Reading: A dying hobby

Sitting down with a good book to read was once considered a preferred pastime of children and adults alike. Books mean different things to different people. While to some reading is the greatest form of pleasure, to others it’s nothing short of an agonizing task. The reading habits of adolescents specifically have drastically changed over a period of time.  The reasons to which this change is attributed to are numerous.

Leisure reading by definition is the reading students choose to do on their own, as opposed to reading that is assigned to them. Also referred to as voluntary reading, spare time reading and self-selected reading ,leisure reading involves personal choice, choosing what one wants to read and reading widely from a variety of sources-not just books.

To put it plainly, children and adolescents have seemingly lost interest in reading. The magnificent world of books no longer holds any wonder. Technology could be considered as one of the greatest factors that have led to this decline in interest. An average adolescent today spends most of their time on the internet or watching television. I-pods, I-pads, mobile phones, gaming consoles have gradually replaced books. When a child gets back from school their first instinct is to turn on the TV or access the internet. The distractions are so huge in number that reading gets pushed to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list.

The education system itself has begun to use the aid of technology to make classrooms more interactive. Tablets and laptops are now frequently used instead of textbooks and notebooks. If reading is not encouraged at the school level itself, how is one supposed to inculcate the habit in children? And if reading is not inculcated at a young age what guarantees that an adolescent will abruptly begin to read? It is important for parents to inspire children to read during their formative years. Developing and sustaining the habit of reading is the key.

It is unfair to label all adolescents as the ‘non-reading’ variety. Many adolescents greatly enjoy reading be it magazines, comics or novels but this breed is slowly declining as technology is overpowering every facet of their lives.

The benefits of reading are known world over.  Numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. Reading develops speech skills, logical thinking, enhanced concentration and discipline.

The lack of time is also one reason many adolescents don’t read. Extra homework in addition to schoolwork often burden students and they end up far too tired to engage in leisure reading. What initially may start as an ‘I’ll read tomorrow’ eventually snowballs into something much larger and over a period of time, children completely cease to read.  It is wrong to blame just one agent for this decline. Multiple factors have together led to this impactful change in the reading habits of adolescents.

While there isn’t any one certain way to ensure students of all ages spend more time reading, small steps can be taken to encourage the habit in them right from the time they’re toddlers. Parents could spend more time reading to their children instead of allowing them to play on mobile phones. Teachers in schools should devote a section of their class time asking students to read newspapers so the concept of reading doesn’t gradually become alien to them. Since children, in their formative years, spend most of their time at educational institutions, measures should be taken to create an environment in classrooms that is conducive to reading. These changes need to be brought about at the primary level so children can grow up understanding how essential reading is and learn to cherish it.