(It is the duty of parents and teachers to play an important role in cultivating the love of books in their children!… My article in Young World ….Dawn’s children Magazine on 12th June 2010)

       Summer vacations are just round the corner and children must be looking forward to them happily. Some of you will be lucky enough to get away from the sweltering heat and enjoy your holidays in the coolness of the Northern Areas. Some children will go to visit their extended family members i.e grandparents or uncles/aunts in their hometown (or better still villages). But the children who will stay back here in Karachi, will have to find ways to make their vacations enjoyable as well as productive.

        After the initial thrill of not having to follow the strict regime of school life wears out, (which hardly takes a fortnight!), children usually start complaining of boredom. Mothers are frenzied as their daily schedules have gone topsy turvy. The children like to stay up till late into the nights and don’t feel like getting up in the mornings. After they have adjusted to the late breakfasts and lunches, they still find their kids moody and bored.

        Frantically, mothers search for means to keep their children busy (and out of their way) as the unending question “ab kya karein?” (What to do now?)  seems to drive them half crazy. So children, why not give your Moms time to relax as well and plan a treasure hunt this vacation? This treasure will not only make your holidays enjoyable, they will enrich your knowledge and broaden your vision, as well as give you a better understanding of the diverse faces of life.

        Books are treasures which most children of today have not learnt to value properly. Addiction to the television, computer, video games and the cell phone keeps a majority of you busy most of your spare time. You have yet to discover the thrill of curling up in bed with an interesting book or magazine! But children, once you get into the habit of reading good books, you will realize what pleasure in life you have been missing up till now and find that you can not have enough of it.

        You can enjoy a book anytime as it is ready to give you company whenever you want. As famous writer Holbrook Jackson says “The time to read is anytime: no apparatus, no appointment of time or place, is necessary. It is the only art which can be practiced at any hour of the day or night, whenever the time or inclination comes, that is your time for reading; in joy or sorrow, health or illness.”

          Prepare for your Treasure hunt before time (beginning of the vacations). Ask your English teacher and librarian to provide you with a list of good books, suitable for your age.  Old classics by writers like Charles Dickens, The Bronte sisters, Lousia May Alcott, Lewis Caroll, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie should be a must on your list. All time favourites like A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Emma, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Little Woman, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Alice in the Wonderland, The Swiss Family Robinson, What Katy did (Series), ‘And Then There Were None’, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Rebecca are some books you will love to read (and re-read).

          The list of amazing books is unending. Once you cultivate the love of reading you will find your thirst insatiable! A beautiful quote from Francois Mauriac, (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1952) says, “Tell me what you read and I’ll tell who you are is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread”.

           A problem that children who want to read good books face, is their exorbitant prices and it is difficult for parents to buy books for them. To overcome this problem, you can create a Book Club with your class mates. Each child can buy one or two books every month according to his pocket money (or savings), and then you can exchange them with each other. If there are thirty children in your class, each member of the club would be able to read thirty books by buying only one. Another option is to get bargains from old book stalls. Sunday markets are a special jaunt for book lovers as there you can get good books at reasonable prices. Some book stalls even buy back their books at half price if, after reading them, you return them in a good condition. You can also use this opportunity and keep on exchanging new books for the old one.

       So children the treasure is within your reach. You have only to plan properly to explore and hunt for it! You will soon find that a good book is your best friend, always ready to entertain you, give you company and at a touch, it pours out its heart into yours.

      Start your treasure hunt before the vacations start! When the school re opens after the summer vacations, apart from the pleasure of reading you enjoyed, you will find yourself a better person. A great treasure will be at your disposal and you will be enriched with knowledge and wisdom, a wealth which will never diminish and nor can  be stolen or lost!