Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Reading Mantra!

I never saw the person who named my daughter Tenzin Euden and I heard his name quite often from my spouse’s mouth until last night. I saw him teaching and giving speech to RTC students, why RTC? I saw my former Lopen TS Powdyel seated in the front row. That’s when my wife said, dear he is the person who named our daughter and he is, pardon me if I got his name wrong, Drupwang Sangye Nyingma Rimpoche. Thank you Rimpoche for naming her Tenzin Euden! I listened to all your talks on what BBS had already recorded. I was taken aback when Rimpoche mentioned that he learned to speak English all by himself and he completely forgot Dzongkha. He was taken to study in a Tibetan monastery at the age of three. 

Rimpoche’s profound talks on youth matters made me rethink what path I chose hereafter… His talks took me years back to the novel ‘Sense and Sensibility’. Rimpoche talked on degeneration of Dzongkha and it is indeed an irony that I also feel comfortable communicating in English. Dzongkha had been my weakness since my childhood. I can hardly remember reading Dzongkha literature besides the texts that were provided back then…

For this year, it’s the national reading year and this initiative is commendable on the MoE’s part. What I cannot understand is why only for a year? The readership among the urbanites and educated people has taken a back seat, due to the obvious technology. Technology must enhance reading but sadly it’s the other way around. 

I had this opportunity to meet writers and bloggers in Thimphu and I was particularly asked by one MP, Dasho SangayKhandu, why do you think is the trend that most parents have no reading habits, although highly qualified. I felt dumbstruck but my humble reply to him was, “Parents are bogged down with their own profession”. I may be wrong but this is what I had to say. I am teacher for those whom I don’t know and I teach English…

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My stand on the reading ability and proficiency in any language is to do with the linguistic background one belongs to. You see I am a born Sharchop, I learned English in schools and Dzongkha as a national language. We belong to a multi-lingual society and language acquisition theory is based solely on nurture-nature idea, meaning what you acquire and what you learn! As an English teacher, I must say English is not at all an easy language. English is the medium of instruction all over the world and that’s why people find it comfortable. Going by the complexities in any language, English is difficult. A Bhutanese speaking in English has errors and I accept that because we learned English as a second language and second language learners have this difficulty all over the world. But at the same time, I was astonished to see and learn that most young people prefer reading English over Dzongkha books. Great!

The reading ability in a child is sparked not by intelligence by something called ‘modeling’. Psychology students must be aware of what modeling is. It is simply modeling reading behaviors at home. We Bhutanese are so used to saying I tried many a time but it failed. A child has to make connections on what he/she is read to and what connections his/her brain make while reading. As adults it is very easy to read children’s books to kids but kids will have difficulty understanding your reading. So reading requires patience for the umpteenth time until a child gets through what is being read. Gradually when a child is interested in listening to reading, then his/her curiosity will emerge into beginning reading. If this is done you have done your share in making a child read on his/her interest. 

As a teacher, my suggestion for parents is to read to your kid over and over again. Also to the system at large, please don’t make reading a national event only for a year, follow through year after year because my former Lopen Jose KC once remarked in a literature class, “If something is worth telling, it must be told twice”.
Good day folks!