Quick self-test:

1.    What are the books you have read until now? Please list them with the authors.
2.    What are the books you read in the last 3 months?
3.    How much TV do you watch daily? Can you write down what you learnt from the TV program you watched last night?
4.    How many books do you own? Do you have a library?
5.    Do you buy books regularly?
6.    What kind of books do you read? What do you learn from them? Can you list what you learnt? (Kind of books you read is critical. Not simply reading to pass the time from which we learn nothing.)
7.    Are you ‘allergic’ to reading? Do you take ‘pride’ in the fact that you can’t read more than 2 pages?
Numerous surveys have shown that children of parents who own libraries and who are habituated to reading tend to read more. Children who see their parents reading like to read. Initially they imitate the parents, they look at the pictures and later they get interested in reading on their own. They are in a print-rich environment, they hear conversation dealing with authors, thoughts and ideas and this produces a desire to read and acquire knowledge. Parents who want to encourage children to read have libraries of their own and encourage children to acquire books. They present them books, they praise reading, they encourage them to build their own libraries and they take the children out to bookstores and libraries as ‘entertainment’. They discuss what they read with their children, they give a book that they have been reading to their child and then talk about what the child understood from it. Such parents have scholars as friends and introduce their children to them and ensure that they spend a significant amount of time in the company of scholars. They encourage systematic learning, structured questioning and debate and focus towards application in real life. All these are tools of dealing with knowledge and understanding how to leverage it to advantage.

TV watching is shown to be detrimental to reading because it is addictive and the pace of presentation is pre-set and is not in control of the viewer. Internet browsing is a little better but unless one is systematically searching for information, one learns very little. The best self-test is to sit with a pad and pen after having watched a TV program and to try to write down what the learning from that program was. Many people say, “I only watch Animal Planet or National Geographic.” But try to talk to them about global warming or ecology or environmental pollution or any of the many subjects that are aired on these channels and you will realize that they may as well have watched MTV or some other mindless program for all the good it did them. Simply sitting in front of the TV watching something potentially useful does no good. Most people watch TV for entertainment, no matter which program they watch. Not for learning anything.
And unlike in a book, the program is not there for you to replay and check out what you missed. I am deliberately not speaking about the vast, by far the majority of programs, which are purely made to help one to give up one’s irreplaceable life asset (time) free of cost so that others can make some serious bucks. If you don’t know what I mean, ask, “What is the definition of ‘Prime Time’?” Then check out what prime time TV advertising costs. Why do people agree to pay that kind of money? Because you are sitting there in front of your TV screen with your jaw hanging open, oblivious of the fact that it is your time/life that someone is using to make money for himself. I am also not talking here about the huge potential to corrupt moral and social values and the powerful force of social engineering that is at play in TV programming. All we have to do is to look at ourselves, our families, our cultures of which we used to be so proud and our moral values to see the effect.
Finally I have encountered several people who almost take pride in their ignorance and say, “I am allergic to reading. I can’t read more than 2 pages at a time.” It is strange for me to see how instead of being ashamed and working to do something to overcome this self-imposed impairment, they talk about it proudly. Ignorance really has no bounds. It is such parents who produce ignorant children who produce more ignorant children and so on.
That is why when we talk about the world today being in the ‘Knowledge Age’, I have to ask the question, ‘So what am I doing to gear myself to live in such a world?’ If I lived in a ‘Water World’ and I did not know how to swim, I would be seriously frightened of drowning. The same analogy applies. If I live in the Knowledge Age and I have no desire to acquire knowledge, no tools to deal with information, no means of understanding what to do with what I am reading or listening to, then I am in serious danger of perishing.

Lastly let me point out that all of the above that I have said about reading is really only the first step. Then comes understanding, conceptualizing, strategizing, planning, executing and measuring before one can actually see any results. But if one is unwilling even to take the first step of reading, then how on earth is anything else supposed to happen?