Author Neil Gaiman revealed a surprising information in his lecture about how the private prison industry has been planning its future growth in terms of the number of cells that are needed for potential criminals in 15 years’ time. How exactly are they able to predict such a situation?

They made the prediction using a simple algorithm based on the percentages of 10 and 11-year-old children who could not read.

Such conjecture, though not significantly correlated, is reliable enough to give a hint on the causality of illiteracy with crimes. Now that sounds like bad news to the society, doesn’t it?

Studies have proven that literacy creates a better society; a safer society, rise in education success, better standard of living, etc.

Due to the decrease of interest and concern in books and reading amongst today’s society, individuals and parents may have inadvertently caused the death of love towards books and reading in children and young adults.

In fact, such actions may be inevitable, given the hectic modern lifestyle that is adopted today and the workloads that tie people up from day to night, all of which aren’t forgiving in nurturing the habit of reading in a person.

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In their early age, kids who don’t read are more prone to be misguided in their life later on. This is because they have not been exposed to the opportunity of developing a virtuous personality, a sense of moral values and to discover what kind of person they aspire to be, all of which can be achieved through books when a reader wants to emulate the values he or she comes across in between the pages of a book.

This may seem like an exaggeration but today’s reality have offered proof to us on the decaying of morality amongst youth these days.

If you are still reading this, we believe that you are part of the society’s minority who still care and believe that books play an integral part in shaping the future of a society.

Here, we list three things that contribute to the “killing” of love towards books that subsequently stop our kids from reading and becoming readers with well-developed intellects. Thus we would greatly appreciate it if you could prevent this misfortune from happening to your own kids.

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1. Making them dependent on the screen

When we watch TV, smartphones, videos from the internet, or even films, we are looking at what is happening to other people. We become the passive party with visuals and sounds being provided to us to watch and perceive. There is less need for us to use our imagination.

Reading a book, which comprises only of a set of 26 letters, requires the kids to create the world of the stories by themselves and look into it from their very hearts.

Based on the story, they design all the characters in their head. As they go through the story, they find themselves transforming into someone else, a character within the story, seeing everything that is happening in the book from their own perspectives.

This active process of “participating in the storyline” helps them to sharpen their thought process and contributes in the development of their own personality as they try to embody the moral values that are listed in the story itself. Once the story ends, this reader shall return to the real world as someone better after having actively learned the lessons from the book he or she just read.

There is a stark difference in terms of behavioural self-development between observing passively the unrelatable story of others and being the character itself to ‘experience’ the adventures.

With the images being spoon fed to viewers from the screen, why would they bother using their imagination to create characters and the fictional, rich inner world of those characters? They would grow up dependent on the input from the screens.

Not to mention, there are also the widely-known negative impacts of screen-dependency on a child’s social skills, motor skills, etc. If it is not handled correctly, it would give birth to diverse social problems in the future.

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2. Making them read non-fiction only

Today’s age of information is often understood as the world where one possesses a bucket load of knowledge, facts and numbers in one’s memories. This perception is wrong! Under the pretence of “preparing the child’s intellect for the future”, kids today are exposed by parents to books on facts and theoretical concepts.

While this initiative is not really off target, kids also need room for developing their creativity via reading fictions and storybooks. Creativity helps them in sharpening their skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-awareness.

Fiction, for one, sparks interest among kids to enjoy reading. Compared to non-fiction, a fiction story is usually set on a timeline in which it drives the kids’ motivation to keep on reading to know what will happen next.

Well, who will not want to know what is the ending of one’s favourite character after having to face all the torment and adversity (although it could sometimes be discouraging to read a book with a shocking plot-twist at the end of the story.)

Apart from that, works of non-fiction have a tendency to exclude aspects of emotion, empathy, lessons of life, and thought of wisdom because the focus is on the presentation of facts. These aspects are important if we aim to produce wholesome individuals with a sense of humanity and not mere emotionless robots.

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3. Making sure there are no (fun) books around

To make a child love reading, the child must first fall in love with books and this can only be achieved if the child feels there is something worth exploring in between the pages of a book, something that would pique their interest.

Thus can a place be considered as conducive in nurturing the love of books, if for example, a house of an accountant is only  filled with accounting books or the house of a software engineer has all sorts of books related to coding and computers but not one book that could intrigue the interest of his own child?

What about a house that has no book at all? Can a child fall in love with something that he or she has never even seen or met? Indeed these are thoughts for us to ponder upon.

Kids are so great at imitating. The absence of books — and the culture of reading — around kids would make them less likely to adopt this behaviour as they grow up. Not buying them any books or not bringing them to the library on a frequent basis would make them unappreciative of the benefits of both books and reading.

While it may be quite an aspiration if a parent wants to expose their children to intellectual and academic-type books early on in the children’s life, ignoring a child’s interest may actually be detrimental to this noble cause. Everything must be done in moderation and with careful consideration.

We want to make children love books and the habit of reading, not turn it into something that children view as burdensome and boring. Thus the type of books and the genre of books that we offer children matter greatly.  

So what makes a book a fun book? First and foremost, we have to consider the level of language and comprehension of the kids because each kid is different and have varying interests.

It is the responsibility of the parents to recognise what their kids love. Naturally, kids will enjoy doing what they love. What a great society and world we’d have if the activity that kids love the most is reading.