Reading essential for those who want to rise above the ordinary

By Corina Lyngdoh

Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, teacher and political figure wisely stated, ‘No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self- chosen ignorance.’ The benefits of reading cannot be overlooked. Books train our imagination to think big. Books improve our vocabulary. They helps in developing fluency and communication skills. They allows us to express our thoughts and ideas better and stimulate the mind and quench the thirst for knowledge. Once we start reading, we just want to read on. The thirst for knowledge becomes unending. The world is viewed differently by a person who reads. His speculation of his surroundings is much wider than to a person who does not read.

 ‘Not all readers are leaders but all leaders are readers,’ stated Harry S Truman, the 33rd President of America. We come across leaders of different countries like former President of the USA, Barack Obama who wrote the book, ‘The Audacity of Hope.’ We have, ‘Wings of Fire’ and ‘Ignited Minds’ by former President APJ Abdul Kalam who have written books and have been influenced by the philosophy of great and famous writers. Our very own leaders like former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, present Union Home Minister Amit Shah, not to forget Shashi Tharoor with his plethora of words have been voracious readers since childhood and have likewise authored many books. The ‘ Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum’ in New Delhi boasts of a study with hundreds of books on history and geography of the world, biographies and autobiographies of renowned people and this was where the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi spent most of her time as a young child.

Our very own Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to people to ‘give a book instead of a bouquet as a greeting.’ We should take serious note of this. When Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat he started a movement called ‘Vanche Gujarat’ where he urges the nation to inculcate the habit of reading books regularly. This is a movement to make Gujarat’s young read. Union Home Minister Amit Shah is also a prolific reader whose personal favourites are books on Sardar Vallabhai Patel.  M K Stalin, the leader of the DMK Party in Tamil Nadu also says, ‘If you love me, gift me books,’ and his home was flooded with twelve thousand books.  P N Panicker was the driving spirit behind the library network in Kerala through the Kerala Grandhasala Sangham. He was able to establish forty seven libraries through this movement. According to Anirban Ganguly who heads the Shyama Prasad Research Foundation and is the co-convener of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s library department, ‘There is a renewed realization in the Party that political movements can grow only when there is intellectual rigour.’ The party has insisted that there should be a library in every BJP office in every state where there will be book-reading sessions for the members of the Party as well as documenting and digitizing every party event.

            At a very young age I was introduced to the realm of books when I started my schooling in Loreto Convent, Shillong. I became an avid reader of Enid Blyton’s books and from then on it just continued with Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham and then there are the present writers such as Chetan Bhagat, Khaled Husseini, Dan Brown, Stephen King, J.K.Rowling and also Booker Prize Winners like Arundhoti Roy, Salman Rushdie, Aravind Adiga and so many others.

Having taught in a reputed school in the city for many years, it was really distressing to note that in a class of around fifty students or so there were just one or two students who showed an interest in reading books other than those prescribed in their school syllabus. How can we expect these young minds to discover life beyond what they know from the school prescribed syllabus? How do they understand the different cultures, histories or geographies of other countries of the world? Reading helps students become smarter and open to new ideas. It helps them to develop analytical skills, stimulates their mind, ignites their imagination and inspires them to do great things in life. The youth of today have to realize that they are still far behind when rated with the rest of the vibrant minds in our country India and far less with the world whose knowledge expands beyond their states and their country.

Reading newspapers also provides great educational value. They carry information about politics, economy, sports, industry, trade, commerce etc. Through newspapers, we can get a clear understanding of what is happening in our country and the whole world. An analysis of various events occurring in our country and the world can help to shape our young minds and to shake off their parochial outlook and instead broaden their vision regarding events happening in every nook and corner of the world.

It is a pity to see that the only time people visit the Soso Tham Auditorium is for concerts, musical performances, rock fests or government functions and they just walk past the only library which is run by the state government as if it is non-existent. The only book stall which had been here for decades, Modern Book Depot, which used to be a favourite haunt of all book lovers and which had stacks of books on fiction, non-fiction, encyclopedias etc has closed down because people were more interested in buying clothes, shoes and other accessories rather than books. Whereas, if one visits cities like Kolkata, Delhi or any metro city there are books sprawled on pavements and young people thronging and crowding over them to buy books at subsidized rates. In places that are not so posh there are libraries in every nook and corner of the localities and the young have full access to them. Then there are Libraries-on-wheels which are mobile libraries which reach out to the people in the village or to slums which encourage young children who cannot afford to buy books to read as much as possible.

 Presently the young are spending hours on social media which has led to increased rates of anxiety and depression. Social media is unproductive use of time as it gives no food for thought. The amount of education one gets from it is very negligible compared to reading books. It hampers creativity as much of the time is spent in scanning what others are doing instead of reading which at least adds knowledge to our own lives.

Reading habits should be inculcated right from a young age. This is the best way to expand a child’s world. Children are made to read on the laps of their parents,

implying  that parents should be the ones to create the interest in children to

read.  Schools too can develop the interest to read by introducing a story-time class to make children love to read further or have students give a book review after they have been given a book to read.  WB Yeats, the famous poet said, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.

Whenever one reads a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.

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