Thursday, May 05, 2016

Hey, my parents never read books to me!

Life in the adopted country means that I am simultaneously an outsider and one of them.  While some might fret about such an existence, I don't.  It is a fascinating way, a rare opportunity, that people have to understand the world and our existence.

One of the puzzling aspects has always been the hype about reading to the kids.  Especially when the kids are in bed getting ready to sleep.  Movie scenes and sitcoms routinely featured them, and continue to do so.  Academics, too, spend a great deal of time talking about the importance of reading to the kids.  Libraries organize events where books are read to kids with a great deal of theatrics as well.

I gave away what I think about this with the word that I used, right?  Hype ;)

I do not recall my parents or grandparents or anybody ever reading anything to me or any of us kids.  Not when I was sitting down. Not when I was lying down. Not when I was standing either.

But, the older folks did read.  They read the weekly magazines. They read novels. The environment of everybody reading, especially in those dark ages before the internet--heck, even before television--automatically infused in us kids the reading habit.  I can still recall my brother and I fighting over the latest issue of Ananda Vikatan that had arrived and, yes, we tore it up as we both grabbed the magazine to be the first ones to read it.  For which the elders yelled at us.  Yelling is all they did because there was no spanking the kids!

For the most part, kids are like monkeys that do what others do.  If the parents and older folks read, the kids also read.  If the parents and older folks watch television, then that is what kids also do.  Kids, I have always felt, cannot be easily fooled with advice from the older folks when that preaching is not practiced by the elder.

Thus, I had more than a chuckle when I read (get it? I read!) yet another article on the difference that reading to a child makes!
British researcher Don Holdaway was the first to point out the benefits of shared reading. He noted that children found these moments to be some of their happiest. He also found that children developed positive and strong associations with spoken language and the physical book itself, during these moments.
Since then a number of studies have been conducted showing the value of shared reading in children’s language development, especially in vocabulary and concept development.
You, with a sharp and critical mind, are thinking, "but, hey, haven't we moved past books now, in this digital age?"  Yes.  Which is why the research also spews bullshit like this:
While shared reading is often associated with print books, shared reading can be extended to digital texts such as blogs, podcasts, text messages, video and other complex combinations of print, image, sound, animation and so on.
Good video games, for example, incorporate many learning principles, such as interaction, problem-solving and risk-taking, among others.
Yes, now the kid and the parent can play "good video games" together ;)

I suppose the more "advanced" we get, the more easily we forget the simple, basic, aspects of life, such as if you want kids to do something, well, first make sure you do that yourself.  Practice what you damn preach!


Ramesh said...

Sure, practice what you preach, but what has that got to do with reading to kids ? Reading yourself and reading to kids are not mutually exclusive articles, are they ? In any case, nobody is arguing that the best way of getting kids to read is to read to them. What about the shared happiness; what about the "positive and strong associations" ...

Stop being a spoilsport to poor little thingies who want their mums & dads to read aloud to them :):)

Sriram Khé said...

Hehehe ... to be honest, I got pissed off at the piece that I gave it a slant that was unfair to the essay!
So, why was I pissed off?
Reading together, playing video games together, etc., are rather superficial ways in which parents and children connect. I wanted to get across the idea that a substantive engagement without those well-marketed gimmicks will be a lot more meaningful, which is why I brought in my own stories ...
I.e., parents shouldn't merely stop with "Oh, I read together with my kids all the time" but should go beyond that surface-level interaction and help the kid develop the human in the kids. And for that, well, the parents ought to practice being a "good" human ...

Anne in Salem said...

I loved reading to my kids. I read to them even after they were able to read just for the pleasure we all gained. Trumpet of the Swan, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Winnie the Pooh and hundreds of others. There are some I could probably still recite by heart, like Goodnight Moon and Madeline. I bought Goodnight Moon in French in the Tuileries Garden with Elizabeth just for the smiles it gave both of us.

This was precious time, all focused on the story, not on homework or chores or problems of the day. We would read and talk. I'd have to explain the physics of a stunt or pull out the globe to see where the swan flew. Magical time. Even though it is years off, I look forward to spending such time with grandchildren. And NOT with digital books or video games or cellphones. With a real actual paper book.

Sriram Khé said...

May your wishes of reading stories to/with your grandchildren and spending a great time with them come true (and not in a hurry either, given the ages of your children ... hehehe) ... a good wish on this Mother's Day, right?