There is an old saying that reading makes a man perfect. It has been believed that avid readers tend to have a better grasp on realities and are known to be better judges of people. The words of Joseph Addison also rightly remind the education system that – Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
There are number of instances which clearly indicate a sharp decline in the reading habit of the new generation. It is evident from the fact that in an interview for a job in an MNC when the candidate, who has done graduation with honours in English literature, was asked to name any novel by an India author, which he read recently and he candidly admitted that he had read none.
In another occasion, when a candidate feigned his ignorance, seeking for a BPO job to comment on, Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller “A Night at a Call Centre”. Surprisingly, this candidate, too, was a student of English literature.
Similarly, in the third incident, when a written test held for jobs in a bank, candidates were asked to tick the correct option for the author of "Letters From A Father to His Daughter". Most candidates ticked Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi or Rabindra Nath Tagore as their choices, only a few ticked the name of Jawaharlal Nehru as the correct choice.
All these three instances clearly indicate a sharp decline in the reading habit of the new generation.
But on the other hand, in the recent concluded India Summit – A Dialogue – at Chandigarh, Abhijay Chopra said, People are still rooted to their culture and old traditional ways which includes still reading from a hard copy newspaper. “It's a traditional way people go by updating themselves about the world. As a result lakhs of newspaper reader still exist in the country. Newspaper is still one of the most impactful sources of media, he said mentioning about Bollywood Tadka website and about the Facebook page of Jagbani.
Even our parents used to say that ‘Bol 'Bol Kar padho tabhi yad rahega'. Similary newspaper informs you but Radio reminds you. If you hear about some sale or discount going on the radio you will pay a tad bit attention to the advertisement 'Han yar wahan sale lagi hai'!
About two decades back, if someone said that he or she had not read a Tagore or a Tolstoy that person was looked down upon by others. There was a strong sense of accountability and responsibility among the youth but with the gradual advent of globalization and nuclear family structures, life has become mechanical and money-oriented.
The concept of intrinsic value addition is now a long lost idea as students are under constant pressure for performance. In this tech era, when browsing the internet, playing with cell phones and sending SMSes seem to be the order of the day, reading a book in a peaceful corner of a library has become an outdated idea for most of the people and confined to only for those who are doing some research work for references. So growing use of television and internet facilities have also resulted in the decline of the book reading habit.
At the same time, when a research scholar, Rajiv Arora, doing his PhD in bio-fuel was asked the reasons for decline in reading habits, he said, “It is not like that students are not acquiring knowledge, but they prefer to browse internet instead of reading books”. Adding to his version, he stated that audio-visual presentations are more effective and printed works are gradually losing their charm.
Despite the fact that earlier people used to read mostly fiction but now there is more demand for non-fiction, particularly career-oriented books.
There is a decline in the sale of books by more than 60 per cent in the last two decades because of two reasons – first, obviously having no interest in reading and second, and the high cost of books.
Notwithstanding that people are not reading books as they used to but their thirst for information seems to be limitless. Paul Saffo, a director of the Institute for Future in Menlo Park, California is of the view that “Media is not a zero sum game. Just because of new medium arrives doesn’t mean an old medium dies out”. He hopes for a resurrection of the habit of reading books.
In the mainstream education, no serious efforts are made in primary schools to set aside some time for reading. Even the moral education period for ten minutes known as ‘Niti Period’ in 50-60s has been discontinued. However, whenever there is a pressure on the government education system, the short-term reading campaigns are undertaken but soon the student’s reversion to their non-reading status.
Frankly speaking, it is an admitted fact that while technology is taking control steadily over individual lives; the reading habit is fast vanishing into thin air.
The diminishing numbers of visitors are not only to school or college libraries but also due to dwindling business of leading booksellers and publishers in the state confirm the growing apathy of the intelligentsia towards books.
More-over, the students just want to pass an examination to secure a white-collar job and they prefer to study only such materials which are required for completing a particular course. Need of the hour is to keep a balance between the mental age, reading age and chronological age of children as a quality index of primary education. The teachers have to inculcate the habit of reading among students to secure their future.
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