more of a joke than anything else…I used to haunt my school and college libraries, so much that I used to use up my quota of books and then ask/beg friends to lend me theirs too.
Coming to Singapore and then finding out about the library system here was akin to water to a thirsty man in a desert! Initially I used a family member’s card and then quickly got mine done as well. When BB & GG were born, I only waited two weeks before I went and got their own library cards. We’ve been borrowing books since then. GG loved reading right from the begining, but BB took a bit of time to start reading fiction. His choice of books were restricted to non-fiction, especially those relating to cars, trains and planes! His reading choices have improved a lot these days though!
The last few weeks, I’ve been reading a lot about how reading habits have been declining in Singapore over the years, especially among the younger generation. The 2015 National Literary Reading & Writing Survey showed that only 44 percent of Singaporeans read one or more literary books in the past year and this is when ‘literary’ has been given a very broad and generous definition!
I guess smartphones and other digital distractions have been a big contributors to this decline. I can see this even in GG & BB. Even though we regularly go to the library and borrow books, their phones still seem to have a stronger pull than books. Sometimes I have to take away their phones and get them to read instead. I don’t emphasise physical books, even an e-book is better than not reading at all!
The benefits of reading are well documented and widely established. Research has shown that not only does reading improve grades in school, but also opens their minds to a world beyond their own, one which allows them to go places and meet people they would never have met otherwise.
Schools, especially primary schools do make reading compulsory in schools. Every school has time set for reading before school starts (about 15 minutes before the bell rings) and some secondary schools also continue this, where children can read before school starts. However, this, according to me is already late. The love for reading should start earlier, maybe in pre-school! Preschools should read to and get the children, especially the older ones in K1 and K2 (5-6 years old) to start reading on their own with teachers helping them, in both English and their Mother Tongues. This will help the children develop language fluency at an early age and get them to love reading as well.
Hopefully this will change and people start reading more….As for me, I am glad I live where I can indulge my love for reading anytime and anywhere I please. My only hope for BB & GG is that they continue to love books and reading and read more and widely and experiment with different genres and authors.
What about you, do you live to read or read to live?