We all know that there are many benefits to reading books. Reading improves our focus, memory, empathy, and communication skills. It can reduce stress, improve our mental health, and enhance our imagination. Reading also allows us to learn new things to help us succeed in our work and life. But are we reading? I asked my friends and most of them exclaimed that their daily reading consists of social media posts, text messages, news shorts. Only a few properly delve into literature!!
Why is this happening? Why is it that we are interested in scrolling social media, or in consuming information via modes that are faster paced?
Research shows that the sudden evolution of technology in recent years coupled with other factors has led to a sharp decline in the average human’s attention span. For example, in 2000, it was 12 seconds. Now, 15 years later, it’s shrunk significantly to 8.25 seconds. This means that subconsciously, we start to prefer mediums which give us instantaneous and quickfire information instead of the steadfast, patient books.
Lack of access to the library and inability to buy books are some other factors that have influenced our reading habits. In India, there is a decided shortage of public libraries. School libraries do indeed offer a good selection, but lending is often cumbersome and library slots aren’t given the importance they deserve.
Books aren’t exactly the most affordable either! During my visits to bookstores, I see parents discouraging their kids to purchase books as they feel that the children will end up `wasting’ the money. This is always disheartening to witness. To bring the much-needed habit of reading back, parents must cooperate with their children and support them in their endeavour to buy books.
Personally, I have always enjoyed reading. Like any other Indian kid, my first books were the Panchatantra Tales and Amar Chitra Katha. My mother tells me that she gave me my first book when I was 4-5 months old, and I latched onto the book so hard that it was difficult for her to get it off me!
But then why are fewer kids reading today? I feel that this issue requires the input of an expert to truly be understood. Therefore, to understand the access issue and what can be done, I spoke to Mr. Sourav Banerjee, Country Director, Room to Read.
Here is the interview (https://youtu.be/hQb5S3S4_1s):
Room to Read is a global non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, California. It works in partnership with local schools, educators, and caregivers to establish child-friendly library spaces — both in schools and at home. They also train librarians to effectively manage a library and conduct reading activities that cultivate a love for reading. Be sure to check out Room to Read: https://www.roomtoread.org/ and www.literacycloud.org (a repository of children’s books from numerous countries).