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Born a bookworm

How early is late? How late is early? With books, as with many other virtues in humans, the earlier the start, the easier the pace of the run, says Benita Sen.

books Updated: Jan 06, 2004 11:00 IST

How early is late? How late is early? With books, as with so many other virtues in human nature, the earlier the start, the easier the pace of the run.

While research into pre-birth influences continues, it is certainly a fact that the younger the child is exposed to books, the more the chances of the attachment with the printed word growing.

Says Gautam Jatia of Emami Landmark Stores, by far the largest bookstore in Kolkata with its whopping 20,000 sq ft of space, "We want to expose children to the world of books. "Reading is a habit and if you don't acquire it till class four or five, you don't normally read after that."

But before the bookstores can interact one to one with the children, it's the parents who have to lay the foundation. I've often been asked by parents who do not enjoy reading, if there's any chance of their children picking up the habit.

Says language teacher Anindita Dey, "Even if parents don't read, impressing on the child that books are fun, ought to be half the trick." She recommends beginning in the cradle. Just as the child plays with toys, colourful books and magazines, she can touch and turn the pages of, help in reinforcing the reading habit.

"Reading is a habit and if you don't acquire it till class four or five, you don't normally read after that."

By nine months, when the child is comfortably seated, she says, washable books made of fabric and plastic can be given as toys. Children are born imitators. Newspapers and old magazines that someone at home, specially role models like parents or grandparents and siblings read, become part of the play pen.



If parents truly wish their children to take to reading, even when they don't enjoy it, there's a bit of a charade to be acted out. Magazines, pulp fiction, anything that conveys the parent's joy of reading is worth devoting some time to regularly, and certainly in the presence of the child.



As Gautam Jatia points out, at Landmark, the interest is secured with a prudent mix of products that are related to books in some way. Snazzy stationery and toys strewn around the store makes the visit interesting while "they get exposed to books."

After all, says Jatia, reinforcing the catch 'em young belief, "in 90 per cent of the cases, you don't start reading in college!"

The original Landmark store in Chennai opened about twelve years ago when such bookstores were virtually unheard of in these regions. The entire Landmark package grew so attractive that children dropped in as a habit. "Many of the child readers who used to come to Landmark Chennai are now working or studying abroad, and when they visit Chennai, they still drop in to browse and tell us their stories of this association."

Of course, such brand loyalty is a boost for publisher and retailer. "This loyalty does help a lot," agrees Jatia. But what it does for the child is to make reading an enjoyable habit for life. "For these children and their mothers, it's almost a habit to come to a bookstore when they have time on their hands," sums up Jatia.

Reading may be a solitary pastime, but for the child, it needs to be reinforced by the parents and the school with some help from authors, publishers and retailers.