by Nguyen Thuy Binh
How many hours a day will my children spend reading books? This is a question I always ask myself because I'm afraid that my children, and many others in big cities, might grow up without developing the habit of reading books as part of their everyday lives.
When I was small, I read many children's books, particularly during summer holidays. My mother was strict and didn't allow me to play outside on blazing hot days. Instead, she bought books for me with a view to keeping me at home.
In addition, I was handed many older books from my cousin. Most of those books were literature.
Naturally, books became my friends and I have developed a book reading habit.
Luckily, my husband also has this same reading hobby, and we agree about the importance of reading in our family. We agreed that it was necessary to establish a book reading hobby in our children at a young age.
When our sons were in kindergarten we bought them books illustrated with colourful paintings about animals to help them learn about nature.
Moreover, I always read stories at bedtime to the children. There were a few books I read again and again to them. They learned these stories by heart and could prompt me in case I made a mistake.
By junior school age my children were happy when reading books and received awards for their remarkable study achievements.
My husband and I have different ways to buy books for them. My husband always agrees to buy all the books my sons want. Possibly, he is too busy and has no time to ask why the sons want those books.
On the other hand, I make good use of our time to talk with my sons about the books they read and how they have learned about a book. I take them to bookstores and we buy books together.
I, myself, try to spend time talking with them about stories whenever they finish a book, so that they might profoundly understand the book.
As a result, my older son is always eager to speak to me about stories he has read. Gradually, he has become keen about reading and he can read anything at any place.
I remember that once he spoke out loud about an advertisement for viagra – a medicine for impotence in men – in the crowd.
His imagination is profound and his talking is funny.
My sons are now 15 years old and buy books by themselves. I don't care much about what kinds of book they read, because I believe that they like reading and know which books they want to read.
However, for other people, including journalist Ho Thi Ngoc Dung from Banking Economics Times, helping children to select book is no less important than helping them to become interested in reading.
She says literature books make up only about 20 per cent of the books in her family library. The rest are intellectual books with different themes, including various dictionaries and science books.
"I suggested to my daughter that it is not necessary to read literature books, since she has not had much experience in life," says Dung.
"We just buy and read literature books related to the true, the good and the beautiful," says Dung.
She always prioritises book buying with her daughter. They spend hours researching books before deciding to buy them.
"We consider book authors and fields that we are interested in. We spend more than VND2 million (roughly US$100) per month, on average, buying books," Dung says.
She stresses that it is very important to define the purpose of reading a book. She divides this into three basic groups, including reading for entertainment, those that are necessary to read and books she is passionate about.
However, Dung says she cannot say much about how to promote reading books for young people because each parent has their own way to encourage book reading in their families.
Encouraging children in reading is the target of a project entitled Promoting Reading Culture in Community in 2015-20 launched by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
The project is estimated to cost about VND230 billion ($100,000), which will be funded from the State-budget.
"The project focuses on book reading habits and skill education in schools," said Dr Nguyen Ngoc Minh from the Literature Department at Ha Noi Teachers' Training College, during a seminar held on July 28 in Ha Noi.
"Many children don't have book reading habits because their parents think that reading cannot help the children to succeed at examinations," she said.
Minh is running a small project that seeks to inspire children to read books with volunteers - students from her college. "We meet at locations and hold book reading classes. The volunteers have helped children to read books more effectively," said Minh.
"Book reading will be sustainable if parents see the importance of book reading. But the most important thing for children in cities is to encourage them to read books. There is not a lack of books in the big cities".
In contrast, another book project by Nguyen Quang Thach aims to fill up bookshelves.
Thach is founder and manager of Tu Sach Dong Ho (Clan Bookshelf), a project that supplies books, newspapers and magazines free of charge to rural communities.
Thach says that rural children are eager to receive books because they have never owned books before. He also stresses the importance of supplying children with literature books.
"Literature books should make up 70 per cent, and the rest should be science, history and English books. This rate is suitable for children," says Thach.
"In the digital era where information is available at the click of a mouse, it is important to create the reading hobby in children as soon as possible.
"Books can help people live in a more humanistic way," he noted. — VNS