Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bookworm club

The loudest lament in schools these days by English teachers is that kids these days don't read. And they don't. They really don't. They think you should pat them on the back because they've read the latest Harry Potter. And now that Harry Potter's defeated Voldermort, they no longer need to read. I'm guilty as charged too. I don't read as much as I should. I spent my growing up years running around, climbing trees, catching spiders and cycling. It was the ultimate punishment to make me read a book. But then, one day, I did and I didn't stop reading. I read on the bus, I read during meal times, I read in bed and wrecked my eyes. I read. No doubt, I didn't read high brow stuff (I still remember, a) stressing out and then b) rolling my eyes when a classmate in college declared to everyone and anyone listening that her favourite writer was Chekhov), but I still read.

I don't read as much as I used to and when I do manage to find time to, I'm always pleased and inspired to read more. But by that time, I'm back at work and finding time to sleep is a problem, let alone read. I'm sorry to say, Maslow was right about me. Basic survival needs come first.

Now that I have kids, I'm quite intent on getting them to read. But I don't really know how to do it. There are a whole lot of methods out there, many of them involving flash cards and treating the kids like plants in a hot house and I'm not sure how much I agree with Glenn Doman or Shichida or who ever and whatever. So, imagine my horror when obviously, the establishment and the national broadsheet seem to be in great approval of these methods by running a story on a 3 year old that can read menus. The Singaporean mom in me freaked out and worried about not giving my kids the best head start I could afford. The anti-establishment mom in me wanted to give the article and everything written in the article the finger partly because it had stressed out the Singaporean mom in me but partly because it breeds such insanity in Singapore that everyone gets dragged into it and by Primary One, the parents are glared at by the teachers if the kid doesn't know how to spell hippopotamus and chrysanthemum. And I really don't want to be party to making my children that stressed.

When the anti-establishment mom in me and the Singaporean mom in me settled down enough, the catty me then began to wonder, in light of the illiterate students we get in school, perhaps their being made to read put them off reading for the rest of their life or that getting them to read by 18 months wasn't indicative of how much they were going to read later on in life. Whatever it was, there was some incongruity. The rational me of course, reminded the rest of me that these were different samples of the population and to figure out whether all this Glenn Doman-Shichida-hothouse-flashcard stuff really works, we'd have to wait a couple of years from now.

At the same time, I'm also thinking about all those teachers I had who frowned at the fact that we read Jeffrey Archer and Tom Clancy and how much of a fit they would throw now because the students that come my way now, don't even know Jeffrey Archer, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton and company. They are the ones who would list, as the last book they read, a Lit book they read when they were made to do compulsory literature 2-4 years ago. And these are probably the same people who would throw a fit at the new Chicklit awards. I'm not all that big a fan of chick lit but hey, if it gets friends of mine who wouldn't otherwise open a book to read, why not?

I'm just not sure how I'm going to be when my kids want to read the Babysitters' Club and the modern day equivalent of Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High (are they still around?). Right now, I'm stressing about how to introduce Chinese into their linguistic diet. And that's when the extremely monolingual mom in me goes "Oh Crap!" and proceed to moan that she can't even exclaim that in another language.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 14:00

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