Fostering the reading habit
As the month of September has been annually declared as the national
literary month in Sri Lanka, both book sellers and the reading public
pay special attention on the importance of reading and the immense
benefits it brings to us and this time is very appropriate for us to
think about the great importance of reading and how to foster the
reading habit among the young and the old.
Today reading is not a very popular choice as a recreational activity
for most children as well as adults. Most of them do not even care to
discuss the great joy that can be found between the covers of a good
book. Therefore, it is very essential that particularly in our schools,
the reading habit be encouraged and nurtured.
The teaching of reading in schools should focus attention firstly on
the development of basic skills and specially vocabulary development
techniques should be emphasised. The most essential thing in promoting
the reading habit is to create a genuine interest in reading and how to
enjoy life through the process of reading.
It is of not much use teaching children to read if the skill of
reading is not to be used in their later life. Emphasis should also be
stressed on the use of reading in our daily lives. It is only the young
people who accept the joy and value of habitual reading that carry on
this noble habit of reading into their adult lives.
The home should necessarily be the origin of creating an interest in
reading and parents could do much to encourage their children to read
intelligently. Next the schools can do much to promote the reading
habit. An interest in reading cannot develop in a vacuum. It is always
founded on personal interests.
A student who is interested in dogs would always prefer to read a
book on dogs. Thus the first step in arousing an interest in reading is
to stimulate the child with life and the world around him.
When we consider this fact the home is a very important factor in
creating an interest in reading and it is in one’s home that a positive
attitude towards reading can be created in the minds of children.
The parents of all children should provide a background for the
fostering of healthy reading habits. An interest to read should be as
natural to a child as watching T.V. and to achieve this a powerful home
environment for reading has to be built up. However, the parents who are
keen to foster the reading habit among their children should themselves
know something about books and authors.
For the younger children the parents should choose the books and a
child’s first books should be attractive and should contain accurate
descriptions with coloured pictures. Later a broad variety of books are
necessary to enhance the child’s horizons in reading. At the same time
children must be taught to treat books with care and respect.
Of course, a child’s fear of damaging books should not be allowed to
interfere with his desire to handle them and to read them to get the
When a child enters a school, teachers, specially the language
teachers, should take the responsibility to estimate the child’s
interest in reading. During the school going days itself children should
be encouraged to build up a private library with one’s favourite books
and periodicals. Thus the teachers attitude is a very significant
feature in improving a student’s love for reading.
Whereever possible opportunities to read for enjoyment in the
classroom itself should be provided and a daily period devoted entirely
for reading will not be out of place in any school. This would provide
each pupil an excellent opportunity for exploiting his needs to improve
his reading skills.
While the taste for reading should be groomed from the very young
days reading for life plays an important part in the lives of everyone
Teaching children to read can be very challenging and activities
involved could be planning and implementing lessons, designing and
preparing special reading materials, diagnosing reading problems and
providing remedies for them and the teacher himself could be a reading
model by reading aloud to the children and discussing about books with
Today we are flooded with an ocean of printed material which pour out
of the world’s presses and it is almost impossible to read everything
that is printed. Therefore, for efficient and useful reading we must
make a proper selection of the reading material at hand and we must
select the best from the point of view of individual tastes.
Good and great books which elevate our mental horizons should be read
patiently and discerning readers must always avoid trashy literature
like cheap novels which flood some of our bookshops.
It is also very important that people who are new to the world of
reading should seek some guidance in the selection of suitable reading
material and this can easily be done by going through book reviews
published in daily and weekly newspapers and in magazines. A well
written review would always give a fair picture of the book under
Different individuals will have widely different values in reading
the same book. However, taken as a whole, books offer amusement,
knowledge, inspiration, imagination and even escape.
Those who expect to get relaxation and amusement by reading books
should always do their reading in a relaxed mood and atmosphere free
from outside disturbances. Particularly those who seek knowledge from
reading should read carefully, taking down notes wherever necessary.
These notes will come in useful either immediately or even many years
later. It is saddening that today more and more people are reading less
and less good books as they are thoroughly contented by reading books of
low literary value such as cheap romances.
This is particularly so with many of our teenagers who should really
be guided to become more discerning readers and in reading too like in
many other activities early habit formation is of intrinsic value.
It is a very good habit to read the daily newspapers intelligently as
these are daily digests that keep us informed of things happening around
Thus selection in reading is absolutely important and readers must
make up their minds to read material that will add to their mental
strength and well-being. Random and aimless reading will do us more harm
Reading is infectious and only if the parents are readers will their
off-spring take up to reading and begin to love books.
The nurturing of mental culture through the medium of reading is
limitless and to a voracious reader a public or a private library is a
true joy in life. Finally we must agree that any national program of
good reading is a step towards a better world and a cultured world.
In conclusion it must be mentioned that a good dictionary is a useful
tool for all readers and one should be easily available when one needs
In addition to a dictionary an encyclopedia should also be easily
available. It is only then that one could develop a skill to find
information in books.