Karadi Tales CEO, C. P. Viswanath, writes on the importance of reading in this very special post in lieu of International Literacy Day, which was 8 September:
The average seven-year-old is a computer whiz. Parents are astounded at the ease with which he uses gadgets. But is he a fluent reader? Parents may ignore this. After all, he’s so smart with the computer. But they often do not realise that computers are designed to be mastered by anyone. With their natural intuition, every kid would figure out how to operate them. This should not be viewed as an extraordinary ability.
Through the 1900s, the USA was one of the most creative and productive societies. In the 21st century, however, that has changed. America has begun to realise that their young population entering the workforce is ill-prepared to continue this rich legacy. A generation that grew up on a diet of excessive television, computers and video games and too little time reading is now facing extraordinary limitations. In a passionate address talking about the reemphasis on reading in the education policy Barack Obama recently said:
India is today where the USA was 20 years ago. With the proliferation of cable television, computers and video games in Indian society over the last few years, our children are now achieving reading proficiency almost 2 years later than the previous generation did and reading much less. This will result in children who grow up to function intellectually and emotionally well below their potential.
We are now being told to pay huge sums of money for premium preschools and schools that bombard children with visual information through televisions, computers and ‘smart’ classrooms. Television and computers are fabulous learning tools for older children. However, for younger children, the simple act of reading is the key to nurturing their creativity and intelligence.
A common misconception is that children today are much smarter than children of previous generations. In an age where information is so widely available, it is only natural that children absorb much of it. So their information bank is, perhaps, greater. But unless a child knows how to productively use that information, it is of little consequence. Information, since it is so freely available, is no longer valued as highly as creativity, the ability to think out of the box, the ability to use information to evolve innovations.
For example: A group of 40 Class III students was given a verbal description of an unusual creature from a Harry Potter book and asked to draw the creature. Children who had not seen the movie came up with highly individual pictures. Children who had seen the movie came up with an image resembling what they had seen in the movie. What would you rather have, 1 idea or 40 ideas?
Reading stimulates the theatre of the mind. Each child evolves his or her own unique theatre and that is the root of your child’s creative growth. Why do educators all around the world stress so much on reading? The simple activity of reading is a virtual brain gym. It enables the growth of multiple intelligences.
Reading stimulates both the right and left sides of the brain. In fact, it is one of those few simple activities that triggers the growth of both intuitive and logical intelligence. Studies have shown that early readers not only have better language skills, they are also better at grasping mathematical and scientific concepts, are emotionally well adjusted and are generally happier kids.
So the next time anybody says that reading may not be that important in the computer age, think again. Help your child become an early and enthusiastic reader and you have empowered your child more than you can imagine.