As an avid reader who looks forward to ending the day with a book, it doesn't feel good to stay away from reading because the books I have in hand, are not striking a chord. As an adult who feels this way, I can't help wondering what it must be like to be a child who is forced to read a book because someone thinks it is good. What happens when the book doesn't strike a chord with a child?
I have grown up finding solace in reading books by Enid Blyton and Amar Chitra Katha. As a child, the concept of different genres didn't really exist as I used to read what was available. Luckily for me those books were interesting and made me the reader I am today.
Having grown older, my tastes in reading have changed. Adventures don't fascinate me as much now. Historical, realistic fiction do. Occasionally non-fiction does. Fantasy doesn't interest me much though I do attempt fantasy in the children's section each time a young reading companion recommends a book. Sometimes I manage to finish but sometimes I find my attention wavering. But the genres that I miserably fail to read are horror and romance.
Recently, I picked up a young adult fiction about a young girl attempting to help her mother grow her business by building an app. I liked pretty much most of the book but struggled through teen romance. It brought back memories of how I struggled with Mills and Boons, a series that were devoured by many teens across the world. It just didn't strike a chord with me but I was afraid to admit it.
Enabling children to experiment with reading
I believe that the clarity that has emerged in my mind as a reader is on account of having experimented with a variety of books, genres and authors. A key factor is access to a good library that takes off the pressure that comes along when a book must be abandoned for the sake of not losing the love of reading. Had I bought the book, I would have strived very hard to finish it so that the hard earned money spent on the book doesn't completely go to a waste. I work hard for a living. I don't need to work hard to be entertained too. That simply doesn't make sense does it? Putting that in perspective in the children's world, they work hard for school, they don't need to work hard for entertainment too. T.V is least work but reading a book that doesn't strike a chord is considerably a lot more work especially if it means reading the book to get another book of one's choice.
Why reading shouldn't come at a bargain?
I often hear parents say, "My child doesn't read the books at home. I tell him each time he asks for a new book, "Read what is available at home first, then I will buy the book that you are asking for." The question is why hasn't the child read any of the books bought at home?
Having a discussion in those lines will go a long way in understanding what the child feels about those books. Does he/she need help with choosing for instance or are the books too high making it difficult to understand or talk about unfamiliar situations that are somewhat scary to deal with?
One of my reading companions was upset after reading a book which ends on a sad note- the grandma character dies in the end. He found it too disturbing and didn't read books by the same author as he said, "Someone or the other dies in his books." Does anyone get comfortable with accepting death? Not really. So imagine what that must feel like as a child. This is not to suggest that children's literature ought to avoid sad moments such losing a loved one. On the contrary, children's literature discussing these makes the reader stronger at some level and makes them believe in themselves more. To be able to see a character tide over something so sad and still survive is an important lesson that never seems to be thorough. It needs multiple revisions even for an adult. Speaking of the young reader who felt sad after reading about the granny's death in the end of the story, the parents did a phenomenal job by keeping the communication channel open. They made sure to make the child feel comfortable talking about his feelings and they made sure to give him a helping hand to deal with that emotion.
Conversations around books
A teen reading companion and I chose to read "They both die in the end" by Adam Silvera. The teenager told me that he found the plot interesting and has been reading it for awhile. He gave me a brief and it sounded so good that I had to pick it up myself. About a 100 pages into the book, I realized that the book wasn't for me. I found it morbid and bit of a drag after a point. I needed some encouragement and hence I reached out to my reading companion to gain motivation from his experience. It was somewhat comforting to know that his experience after awhile was similar to mine. We both felt like we needed a break and decided to go to the book later. Reviews are so good, there must be something that we are missing, we agreed. Just knowing that there was another reader on the same boat was encouraging.
Similarly, it is a joy to discover another reader who has enjoyed the same book as us. Conversations begin to revolve around the book and it is a terrific experience.
Conversations around books can happen even between parent and child. You could discuss what worked and what didn't as comrades and feel the difference. Building a conducive environment for reading having open conversations about books goes a long way in raising readers!
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