Being a bookworm myself, reading has been an issue of interest for me for ages. I believe reading is what made me the person I am today and surely will keep adding more to my personality as I grow older.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin
Reading has been a crucial part of my life. As a speech and language therapist, I have used story books with my patients to work on speech, language and social skills. I have used them to break the ice and make the children at ease. I have also used story books while working on imaginative play, and more. Reading is essential for my work with children at my private business, and it is invaluable in my voluntary work with children in different settings. My son reads a great deal each day, and I read to my daughters almost daily as well. It is quite an integral part of my daily life, and that of my children as well.
This is all normal and would normally be nothing worthy of noting. However, in the region of the Middle East, it is an issue that has been of alarm. A study done by Arab Thought Foundation in 2012 revealed that Arabs read only an average of 6 minutes a year!
I am not exactly sure of the reasons that lead to such a lack of reading in our culture. In my personal experience, I found that many Omani families do not read to their children. Some do not even know why reading aloud to children is important, and very few are willing to spend the money to buy children’s story books. I remember a few parents asking me to provide literacy work (counting, alphabets, etc.) for their children instead of story books because the former will help with school while the latter is a waste of time and money. The number of women I met personally during my life in Oman who read for leisure are so few I can name them. Reading is almost completely unheard of.
I think this is an important subject to target in the next few years. There are some wonderful initiatives that focus on encouraging reading among children, like the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Reading Initiative, which encourages students across the Arab world to read more. Academics have begun researching this topic as well, examining the lack of reading culture and the benefits that would be gained in developing such culture.
What do you think about this reading dilemma? Is reading to children a part of your culture?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Ibtisam Alwardi from Oman.
Photo courtesy of Rosmarie Voegtli / Flickr.
Wow, I really couldn’t imagine a life without reading! I learnt to read when I was 5 years old and books were my best friends growing up. We moved from Italy to South Africa when I was 8 years old and I learnt English mainly by reading everything I could get my hands on … that was actually a bit of a problem because my father only read Louis L’Amour Westerns at that stage and my mom Mills and Boon Romances. If you’re not aware of what they are … let me say they’re the worst kind of pulp fiction. Not only that, but American is actually different from the English spoken in other parts of the world … which brings me to a very funny story. 🙂 My uncle came to visit us from Italy and he wanted to have his moustache trimmed, so he asked me what the English word was for “moustache”. According to Louis L’Amour the word was “whiskers” (but in South Africa only cats have whiskers). He was SO cross when he got home cos he thought I’d told him the wrong word on purpose! I was as confused as he was. 🙂 Since I’ve always loved reading, I actually started reading out loud to my kids before they were even born and also had a bookcase of children’s books ready, even before my bag was packed for the hospital. 🙂 I definitely think that reading is very important.
Simona that is so funny, lol. English is a second language for me and I can relate to those funny encounters but mainly with pronunciation with me hahaha.
Reading is something that you usually take for granted when you are raised in a family that reads or a culture that appreciates reading really and you do feel lucky the moment you realise that it is not the same everywhere unfortunately.
I felt like I don’t belong when in school because I preferred spending more time at the library than at the playground.
I wouldn’t say that it’s part of my culture but a part of my upbringing. My older sisters loved to read, so I was lucky to have all their books which I went through pretty quickly. I preferred getting a book over a toy for presents, and even today I read before I go to bed. Like Simona, I bought a selection of books for my daughter before she was born. I read to my daughter everyday and they read a lot at nursery too. She really enjoys it and I hope that this carries on. I would honestly be horrified if she didn’t like reading. Especially in this age of the internet and youtube videos, it’s so easy to let new media replace books and reading. But there is so much to learn from literature, such depth of history and culture that simply cannot be neglected. This is such an important issue, Ibtisam! I’m glad you’re starting this discussion here.
KC, I can totally relate. It is easy to be engaged in other attractive smart technology and neglect books at this time. Its wonderful that you and Simona started reading for your children at very early stage. I am sure it made a huge difference.
I myself have a long list of books that I want to read before the end of this year.
Thanks for this captivating essay. …
And for for bringing to light this important issue…
Yes , in our communities we don’t read..
Except for the minorities of scholars, the sole book u could find in our homes is the holy ones….
We don’t because we’re still oral communities, we communicate by hearing and speaking..wich means an interactive communication.. the new technology is helping fully that way and i guess this is one cause why we ve fully embrassed them ..
Reading is an individualistic practice. .
When u read , u communicate with ur self and u have to develop ur imagination to give a form to ur reading. ..
Again, i think a lot of research has to be undertaken to understand this facts and issues.
Yes ,, that is a crucial point I totally missed. We are oral communities, the elderly usually tells stories that pass through generations. Reading has been practiced in ‘katateeb’ or ‘Quran schools and by a religious figure’.
Yes, reading allows us that time to relate to our individual selves.
Thank you for your comment.