“Reading should become a natural habit like bathing or eating”


opines Raghu Ram Aiyar, executive sr. vice president, Amity University Press, in conversation with Varsha Verma of All About Book Publishing.

When you pick up a new book, it is like picking up a new born baby…the joy is tremendous. The four skills of learning are reading, writing, speaking and listening. With reading you get a command at various words and you get confidence in speaking. When you speak with confidence, you know the correctness to write. When you listen, you understand. So, by reading you also develop all the other three skills of learning,” says Raghu Ram Aiyar, executive sr. vice president, Amity University Press.

“Reading is enjoyable and beneficial but today’s children are really missing out on the reading habits. They are missing the fun and the widening of their horizons which come with it,” he adds.

Why reading is declining?

Immediately, finger would be raised on the latest technology available. “But, all these technological upgradations like mobiles, tablets, search engines like Google, etc – are all enabling you to find more information. If you use them properly, they can help you read more. For example, when you see National Geographic channel, you get to know so many new things. Sometimes, you want to know more. And, you either go to Google to find more information or you pick up a book on the same. But, not many people are doing this. So, the reading habits are going down,” tells Aiyar.

The silver lining…

Mercifully, the latest report from USA says that students are spending 38-40% less time on electronic gadgets for knowledge. “It could be that they are going back to reading books,” he adds.

“Technology has come to stay but we can improve the reading habits. In United States, they have a DEAR programme, which means Drop Everything And Read. Every week, for two hours, the schools including the school authorities, teachers, principals, staff and students leave everything and read for two hours. These books are general books of their choice and not textbooks. Similarly, at the home front, parents sit with their children and do course books. This is to ensure that reading habits do not die. Similar thing can be emulated in India,” he says.

Inculcating the reading habits at home…

“Child must begin reading more at the home front. “I feel a child should start reading at the age of 5 or 6 years. Parents need to play a bigger role in it. In India, where mother tongue is mostly spoken at homes, children pick it up without any problem. But, since English is the link language for us, it can only be improved through reading,” tells Aiyar.

Aiyar feels that how much you read is more important than what you are reading. “For example, if children like to read comics, let them do that. They are atleast developing the habit of reading. Gradually, they can move on to other books. When a child reads, he might come across difficult words, which he can look for in the dictionary and improve his repertoire of words. Their vocabulary will improve and they will have more confidence in speaking,” he says.

Inculcating the reading habits at school…

“At the school level, schools have come up with numerous projects which are aimed to improve the reading habits of children. Project studies can be done in a combined way by reading a lot of information-oriented textbooks. Reading should become a natural habit like bathing or eating,” shares Aiyar. “In my opinion, reading habits can develop by a certain amount of co-ordination both at the home and institution front.”

On Amity schools…

“Amity has 14 schools in India, with a total strength of nearby 25,000. We are also planning to open a number of schools in Middle East. Next year, we can witness a huge spurt in Amity schools globally,” tells Aiyar.

So, what makes Amity schools special? “First, right from the time, the children get into the pre-primary segment, we try to inculcate the values in the child – whether it is the school song, dress, cultural activities, variety entertainment programmes, exchange programmes, etc. Amity is known for moral values that can be imbibed through music, sports, dance, etc,” he shares.

Further talking about the values taught to children, Aiyar shares that there are two important segments that play a major role – parents and the schools. “Home front is where a child gets his complete education and the school front is where the child gets the formal education,” he added.

“Another thing that sets Amity apart from other schools is that academics is not limited to the four walls of the classroom. It is much beyond that. It lays great emphasis on sports and games. I am myself witness to it as my son is an Amity student and he plays tennis at national level. When you are playing in the field, you stand to lose attendance and the course that is taught in class. But, Amity encourages budding sportsmen and holds special lessons, classes and tests for them at a later date. That is why children from Amity are doing very well in sports,” explains Aiyar.

Talking more about the value-added features at Amity schools, Aiyar points out that when a child passes from Amity school, he does not has just a certificate. “He has much more…he is fit to go to college and he is ready to meet the future challenges. We have various testimonial case studies which show that students passed from Amity Schools or college have done extremely well,” he shares.

Points to be kept in mind by schools for choosing the books for the curriculum:
1. The decision-maker should have the authority of the subject.

2. The book should be child-friendly, besides adhering to the curriculum.

3. A lot of information/activities have to be given.

4. Short stories with moral values should be there.

5. It should be an error-free book.

6. It should be high on production value.

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