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  GENERATION NEXT AND THE READING HABIT  
"I love to read, but my child doesn't!" Sound familiar?

Well, you need not be the one saying it anymore. I've been interacting with children for five years now, having worked in a school library and freelance, conducting workshops in reading enrichment - and I have realized that all it takes is a few inputs from you, to get your child interested.

Here goes then : Give your child a model to imitate. You probably read while the child is asleep, or in school, but that way your child doesn't see you and can't emulate you. So, be seen holding a book, reading it, getting excited about it. Quote passages or narrate incidents to your child or spouse.


GoosebumpsSpend some time reading with your child. A good rule of thumb is - at least fifteen minutes a day, five times a week, spent exclusively reading and talking about what's in the book. Clarify values, non-judgmentally as far as possible. Like: Loyalty v/s. honesty: the character saw his best friend cheat - should he tell teacher? You'll be surprised at the insights your youngster comes out with, given half a chance.

If you can, take your child to bookshops. Give him/her a budget, discuss the choice of books. I've seen kids as young as six understand what a budget is, and stick to it. It's best not to buy expensive books for your children - you shouldn't be saying, "Be careful with that book!" so often that your child gets put off books completely. I've got scribbles or food stains on all my first books, and today I bristle if anyone so much as dog-ears a book. A kid who loves books can be taught how to care for them at a later stage.

Little WomenFor absolute non-readers, start with non-fiction. He likes cricket? Fine. There are several books and magazines on the game and the players. Usually, non-readers consider reading 'stories' a waste of time. So hook them with something that's not a waste of time, according to them.

Actually, a subscription to any magazine in the child's name gives the child a feeling of receiving something that's "mine" in the mail, and that can just turn the key!

Making the child feel the book is "mine" really helps. A rubber-stamp with "LIBRARY OF PRANAV" is a conversation piece! And giving books as presents/prizes/return gifts during parties is a good way to get the peer group interested as well.

Parents, the reading habit is not dying out. I've seen nine-year-olds fighting over a copy of "Black Beauty", and a two-year-old sleeping with her favourite book under the pillow. All it takes is a little tap in the right direction, from you.

- Sonali Bhatia

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