Parents must help impart the reading habit to their children Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
June 17, 2002

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SOME of the most gratifying commercials, currently broadcast on American television, tell of the transformative features of special reading programmes designed for children who have difficulties in decoding the written word. Even if one were to discount half of the claims made by the advertisers as routine hype, it would be difficult to dismiss the entire process, which seems to have had such remarkable success in kindling within children the wonder of bringing to life those formerly indecipherable symbols on a flat page. In the words of one excited father, his son was running around celebrating and inviting members of his family to listen to him read a story!

Such happenings are particularly welcome in a society like the United States of America where almost every facet of human activity is dominated by the electronic media. Children are especially vulnerable participants in this process since industries with billion dollar budgets target children, whose parents are then constrained to purchase new gizmos just so that their youngsters do not feel left out because they do not own the latest reincarnation of the Elmo toy. With numerous television programmes, a range of video and computer games competing on a daily basis for children’s attention, it is a wonder that some children have adequate time and the required focus to internalise lessons and to complete homework assignments.

While most children in Third World countries such as Guyana do not have access to all the popular gadgets that are used by children in the industrialised societies, parents and educators have noted that the level of reading amongst schoolchildren has dropped considerably within the last decade or so, which, it is believed, corresponds with the acquisition of television sets in more households.

One significant correlation between reading and academic success is evident after the results of the Secondary Schools Entrance Examinations (SSEE) and the CXC tests. Most of the children who perform brilliantly speak of having made their studies and homework priorities and television viewing a non-priority. These successful children were constantly encouraged to read by their parents or guardians and their teachers.

Late in 1998, when Dr Dale Bisnauth was Minister of Education, he told a gathering he was convinced that if meaningful strides in education are to be made, then the situation of responsible parenting must be considered. Then, in noting the advent of the Christmas season, Dr Bisnauth suggested that the best gifts parents could give their children were books and educational toys. We would like to take it further by suggesting that one of the best gifts a parent could bestow on a child is a love of books and the written word.

When children are exposed to storytelling and reading as toddlers, they develop an ear for narrative and the unfolding of a story in which they use their imaginations to draw pictures in their minds from the words they see or hear. As they develop to the point where they can choose their own storybooks, they learn that through the power of the written word, they can immerse their minds in the worlds portrayed in various stories. Then, even later, as young adults, they can use the medium of the written work to explore the wonders of science and high adventure and to become acquainted with the triumphs of human achievement in various fields. Parents would be investing in the greatest development of their children’s minds when they inculcate the love of reading in their children.