The event ‘Bitten by the Reading Bug’, was one that captured the essence of the International Festival of Literature and Arts, Valley of Words, held in Dehradun. A session attracting people from across ages, all of them were bound together by their shared love for the written word. Matthew Raggett, one of the two esteemed panellists throwing light on the issue, was of the opinion that devices could not replace hard copies, and were an unhealthy substitute. Since technology cannot be debarred, the least parents can do is regulate their kid’s usage.
Currently serving as the headmaster at The Doon School, Mr. Raggett also said that memorizing without meaning is essentially useless, offering advice on the issue: “There is no intrinsic value in knowing the periodic table by heart. But if you can explain to me how oxygen and nitrogen differ from each other as chemical compounds, that is interesting.” This nuance can be developed among kids, only if they are pushed in the right direction at an early age.
Colonel Vivek Sharma, present as a co-panellist, revealed the system the army maintains to inculcate the habit of reading among officers. Recognizing the value of books and their contribution to leadership, unit members, in many instances, are supposed to bring back a book with them every time they return from home. This allows the unit to stack together various books, even giving space to book reviews and analysis of what was last read.
Many among the audience professed to reading to their young children, a point emphasised upon by both Mr. Raggett and Sharma. The advent of graphic novels on the scene have provided yet another avenue as an alternative means of expression for the human condition.
Arbitrary knowledge does not mean much, said Mr. Matthew Raggett. There is no inherent personal or social benefit in being able to quote from Milton or Shakespeare, it is in the decoding art forms and the larger human condition that lies the idea of true achievement.
Meaningfully conveying your ideas is an art that is shaped and reshaped through books, and the habit of reading helps in refining the individual’s stream of thought. The panellists and audience both agreed that clarity in thought, through which emerges the talent of being a good writer, is a natural extension of being a reader.
“Libraries do not just exist as structures. Learning happens in kitchens, while gardening, when you’re holding an interesting piece of fiction.”, said Mr. Reggett, once again, as he passionately stressed upon the idea of parenting in this area. To be able to have your child learn in the real world, it is important to not be an enabler of his or her addiction. As the learned educationist puts it simply, “If you don’t want your kids to use these devices, don’t buy them any.”
The session was a reminder of what reading can do to an individual life, the way it encourages one to sharpen their mind. However fast-paced the world becomes, reading can give us some stillness; and that is an important aspect of how we bring up children, and the kind of world we create for them.