By Girija Jhunjhunwala
When the sky is dark and the moon is shining bright, the only thing that can quieten the troubled mind is a storybook.
Lifestyles are changing. Previously, lazing around in front of the television during the summer holidays used to be a suitable method for children to relax in order to avoid the sweltering heat outside. Nowadays, they are too occupied with having to finish their coursework and take part in extracurricular activities. On top of that, they are exposed to the unfiltered information on the Internet and other media.
Children cannot be found lazing around at all anymore. They are always busy doing something, catching up with the world and the events taking place. There is a burning need to know things, to achieve certain results and own certain products. This burning desire may not be all wrong, but the innocence and happiness associated with childhood is being left behind.
There is a constant build-up of peer pressure, which often leads to low self-esteem and a stunted feeling of self-worth, thereby affecting the mental wellbeing of a child. In such a situation, reading a good book can provide a good method of escape. Quality reading time works like magic in helping one unwind from all the tension.
But how does reading books really help in the mental well being of children?
Reading time can be family time
In present days, both parents are usually working and by the time they reach home, they are very tired. The children are smart and quickly understand not to bother their parents. Reading books during bedtime can be a way to unwind for parent and children. The time and effort put in by parents will be seen as special time and will give a sense of security and feeling of being loved to the children. In the end, the children just need to know that they are loved and cared for.
Reading as a group activity can develop interpersonal skills
Reading is generally considered to be a solitary activity, but it can be a group activity too. Parents and teachers can organise group reading events in local libraries, parks, homes or at school. The children can read one book together, or exchange books. Parents and teachers can also have sessions where they read aloud the stories to the group, bringing the story and characters alive. It is scientifically proven that listening to the stories helps children retain information. It also makes the experience more fun. The group activity also helps the children develop interpersonal skills and make friends easily. They will not have problems speaking to people, even if they are naturally shy.
A good vocabulary helps children in vocalising their feelings
Reading a variety of genres and literature introduces children to many different characters, adventures, outlooks and opinions. They may form a connection with a character or a situation in a book instantly, and eventually empathise with them. Empathy is an important element in the emotional development of the children. They can also learn new words that can help them articulate themselves better. Reading can often lead to children writing their own stories, poems, notes, journals and so on, helping them become good writers in the future.
Reading enhances the mind, broadens the imagination and feeds the curiosity of the child. But sometimes the parent may face a problem of turning their child away from various gadgets and making them even crack open a book. In such cases, it would be advisable to start them off with books with illustrations and not text-heavy books. Graphic novels and comics are a good way to jump-start a child’s reading habit. The sequential art and the lucid text give an extra edge to the reading experience. They transport the reader to a world of fantasy and this helps in making children more creative and imaginative.
Thus, reading is a major source of mental wellbeing. There have been times when people have been able to tide over the greatest of crises simply through the habit of reading. It is no wonder that many say books are a person’s best friend. Therefore, it is important that children are introduced to the habit of reading at a very early age, and even if they show a lack of interest in reading, one can always introduce them to graphic novels to inspire them to read more.
(The writer is Director, Campfire Graphic Novels.)