Don’t forget to feed your reading habit

July 10, 2007

by Melvin Durai

I want to begin this column by thanking you for being a reader. There are so many better things you could be doing with your time, and I’m truly grateful, absolutely thrilled, that you haven’t yet discovered them.Well, perhaps you have, but you’ve decided to take an occasional break from playing video games, chatting on your cell phone, and searching the Internet for pictures of Clay Aiken.

Reading is an important activity, whether you’re reading a humor column or reading the back of David Beckham. Reading can educate, entertain and inspire you. There’s really no substitute. That’s what I keep telling my wife.

Me: “Reading is so much fun, you know.”

Wife: “Really? Then why don’t you turn off the TV and read something?”

Me: “I am reading, silly. Can’t you see the scroll at the

But I don’t just read television, I also read books, a few dozen a year. Just last week, I completed two: “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Red Riding Hood.” My wife was amazed.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a prolific reader like me. According to a report from the National Endowment for the Arts, only 57 percent of American adults read a book in 2002, compared with 61 percent in 1992. This is shocking news to me, because I thought everyone in America reads at least one Harry Potter book per year.

And what about the impact of Oprah’s book club? I thought she was doing wonders for reading, talking about books the same way she talks about food: “I couldn’t put this down. I just devoured it. I’m telling you, it was irresistible.”

Perhaps Oprah’s show does not reach enough young people. Only 43 percent of people aged 18 to 24 read literature in 2002, compared with 53% in 1992. Literature includes poems, plays, and narrative fiction, but does not, alas, include rap lyrics. Otherwise most teen-agers would be literary prodigies.

The NEA blames television, the movies, and the Internet for the decline in reading. But the Internet also promotes reading. On any given day, just by going online, I can read newspapers from around the world, blogs on various subjects, and email from wealthy Nigerians.

It’s important to recognize that the younger generation reads in different ways. To fully understand their reading habits, we need to ask them questions like these:

—How often do you read? (a) Every day; (b) At least once a week; (c) Every time I use the bathroom; (d) Whenever Halley’s Comet comes around; or (e) Me no read.

—What is your favorite thing to read? (a) Newspapers; (b) Books; (c) My father’s will; (d) Bumper stickers; or (e) Stories about Clay Aiken.

—Who is your favorite writer? (a) J.K. Rowling; (b) Bill Clinton; (c) David Letterman (I love his Top Ten lists); (d) My insurance agent; or (e) Whoever wrote the directions on my acne cream.

I conducted a similar survey and discovered that the best way to get young people to read my column is to have it printed on the back of women’s shorts. It’s a fashion trend — young women wearing shorts with words printed on the back, apparently believing that men need another reason to look. But I give these women credit: They’re not trying to attract ordinary, run-of-the-mill men — they’re trying to attract men who read.

If he can read your shorts, perhaps one day he’ll be able to read your mind. You never know.

(Melvin Durai is an India-born, North America-based writer and humorist. His humour columns, acclaimed for being both funny and thought-provoking, have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines in several countries, including the United States, India and Zambia.)


16 Responses to “Don’t forget to feed your reading habit”

  1. neela Says:


  2. jarvarm Says:

    lolzz at convo. 🙂
    Me always love reading. I’m so jealous about you that you’re reading some really good stuff. I’ll try to read as many as you did.

  3. latha vidyaranya Says:

    mr. melvin, unless the woman has a specific message on her bottoms, i mean on the back of her shorts, to which the reader responds, how will she know if the beholder is a lexic or dyslexic?? :)))))))

    talking of dyslexics, i have always sympathised with their lot for missing out on such a wonderful timepass like reading. their phobia for words make them run a 100 mtrs dash the moment they spot a book! (i shall write about dyslexia in another post soon)

    in a lighter vain, how many constipated persons the habit of newspaper reading in the bathroom has helped! and i remember, in one of our relative’s house they used to subscribe for two editions per day – one for the bathroom reader to be kept in the bathroom (perhaps which doubled up for tissue when taps went dry!) and another for the drawing hall for others to read as they were sticklers of ‘madi’ ! :)))

  4. Green Eggs And Ham – that is a classic in my house.



  5. Hi RK,

    Sorry this is slightly off-topic, but I’ve just posted something relevant to you and Anand.



  6. mouna Says:

    😀 it’s sad that the habit is diminishing.

  7. […] Efron Link to Article david beckham Don’t forget to feed your reading habit » Posted at Rambling […]

  8. rk Says:

    thanks for the post and for all the wonderful things you have said about BANGALORE BLOGGERS!!

    we all have a lot to learn from the top class AUTHORBLOG.

  9. Cuckoo Says:

    Reading ? Yes.. Newspapers – daily
    Other books- as & when get time
    Blogs- Daily 😀

  10. ozlady Says:

    I’m really please that you blogged this. To share a couple of things with you… I am trying to encourage people to take up the 52-books-in-52-weeks challenge, where you read AND REVIEW 52 books in a year. Not easy, and I’ve almost fallen behind already (I’m in my 7th or 8th week), but I’m catching up. I’m going to do a link here, but I hope you forgive me – check out my 52-in-52 library.

    The other thing I want to share was that I was despairing about my step-son (now 12), who was suffering at English at school and seemed to take no joy in reading. This is completely opposite to every member of my family (and family-in-law) who are all voracious readers. It must have been peer pressure, as now he is currently devouring Harry Potter, and taking sheer joy out of the imaginary world that he can create for himself.

    He asked me a question the other day: “how come movies are never as good as books?” I happily replied, “because nothing can beat the completeness of your imagination.”

    Spread the joy!

  11. Narayana Sharma Says:

    READING IS FUN and the incident I tell, would surely inspire all of us.

    Every morning around 6 am, when Bangalore just starts to wake up, a rag picker has shown us the way.

    The rag picker has a group of listeners sitting next to him in a semicircle. They are the ATM security guard, contract sweeper and the hawker. None of them know English nor are they fluent in spoken English. To them this rag picker slowly reads an English Newspaper- the headlines and sports news. He reads to them very slowly, so that the listeners can understand or grasp the English he speaks. This shows that any one can communicate to anyone, in any language through READING.

    This small eye opening situation provides us with a very important project- MAKING READING FUN.

    It can help:

    •Pull away kids from their cartoon channels and games on computers
    •Elders in the neighbourhood, who would like to be LISTEN and cannot READ
    •Improve interaction among the society between children and elders

  12. f.shehani Says:

    well!!!kya bolna hai?kuch toh kaho!!!nalla nall irukku samy!!!!!enda umma neey evideya?
    aap to mujhe ache lagte hain,yar aap ki stoooooory!!!!! badiya hai to superb.

  13. […] And everyone read happily ever after… – About Bangalore Book Festival 2006 • Don’t forget to feed your reading habit by Melvin Durai • International Day of the Book • Today is International Children’s […]

  14. This was a realy finny column. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: