Dubai, UAE: With the explosion of technology-driven apps and games, UAE-based educators have warned that this could be the reason why children are getting distracted from reading despite efforts by schools and authorities to encourage a culture of reading.
Other educators pointed out that although there has been a slight increase in the number of students reading in their schools compared with previous years, more should be done by parents to ensure their children are reading enough books that fire their imagination.
With International Children’s Book Day (ICBD) falling on April 2. The ICBD is an annual global event marking the birthday of the literary giant, Hans Christian Andersen, who is best remembered for his fairy tales.
Each year the International Board for Young People (IBBY) chooses a different national section to be the ICBD sponsor and this year, it is the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY).
Ameenah Rasheed, an educator and a mother, believes that children’s attention is diverted by the pervading influence of cellphones, tablets and computer games, and that parents should step in to change this habit.
“Many parents complain that their kids don’t read even if they are provided with plenty of books. But [what they don’t realise is that] children observe their parents’ habits. If parents are reading, children, too, will be inspired to read,” she said. “Reading is an ability that can be promoted in different stages of children’s growth. This develops their verbal intelligence or vocabulary and non-verbal intelligence and reasoning power as well. Children who don’t receive enough training in reading may lose the IQ-boosting properties of literacy.”
Nargish Khambatta, principal, GEMS Modern Academy, said that regular books sales, school library records and online reading domain visits at her school reveal an increase in the number of readers. Technology, she believes, has only altered children’s reading habits, not damaged them.
“The love of reading can never be replaced by gizmos and gadgets — it will perhaps just get transposed on the tablet or Kindle reader,” said Khambatta. “Children love to read graphic novels, and what is interesting is to see them read classic novels in the graphic form. I suppose with the explosion of technology, children read a lot more, but the question to ask is: is the kind of reading they do developing their imagination, improving their vocabulary and stimulating their thinking?”
Shaheen Naseem, a design and technology teacher, International School of Creative Science, Sharjah, believes traditional reading methods should never be replaced by technology unless they are properly understood and used by parents, teachers and children.
She recalled the time when she enrolled her daughter in a school in India that used a curriculum focused on technology. She said it ended up having a negative impact on her daughter’s skills.
“They insisted that technology is everything and that it’s going to take over the world, so there’s no need to focus on developing children’s reading and writing skills. We were convinced, but then after six years in that school, we realised it was such a big mistake. We wanted the best education for her, but until now, her skills in reading and writing are not properly developed.”
A school counsellor at Delhi Private School in Sharjah said that a child’s reading skills are important to their success in school and work and helps in their cognitive development.
“Researchers have found a positive association between reading and the child’s subsequent acquisition of reading skills, language skills and cognitive development. If children start reading at a young age, they grow up to be smarter. Books teach a child thinking skills early and when parents read to their child, they learn to understand cause and effect, to exercise logic, as well as think in abstract terms. They also learn the consequences of actions, and the basics of what is right and wrong,” said Elizabeth Mathew.
© Gulf News
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