They may not read classics, they may read books that aren’t bound in paper, but youngsters these days are definitely reading something, finds Neeti Sarkar
Get off the Internet and into the pages of a book. It’s an invitation to get involved with more interesting characters than you’ll find on Facebook, and affairs more intriguing than those of your friends you follow. Little children may be coaxed and cajoled into reading a bedtime story at least. But how do you get your pre-teen or young adult at home to read?
MetroPlus catches up with prominent new-age Indian novelists who talk about the changing trends in reading and how to get youngsters hooked to books.
While some believe the popularity of reading isn’t exactly declining, others like Varun Agarwal, whose debut novel How I braved Anu Aunty had Co-founded a Million Dollar Company has become a national sensation, observes: “Kids these days read a lot less than we used to at their age. We didn’t have Facebook in school but they do. With social media sites like this and YouTube, it is obvious that very little reading happens these days.”
Perceiving the situation from a different standpoint is Milan Vohra, the first Indian Mills&Boon author, who says: “Young people are reading plenty — they’re just choosing to do it differently. On their Smartphone, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad, etc. A lot of free apps on phones too like the epub reader make quite a lot of free eBooks available. I’ve been pleasantly surprised more than once to see my kids browsing through eBooks of classics like Sherlock Holmes.”
She adds: “Just as traditional sports have changed formats for less leisurely times and shorter attention spans, so too have publishing houses and tastes in reading. The shorter-length novels and novellas that can be read in a couple of days are, I hear, becoming increasingly popular; more so in the digital format. I see nothing at all worrying about this, because again, at least people are reading. You can bemoan the dwindling interest in test cricket and the fact that T20 cricket is here to stay but if you love the game, you’ve got to be happy at least the new formats keep it alive. In fact even if a film leads a person to go back and pick up the book it was based on, I see it as all good. If something motivates a person, of any age, to make time to read - as an author it gives me a raison d’être.”
Concurring with this observation is author Swati Kaushal (Piece of Cake, A Girl like Me and Drop Dead), who states: “Young people nowadays really like to express themselves with their choice of reading material. Whereas earlier everyone was reading the same recommended classics and favourites, now as the market have grown, youngsters are picking up different, offbeat books and genres that express their personalities, in much the same way as the clothes they wear or the music they listen to!”
For those who believe (and rightly so) youngsters aren’t reading as much as they should be reading, parents too might have a part to play in this sorry state of affairs. Given that children imitate parents, there must be something parents aren’t doing right or enough of, which is why many kids are even averse to reading.
Advaita Kala, author of Almost Single says: “Reading is integral for children — it aids in language acquisition, the importance of which cannot be underestimated as our world becomes a smaller space. In our society reading has been synonymous with text books and academic work. This must change. I think parents must encourage their children to read outside their school work. There are enough distractions these days, but the joy of reading is a gift every parent must give their child.”