Tanzina Tabassum Nova
“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”
— Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
This was me as a child. I was not all that interested in playing outdoor sports. Instead, I could be found curled up on the bed or sofa, reading a book.
My family has inspired me a lot to become the reader I am today. My father has always been a reader. My siblings and I inherited the habit, as well. When I was little, the older people in the family would read to me. When I learnt to read, nothing could stop me from reading. I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I read the same books over and over again, if there was nothing new to read.
Besides, having an elder sister helped me immensely. Whatever she read, I did, too. I remember reading the stories from her Bangla text books after finishing mine, as soon as we got new books at the beginning of the year. This was also the case with my younger brother. He never had to worry about collecting books, because his two elder sisters did it for him. This way, we started our journey as readers, and then continued on our own.
When asked how his family had helped him to be a reader, Joyanta (28) said that his father would take him to book fairs to buy books for him. He read children’s horror stories then. Then he started reading Tin Goyenda, which he collected himself. He read his mother’s Humayun Ahmed books. “I gradually moved from reading Tin Goyenda, Masud Rana, and western to Rabindranath and Sarat Chandra,” Joyanta added.
Asma (26) said that she started reading books from fifth grade. Her father used to bring her the magazine Kishor Kontho, some Islamic books, and urged her to read newspapers. She started with the books that Bishwa Shahitya Kendra brought to her school. Later, she became a member of the Travelling Library. The books she received as prizes in various competitions inspired her to read more.
Sadia (27) started with the books her father and grandfather had. Her uncle would give her encyclopedias. She would read them, and they would have discussions over them on the weekends. She mentioned another uncle, who used to take her to the Travelling Library of Bishwa Shahitya Kendra and help her choose books. They used to have discussions and debates about the books and the characters of those books. Sadia said, “The critical analyses we have to do now as students of literature, I used to do something similar with my uncle, when I was little.”
All the stories mentioned here have a common feature. Each of the interviewees had the support of their families when they started reading books. If their family members discouraged them or scolded them for reading story books, they might never have become avid readers.
Family support is crucial for anyone. Without this support, you can go only so far. This is true in case of becoming a reader, as well. As a member of the family, you should provide this support to those younger than you. Do not be like those parents who only think about the academic results of their children, or who consider reading story books a waste of time. You must understand that reading is an important habit to nurture. It makes one more equipped to face the challenges in life. Think about Hermione. How many times did she save Harry and Ron’s lives, just because she read, and knew exactly what needed to be done?
First, you should be able to provide an environment that supports reading. Make sure there are enough books in your home. Try to be the role model for the young ones. Read in front of them. Read aloud to them. All of this will help them grow an interest in reading from an early age. I recall reading novels/parts of novels to my younger brother, because he caught me giggling while I was reading and he had demanded to know the story.
The books you select for them are important. For those who are still learning to read, select books with bright, colourful pictures. The Disney books or books by Humayun Ahmed and Muhammed Zafar Iqbal for young learners could be good. With their growing age, choose books accordingly. After a while, they will not need you for choosing books. This means that you have performed your duty well, which was to get them started. Now, it is up to them to carry it forward.
Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Reading is the best tool to help spark this imagination. Once you cultivate the habit of reading in younger members of your family, you can be content that you have done something good for their future.
Tanzina Tabassum Nova is a full-time couch-potato, and a part-time reader, writer, translator, and reciter.