On The Unreadingmentification of Children

Here’s a hypothesis: if you open a Piano School with people who don’t play the piano, the chances that you will teach the piano to anyone is very low.

I had read an article on Forbes a while back, and picked it up to use in a question paper as a comprehension passage. The author had argued that children these days don’t read because adults don’t read. Reading is not a habit that is hardwired into our instinct-genes, not like food or sleep or sex is. You are never born a reader, you pick that thing up. You pick it up from your surroundings. If there is no one around you who reads, you have no one to borrow and adopt it from.

My own experience tells me that not only do most adults shun reading these days, they also actively discourage it. They discourage it not theoretically but practically, like we preach the virtue of Truth in theory but in practice train our young ones to be suave, consummate liars so that they succeed better. Reading is something you would rather skip over, like a little puddle on the road after rains. Splashing through it is – not worth the trouble.

Of course, this is the thinking that gave us the now-classic TLTR widget. We won’t read it if it’s Too Long To Read, – as if reading is a means to an end, and the means better not be too tiring. I wonder how this would translate to life, for surely these people must tire of life too, every now and then? When are we going to be trending #toolongtolive?

I digress. I was talking about how people discourage reading. I was in a room full of educators the other day. By other day I mean any day, just pick one. The room was discussing what to get kids – who were students to these educators – for a year-end present. I decided to try something. I went and suggested books.

Now me, whenever I have to buy someone a present, I always get them a book. I am used to buying books. But at the same time, I am also aware that most people are not. So I was not really expecting agreement when I made that suggestion, – I was just interested in watching how the water ripples.

There was an immediate uproar. It died down fast, since everyone was united in the disagreement. What, books, no no no, books are only for those who read books others won’t like it they will not read it, not books. It was a perfect scene. It was so cute I was openly smiling.

These are the same people who nod and grimace in meetings and speeches and bemoan the loss of the healthy habit of reading today’s pathless generation. Today’s lamentable generation, pathless, valueless, without any morality, without any respect, without any healthy, wholesome habits. They moan, rubber lips bending down in despair, eyelids drooping with dusky sympathy. Some of the more fervent ones express anger. Oh the hapless, righteous rage in their guardian-angel hearts.

There is another misconception I want to address before winding up. When faced with the proposition of buying someone a book, some people will say, “But I don’t know his taste!”

Listen. You don’t need to know the reading taste of a person in order to get them a book. When you get a person a book, you get them a book of your choice. This is why books are such powerful gifts. Gifts, essentially, are not things you buy others to save them some money. Gifts are symbols, artifacts that are meant to strengthen the human bond you share between yourselves. This is why handmade gifts are often more successful than a purchased one, because that communicates the giver better to the receiver. And this is also why a book is so powerful as a gift. Books are maps to the human mind. A book I read is also a book you can read to read me. When you give someone a book, you are not saying “Here, I saved you that much money in buying this book.” What you are saying is, “Here is a piece of me, I think that you will find this is also a piece of you.”

The book you give your friend becomes a rescript in your relationship, a keystone around which many arcs will be built over time. You do not need to make it something that the receiver would have bought by themself. You are adding something out of yourself to their life.

It does not matter if it is not a book they end up liking a lot. Make it a practice, and they will see it as what it was meant to be in the first place, not an object, but a symbol of you.





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