I do not remember the first book I read. Was it Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series? Or was it a ‘Babysitters club’ shared from my sister? Or RL Stine?
But for sure, I remember, my childhood was punctuated with books, comics and children’s magazines. I have often seen my parents and my elder sister often lost in a book. Our house was filled with books ranging from religion to the complete edition of ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’. In the book ‘Freakonomics’ the author states that a child who grew up in a house filled with books often indulges in the habit of reading irrespective of the fact whether the parents read or not ! So, where do we get that initial seed of inspiration for reading? Parents, siblings, teachers, friends or a drive within ourselves to know of a certain matter?
Reading opens up our world, broadens our horizon of thinking and introduces to us cultures and people we might never meet in this lifetime. I love travelling and learning about different cultures, but besides 3 countries, I really haven’t traveled much. Reading paves that way to travel to a new country through the words of another individual who views the world through a different lens.
‘Snow’ by Orhan Pamuk gave me an insight in to the scenic snow-covered locations of Turkey. ‘The Kite runner’ by Khaled Hosseini made me know of the ‘Hazaras’ in Afghanistan, treated in a sad manner by the bourgeoise, similar to the way the ‘untouchables’ are treated in India. ‘Mornings in Jenin’ by Susan Abul Hawa opened up my world in to the olive mounts of Palestine – a land filled with natural beauty, spiritual awakening and the meeting point for the three monotheistic religions of the world, yet today the country is riddled with illegal settlements, apartheid, missiles and loss. ‘Maximum city : Bombay, lost and found’ by Suketu Mehta gives us a compelling read of the inner working of the great Metropolis of India, Bombay. ‘Links’ by Nurudheen Farah talks of the chaos created by the warring tribes in Somalia, through the eyes of a person returning to his native land after 20 years.
I might never visit Turkey, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia etc in this lifetime, yet my mind convinces me, maybe, just maybe, I might have seen a glimpse of these countries through words. I shudder at the thought, what if I had never taken up reading. How much of the world would have been lost to me?
If you are a parent or and elder sibling, help the kids around you to take an active interest in the written word. The written word helps to convey to us the wisdom of human beings, learnt through mistakes and experience, from the first generation to the current one. That might be the biggest gift you give your child – an active interest in books and literature.
The first word revealed to mankind was not pray, or listen but ‘Read’ ! How emphatic is that order ! ‘Read, in the name of the Lord who created you’ (96:1) For only with the help of reading, do we find God. Comprehension of the written Word helps us to come closer to God and internalize our belief in Him. To summarize it – To God, through word.
Read the words of the saint and the sinner. Read the words of the oppressed and the oppressor. Read the words of the downtrodden and the rich. Read the words of the crippled and the healthy. For when we read about both the sides of the same coin, our hearts always choose the one that is right.
*Iqra’ in Arabic means , read. The first word revealed to mankind by God to Prophet Muhammad PBUH, through angel Gabriel
(Linking it to ABC Wednesday – the letter B)