Do you love reading? Are you a book lover? How important is reading to you? Would you feel bad or starve if you miss your daily dose of words and stories?
If the answer to the above questions is affirmative, then please answer the next question. Do you get as much time as you want to read?
If the answer to the above question is negative, then kindly answer the next question. What are you doing about it?
People who are passionate about books and who love reading would somehow find time to read; at least a few pages or chapters every day. For them reading is like eating. If they don’t read they starve. I started reading at the age of 5 and have never stopped. During school and while in college, I used to find time to read. When I was doing my M. Tech., I used to cut classes to read!
While I was working I used to stay up till the wee hours of the morning with mugs of black coffee and pack of cigarettes reading my favorite books. The only furniture I had in those days was a reclining chair, as I spent most of my time on that. I never thought it necessary to buy a cot and a mattress. I was used to sleeping on the floor and only thing I need was a couple of newspapers. Anyway, I slept only for a few hours and so it really didn’t matter. But for reading, I needed a comfortable chair as I used to spend hours on it.
I bought books, loaned them from libraries, or borrowed them from friends and colleagues. If I liked a book I borrowed or rented, then I would go and buy them. Most of my salary was spent on books and by the second half of the month I had to write home for money. My dad always used to ask me what I was doing with my salary. But he knew about my love for books and used send me money.
After my accident, I started writing. My reading increased. You need to read if you want to write better. The more you read the better you write. This has been said again and again by many masters of the craft from William Zinsser to Stephen King. To me reading and writing are two things I can’t do without.
Now coming back to Mr. Sattler’s question. What would you give up to keep reading? I have given up television. I rarely watch it these days. I don’t go out. That gives me a lot of time. Even though I miss going to good bookshops and browsing the books, the proliferation of good on-line bookstores have made buying books easier. But it is not the same as going to the bookshop, looking at the books on the shelves, taking out the ones that interest you, browsing through them and buying the ones you like.
I read whenever I get some free time. I always have a book with me. So even when I get a few minutes of free time, I read. I am sure that most book lovers like me read whenever they get time. Some read on the way to the office, on the way back and often in the office. Others read while waiting for the bus, train or flight and while traveling. When there is a will there is a way. So if you really love reading, then you will somehow find time to read.
But most of the kids these days are not interested in reading. I have a good library at home containing books of all kinds and for all ages. I ask the kids who visit me whether they like books. In 80 percent of the cases, the answer is a ‘no’ or silence that can be interpreted as a ‘No’. But I have met a few, who genuinely love books. Their eyes lit up as they see the books and they start asking questions about books, characters, authors, etc. It is a pleasure talking to them.
I have been trying very hard to convert my nephew and niece to book lovers. So far I have not been very successful. Now what I do is read books to them. Once they are hooked to the story, I will stop. Then I will make conditions like if you read a page, I will read the rest of the chapter. But the progress is slow and success is not guaranteed.
A few days back I asked Ahswin: “What would you give up to keep reading?” He didn’t answer my question but asked me a question. “What do I have to do to get more TV time?” I told him that whatever he does is not going to buy him more TV time. He was not happy. He gave me a look which said, “Whatever you do is not going to make me read more.” But I have not given up hope. I have banned TV on weekdays and restricted TV viewing to 2 hours on weekends. I am thinking of disconnecting the cables, so that there won’t anything interesting to watch.
TV is the number one enemy of reading. With so many channels and programs, the books are no match for the TV. From my experience, Oliver Twist, Peter Pan, Tom Sawyer, or Charlie Bucket are no match for Ben 10, Transformers, Power Rangers and the like. I don’t think even the magic of Harry Potter and genius of Artemis Fowl can compete with the allure of Samurai Jack, Johnny Bravo, Powerpuff Girls, Aaron Stone, or American Dragon!
So this Christmas, when you are buying gifts for your kids, nephews, and nieces, instead of buying fancy toys or video games, buy them books. Books appropriate for their age. Do make sure that the kids read the books rather than keep them unopened on the bookshelf.
Take the kids to the local library and get them a membership. Make the habit of going to the library at least once every fortnight. Next time, when you go to the bookstore take the kids with you. Now most of good bookstores have reading areas that are really nice where the kids can browse through the books while having a cold coffee or ice cream. Talk to them about books and do whatever you can to make them interested in books and reading. Don’t forget to disconnect the cable of your TV.
Inculcating a love for books and a passion for reading are two gifts that you can give your kids. If you want some professional advice then get the book ‘The Gift of Reading’ by David Bouchard and Wendy K. Sutton. I wish you success.
I wish all of you a merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010.