Eight year old Saransh has a book from the Secret Seven Series in his hand to read, but he is not fond of this series at all. Does it matter that he does not particularly enjoy this series but still has the book in his hand?
Enid Blyton's books are wonderful reads that many of us grew up with. It is hard to imagine many of us who are huge fans of her writing that someone can actually dislike her books. One might say, Saransh just needs to finish the book and then he will know that it is so wonderful. The truth is that he has tried it before and nothing has changed. Then why is he having that book? He says, "The school librarian gave us few minutes to find a book to read. I looked at all the books and couldn't decide what I wanted to read. Time was running out and so I picked Secret Seven."
Saransh's reply has plenty of takeaways for anyone who wants to encourage a child to read.
It is possible that he was clueless about how to pick a book that he is likely to enjoy.
Given a few minutes to pick a book must have been tough. Hence he went with the only book that seemed somewhat familiar to him.
Trying a new book just for the sake of it, is new, not thought of. Perhaps it is even daunting.
The fact that a book report is pending soon after might have guided him to pick a book that he is familiar with rather than try something new.
Struggling through the book
Discussing his reading experience with Secret Seven revealed that he did not enjoy the book as there were several new words that he did not understand. In other words, he did not understand anything in the story. Imagine writing a book report based on a book that you don't understand much. Consequences of not turning in the report are not even worth thinking about. Needless to say, a child who goes through this kind of an experience is far less likely to turn into a lifelong reader. Worse, it is far more likely that will get branded as a 'reluctant reader' or 'he does not read at all.'
An alternative approach to raise a child who reads
In contrast, eight year old Shruti, in the same setting, picks books whose covers catch her attention. She turns the book around to find the blurb. She returns a few books to the shelves and keeps some on the side for later. When she realises that time is running out, she goes to the set of books kept aside for later. She quickly looks through the set and picks the one that she definitely wants to read. That's the book she take home.
Back home, she keeps the book in sight, an incentive that she will give herself once she has completed her tasks for the day. Finally, she picks it up with much anticipation. Begins reading, likes the book and makes time for it everyday. When something catches her attention, she makes a note of it in her reader's notebook. Once she is done with her book, she keeps her reader's notebook on the side for reference. She begins with a brief introduction about what the book is before going to present her analysis of the book using her notes from her reader's notebook. Her work is appreciated at school and Shruti looks forward to the next time she can go to the library to choose a book to read.
The next time however Shruti finds a book that she finds difficult to read. She is clueless how to write the book report without understanding the book. Worse the subject does not fascinate her much. She decides to seek help from her librarian, who directs her to the shelves that have books appropriate for her reading level and interests. She goes a step further and gives her a list to choose from thus reducing the big load of books that she needs to browse. Shruti finds her book. This time the librarian gives her a choice. She can choose to not write the book report. Shruti is surprised but does not ask any questions. She is about to try an author that she hasn't read before and there is no sure way to tell if the book would lend itself for a book report.
Since the pressure is off, Shruti takes the book slowly. The writing style is different from what she is used to but the plot is interesting. She doesn't mind looking up the dictionary. She is determined not to miss anything in the book. She notes down her observations in her reader's notebook. She asks if she can present a book talk as she wants to recommend this book to her classmates. Soon after she is on the look out for similar books.
Banning reading certain kind of books- Does this help?
Saransh on the other hand has no qualms in dismissing reading as a boring, compulsive chore. Books that catch his attention are Dog Man and Geronimo Stilton. He particularly enjoys Geronimo Stilton but his school forbids him from reading it. When asked if he knows why, he says he hasn't been told why.
Age old wisdom suggests, say to a child, "Don't do it." Chances are high that they would anyway do it. Reading Geronimo Stilton some say is not good. When pressed for a reason, they say, "Language is not good." A brief search on the internet however yields results that praise Geronimo Stilton. The fact that this series has more than 100 books, says something. If these books were so bad, why would a publisher in the right frame of mind release so many titles?
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Could imposing restrictions actually prove counter productive preventing children from choosing to read?
Parents and teachers probably worry about children getting addicted to Geronimo Stilton and will not try any other book. The truth is, if children love Geronimo Stilton and want more, it is a good sign. It means they are reading, more importantly enjoying reading. Isn't that what we want?
The series is far more informative than many people give it credit for. The series covers a variety of genres- fantasy, science and history even. Through its playful nature it helps the young reader feel entertained while reading a book and feel good about having enjoyed a book. All of that is important in raising life long readers.
Geronimo Stilton is simply a phase
Readers eventually grow out of the Geronimo Stilton phase. The good news is that once they grow out of it, they typically recognise themselves as readers and hence are open to trying out a variety of genres.
Instil the joy of reading in your child first
Books offer a special place to unwind. To experience that your child needs to be exposed to books that give them joy. Reading together, talking about books that you have enjoyed together goes a long way in making reading a happy experience. Ask your child their thoughts/opinions rather than a book report. Pleasurable experiences are talked about with joy and not to be treated as test material.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-12 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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