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Lack of Interest in Reading or Laziness?

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Children who haven't had the experience of enjoying a storybook, continue to rely on videos and moments when someone tells them an interesting story. Is it simply because it is easier?

"I don't understand Ma'am," is a statement that can be interpreted in multiple ways in the absence of a context. It could be in the context of a child who has genuinely not understood something and is hoping to seek help from the teacher. A good teacher would appreciate this statement and think of an alternative way of teaching.

"Teach me in a way that I can understand."

In a very different context, a child who simply doesn't enjoy reading, hates it even, says, "I don't understand Ma'am." Her teacher happens to be a patient teacher who wants to make every single child experience the magic of books. She wonders, "Did this child even try reading the given text?" She revisits the text and ponders over the very small paragraph. All of four to five short sentences with commonly used words. "Is it too difficult for grade 3?" And then she realises that the text is not high for this child. She begins to wonder again, "Did this child even try reading the given text?" She goes back to the child, gives her time to read it once again. She tells her, "Read it a little slowly this time. You might understand." The child chooses to read in her mind and then recites what the teacher had explained a few minutes ago. The teacher had summarized the story read together until the paragraph in question and had discussed the various elements of the story. The teacher had done so to provide context to the paragraph the child was to read and interpret. Interestingly this child has absorbed all that she had been told. But she cannot understand what she is reading. While reading aloud, she pays more attention to the act of reading without paying any attention to the meaning. While reading in her mind, she browses through the text quickly. Hoping that a verbal explanation will soon follow sparing her of the trouble of reading and understanding the text, she responds with what she has heard. Or does this child really have trouble understanding?

The teacher goes back to her previous class notes with reference to this child. She realises that the child had found it easier to use the same words in a story rather than use her own words to talk about the story. However her notes also shows that the child is highly imaginative especially when it comes to fairy tales and horror stories that she enjoys reading. In those instances, she had always asked a chance to create her own version or a possible continuation to those stories. This indicates to the teacher that the child does not have trouble conjuring words to express herself when she wants to or feels the need to. At other times, she prefers taking the easy route especially if there is a video option. Case in point were times when she was given short articles from Dogonews that typically have an accompanying video. She had the tendency to skip the text and watch the video instead.

Visual/ audio inclination, a substitute for reading?

Some children are more visually inclined and learn better when the text is translated into pictures. Which is why many beginner readers enjoy discussions based on the pictures first before reading the text. Reading the text requires extra effort in terms of decoding and then comprehending the text. Pictures help immensely in the comprehension process.

Pictures however become difficult when for example, a story needs to introduce a character as a protagonist's sister and let the reader form an impression of her personality. There is only a certain extent the picture can convey this information. It is possible only in the form of text.

How about videos? Do they count as visual means of learning?

For starters, videos require very little effort and that's the reason why children and adults too flock to videos. The higher the proportion of video based learning in a child's learning process, the more dependent they are likely to grow on the medium. A closer look would indicate that the videos that the child watches need not always be educational, it could even be plenty of TV time.

The higher the proportion of video based learning in a child's learning process, the more dependent they grow on the medium.
Is that bad?

The foremost impact a video has is that it restricts imagination as every aspect of the story is laid out for you. One just needs to watch and absorb. Children are intuitively more imaginative. Given a chance they can unleash very rich imagination. Imagination is an essential trait that leads to thinking, proactiveness and at some level even leads to progress.

Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere- Albert Einstein

Significant inventions that have transformed the history of humankind came about on account of efforts to make something better and far more useful. The automatic sliding door for instance that we take for granted now was possibly inspired from a book, When the Sleeper Wakes written by HG Wells in 1899. In the book, the sliding door went into the ceiling. Nearly half a decade later, came the need for a door that could get around the impact of high winds on doors. Horton Automatics co-founders Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt in 1954 wanting to solve this problem created the automatic sliding doors that are extremely common even today.

Similarly, the internet is said to have been inspired from the book Dial F for Frankenstein by science fiction novelist Arthur C Clarke. Tim Berners Lee, the World Wide Web British computer scientist says he was inspired by that work of science fiction in which there was a platform that allowed computers to communicate with one another. He had read this book in his youth and perhaps the concept fascinated him, so much so that it helped him invent a technology which at some level has become a necessity in the modern world.

T.V time is restricted at home and my child reluctantly spends time reading a book.

"My child does not choose a book to read. He is not able to choose, so I choose the books for him in the library." This is a common tendency among children who have just learnt how to read and are slowly taking steps to embark on a reading journey in a world filled with thousands, even probably tens of thousands of children's books. It can be absolutely daunting to stand in front of a book shelf filled with books and being asked to choose.

Hence the most natural reaction is to refrain from choosing. The parent decides to step in, chooses books and asks the child to read. The child doesn't take to the books on his own, leaving the parent puzzled and perhaps even worried.

How about a different approach?

A parent decided to change things a bit. She chose five books based on what she and her child enjoy reading together. She then asked the child to choose one book from those five. Suddenly thousands of books on a gigantic bookshelf overlooking a small child, disappeared. It was just five books. Choosing one book from five books is no longer intimidating.

Another parent, who seemed uncertain about what books to choose, asked her child to seek help from a librarian. The librarian had a brief conversation with the child about her interests and returned with a small number of books. The child happily picked one and read it cover to cover.

Have you tried a different approach and it worked? Do share in the comments section. Your idea might just help another parent.


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