On Teaching Children to Read

I’m sitting at Starbucks with a bunch of ladies sitting on a table next to mine, with two young kids. A boy and a girl. Both around three. Or maybe they are two two-year-olds. I’m bad at guessing ages.

So the children are cranky because their mothers and a grandmother are busy chatting. What is a child supposed to do? They show more interest in my drink and wanting to jump over to my table because something about me attracts them. My secretary glasses? My Mac? The fact that I smiled at them and said “Hello”?

And when the mothers drag them back, they bawl. So what is a mother supposed to do, to keep their children interested and focussed on their own table? They whip out their cell phones, turn on YouTube and let the kids watch a cartoon. And just like that, the kids are hooked. Just like that.

I’m surprised really. Not that I’m judging the mothers or their parenting behavior. I mean what do I know about raising children? I don’t have any. But I do know about having been raised as a child. My mother didn’t whip out a phone to get me to quite down. Okay, back then mobile phones didn’t exist. But she had a different trick. She taught me to read.

She got me the first of my books when I was just a couple of months old. She taught me my first alphabets when I was two. At three, I had started saying them out loud. By the age of five, I could read simple sentences. By the age of seven, I could read comfortably. Except, the word “comfortably” was a tongue-twister to me. By the age of eleven, I was writing my very first story. At the age of sixteen, I was already blogging.

So I didn’t learn to read or write in a day. I started young. The result is that I write voraciously today. I write business articles. I write about marketing. I help my clients write posts on social media, and I help senior executives of companies write interesting editorials. I spin my observations about the world in the form of blog posts like this one. I write short stories. I’m working towards my first novel.

And I read. I read like only a madman can read. Every time I buy a physical copy of a book, and I buy quite a few every month, the only question that haunts me is, where am I going to stock them as my home has run out of storage space.

But I don’t give up. Not on the reading. Or the writing. I have a talent which I turned into a passion and which is now helping me to pay my bills. It took time though. To reach this point. And it happened only because I had a mother who chose to hand me a book to keep me occupied instead of giving me a phone or turning on the TV so that I could watch a cartoon.

I was taught to read.

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