20 September 2010

To read or not to read

We're now reading. To be precise, I get my daughter to read aloud to me at bedtime. This is not about her putting me to sleep, but one way to get two birds with one stone. Reading practice and bedtime stories.

A few years ago, I picked up the whole set of Ladybird readers for her. At that time they looked wonderful. Big bold easy-read prints, colourful layouts, and new, bigger words introduced in easy phases.

So far so good, right? We stuck to Tom and Kate and their routines (I wouldn't quite call them adventures) and I would get very easily distracted. And that might have been just me, if the other half hadn't pointed out with all subtlety that "Tom and Kate is so boring. Puts me to sleep."

Did that sound harsh??

May I direct your attention towards your typical reader??

and then to some more of the same?

It's.... dry! To put it very very kindly. Halfway through one reading, we are rendered unsuccessful at concealing any yawns and other signs of utter boredom. But encourage the little one to continue we do. May the force be with her! And in all honesty, I did have to use the force to get her to read her quota for the day.

I asked a few educators and they lauded my choice of reading material. So, well, I let it be.

The other day, I got so fed up, I asked my daughter to pick something she wanted to read aloud. Without hesitation, she picked up a Dr Seuss. And read it out way faster than she would normally. I wondered whether it was because she knew some of the pages off by heart. It wouldn't be too far off the mark as I might have read it aloud to her only about a gazillion times.

Just to put things to test, I got her to pick up another Dr. Seuss book. And she did read much better, with way more interest. Here's an excerpt.

Or from another book..

I asked around, and got some opinions.

It's not serious.
There's no educational value to it.
It's just rhyming nonsense.

It does confuse the heck out of a parent, doesn't it?

But then I'm an avid reader. So is the other half. Does reading HAVE to be serious? Is there any reason reading can't be fun? Can't a school related exercise be made more interesting?

When I feel like reading, do I pick Bertrand Russel? Or do I pick whatever catches my fancy? Do I pick a Drucker and Toffler, or do I pick an Eddings and L'amour?

I ordered a few more Dr. Seuss books online. And got the kid to read it aloud. She read it with so much enthusiasm that I had a tough time getting her to stop in the middle of the book, as it was nearly bedtime. Well, if I was in the middle of a good book, I'd want to finish it before I slept too.

The supposedly 'frivolous reading' wins the battle of the books. I'd rather reading was happy and fun. There's always 'serious', 'value-added' reading to be done at school, so let reading at home be thoroughly frivolous.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Ellen Goodman from the Detroit Free Press, (all the way back in November 1966) said:
"Dr. Seuss took 220 words, rhymed them and turned out 'The Cat in the Hat', a little volume of absurdity that worked like a karate chop on the weary little world of Dick, Jane and Spot. "

With those profound words in mind, would you like to recommend some reading for kids that doesn't bore the parents to tears?


Sanjukta said...

Hey Vidya, you're back! Keep posting. And best of luck with the kiddy stories. For my part, I fall asleep at the second sentence and my daughter resigns herself to sleep without a story.

Poonam said...

Try Roald Dahl...migt be a li'l macabre, but i think James & Charlie will appeal to the kids. And Dr.Seuss might be nonsense rhymes, but they are fun...so why stop having fun? :)

Tys on Ice said...

Dr.Seuss anyday...the other one was so dry that i got dehydrated just reading it...i think rite now, kids shud be able to find reading fun...u r rite...leave the serious shit for later...they will get there without our help...

if u want total rubbish read, i wud suggest Chetan Bhagat. But then she will probably have nightmares...

Bonnie said...

Just ran across your blog. Wish you were still active. I love your natural writing style. My children were brought up on Dr. Seuss books, and I still have a couple that I kept for sentimental reasons--just because they read them until the covers were ready to fall off!