What Children should not Read
(Indian Express, December 29, 1990)

While reading widely is very important for the young children, not all reading is useful, says ANIL SARWAL, cautioning parents and children alike to be wary of ill-effects of reading "pulp" literature.

A NEIGHBOUR who knows I am in the teaching profession recently approached me with a request to loan him some English novels for his college-going daughter. During the course of our conversation, he enthusiastically informed me that luckily his daughter had grown very fond of reading, especially English books, novels and magazines. He specifically mentioned 'Mills and Boons’ series and other such romances which are very popular among the teenagers these days. Obviously, my neighbour had no idea of the content of the novels his daughter was reading. Like most other parents, he was taking delight in the fact that his daughter was reading a lot, and that was what mattered the most to him.

It is unfortunate that very few parents pay sufficient attention' to the quality of the reading materials which fall into the hands of the hands of their children. And so, because of their curiosity and infantile inclinations, and the influence of their friends, children read anything they can lay their hands on, without distinguishing between good and bad.

This has given rise to the publication of a large number of cheap books and magazines which mainly target the pre-adolescents and adolescents as their readers. A close look at the titles covers and contents of the novels, books and magazines displayed at any bookstall would horrify even the most liberal-minded parent. Much of the available fiction is romantic, where the hero or the heroine of the story is a man or woman in love by profession. The only aim, if this can be called an aim, of the author seems to be to stimulate the sensual impulses of the young people. Naturally, if something as toxic as this reaches the young mind, its pernicious influences will be far greater than the effect which unsuitable foods have on the body.

By spending a lot of time in reading these stories, the children are unable to devote sufficient time to books worth reading or even their textbooks. Those children who get addicted to reading these romances or westerns are many a time found reading them in their classes while teachers are labouring hard to impart them the knowledge of different subjects. Actually these tales of love and romance provide for the young readers a means of escape from the real world, so much so that their opinions about the real world get coloured.

Even at home most of the time these youngsters keep reading these books instead of preparing their assignments. So much so that if the parents ask them to do some chore, the interruption in their chain of 'sweet' thoughts upsets them very much. They will either ignore the request, or carry it out angrily.

Moreover, the adolescents who read these novels, which invariably have sections bordering on erotic, experience severe excitement of the nerves, and their sexual drives begin functioning before the appropriate time and in a way which is unnatural. As a result, they fall prey to many evil habits detrimental both to their bodies and minds. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that wrong books can mislead. Addiction to them is very much like addiction to TV movies or drugs. At times, even the lives of the young victims can be endangered by imbibing wrong models. If we decide not to go so far, something as simple as indiscriminate reading of magazines and newspapers can also distort the young minds. However, over-enthusiastic parents, who do not control the reading habits of their children, seldom realise these dangers.

Fathers end mothers, therefore," should continually keep watch over the books their children read. As they take care of their children s food and clothing, so should they ensure healthy development of their mental faculties mindful lest some harmful reading material should stupefy the minds of their children with the narcotic substance which lies concealed in its pages. From the very beginning, parents should raise their children in such a way that they will, of their own accord, consult them in their choice of books, novels and magazines while borrowing them from the library or buying them in the market. If an unsuitable book falls in the hands of the children, the parents should be frank and tell them reading the book is not good for them.

Parents themselves should observe the dictates of wisdom and not keep in their homes newspapers or magazines which contain inappropriate articles for children and adolescents.

This is one way of preventing children from reading such things. Further, when the time is ripe and the adolescent children are prepared to listen, the parents should bring home to them the importance of reading the right kind of books. Tell them that just as a heavy and unsuitable meal disturbs the stomach, so does a bad book exhaust the readers brain, diminishes his powers of perception and weakens and enfeebles his nerves. The children should be counselled to carefully evaluate their reading materials to get them evaluated from a knowledgeable and sympathetic person before they actually under take to read them.

In many chemist shops there is a section where a sign corn prising skull and crossbones is displayed and the word Poison' is written beneath in bold letters. The poisonous substances are thus separated from other items so that they are not given to a customer by mistake. Similar precautions should be taken with unsuitable books and magazines, if at all brought into the home.

This would prevent these from falling into the hands of unsuspecting children. Such precautions need to be taken not only with the romantic novels, books or magazines but with all reading materials depicting a great deal of violence, horror, anger, lust, etc. This is necessary if we want our children to grow up as healthy adults with uncontaminated 'minds'.

Remember reading widely is very important for the young children, but not all reading is useful.