Update on 5/16: Have made changes to the original post to ensure correct interpretation of this article. Thanks to those that posted comments, that helped highlight the problem in my original articulation.

By now, you must have heard me several times that I recently converted to the book-reading cult. The same was true of Hollywood movies as well (never watched one until 5 years ago), but with the latter I was atleast genuinely ignorant.

But with books, it is another matter. I always knew what I was missing, I always had a certain respect for people devoted to reading, yet I did not pick up a book. I happened to have a fierce discussion on this subject with my sister and few of my friends and hence this post.

So here is my basic premise: Reading is a habit that every person must have. It should be cultivated early on in everyone’s life and parents are obliged to inculcate this habit as well. And I squarely blame parents if kids don’t read. Not for the consequence, but for not creating an ambience conducive for learning, for not exposing them to reading and creating awareness of the benefits of reading.

The people I brainstormed this with, came up with various responses. My comments in Italics separated by Tilde (~)

  • Reading is a taste like it is for music or painting and therefore cannot be enforced. People read or they don’t based upon their individual taste. ~Disagree. Unlike music or painting, reading affects all facets of life.
  • Parents’ reading habits singularly affect kids’ reading habits. ~Non-reading parents have an uphill task. Tough luck, but no excuses.
  • Gender plays a role — Males go out, socialize and had other avenues of learning. But girls were home-bound and took to reading as a means of being in touch with the world. This was particularly true of India of the past, but not anymore. ~I reserve my comments on this one.
  • Affordability plays a role. Financially secure parents can afford more books and better books. ~With public libraries and internet, reading has never been cheaper. Even membership libraries are affordable and will cost a fraction of cable TV subscription costs. Added to this, we have roadside shops as well for used books.
  • School culture plays a role — some schools encourage exploration and encourage reading outside of the prescribed books. ~Sad but true. Parent have to work harder.
  • Peers play a role in influencing the reading habits. ~Sad but true. Parents have to work harder.

But what if parents themselves are completely ignorant as to the benefits of reading? This was brought up by Vidya through her comments and my subsequent discussion with her. I dont have an answer for this.

I would like to hear from you, the readers.

PS: Also, I use “parents” as a placeholder for anybody who provides for the kid — sending to school, food, cloth, shelter etc…