Thursday, 16 June 2016

Tips for inculcating reading habit among children

Dumbfounded was I, when I observed a 4 year old child moving his fingers at a fast pace like Michael Jackson’s dance movements, while playing with a smart phone game. Children need either a micro (phone), mini (tab) or mega screens (TV) for their recreations. Gadgets have become inseparable from them, especially during holidays. 

Those days before the advent of satellite TV and other gadgets, children spend their time either playing outdoors or reading books. Any holiday home works or essays to be written, their only source of reference were books. But books were not easily accessible. Parents could not afford to buy books other than their academics. There were very few libraries. Schools hardly had libraries of their own.

Now the trend has changed.. Those children who yearned for books have become parents now. So  they want to give their children what they could not easily access. They are ready to buy books for their children. Lot of books with attractive illustrations for children of all age groups starting from 
0 yrs are getting published. Private libraries and online libraries have sprung up in many places. Unfortunately most of the children are reluctant to read mainly because of gadget addictions.
Here are few thoughts that could inculcate reading habit among children
·         Bed Time Stories – Bed time stories are the best way to stimulate interest in stories for children. Children irrespective of age could be told a story before they go to bed. As they grow up, they can read on their own and in fact tell a story to their siblings.

·         Start Early - ‘Aindhil Vilayaadhadhu Aimbadhil Vilayaadhu’  goes a Tamil saying meaning, what is not taught at the age of 5 cannot be taught at 50. So reading habit should start at an early age. Make it interesting through games like "I Spy" where children have to find words starting with a particular letter from a picture book. Children also get fascinated with "Touch and Feel Books" , books with colorful pictures, Stickers and Activity books.

·         Be a Trend Setter – Children practice what they observe. If they watch their parents sticking to phone or laptop, they also develop interest only in gadgets. Try to reduce gadgets usage at least when your kids are around. If they observe you reading books, they would also replicate you.

·         Library Visits – Make it a practice to visit library regularly at least once a week. The library ambience will create interest in books for children.
       Morals – Choose books that teach good morals and discipline for children. For instance "bubbles" books teach good morals through stories.

·         Knowledge is for Knowledge sake – The World revolves around money.  As parents, we have the responsibility to motivate children to read good literature in Tamil and English. Insist on reading for knowledge and not just for marks. Marks will naturally follow.

Just like music, a good book brims your heart with pleasure. 

We do not want our children to be just wealthy citizens, we want them to be good citizens as well. Don’t we?

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A brief history of Kashmir!

Recently read a few scholarly and a few “not so” scholarly articles on the Kashmir issue. In the “not so” scholarly articles and across the web there are several articles that contradict each other a lot. These prompted me to write this blog.

A clarity that has to be brought to this issue is that Kashmir was not part of India in 1947, as it was not part of British India. Maharaja Hari Singh, the then monarch of Kashmir, to escape the atrocities of Pathans requested India to interfere through a Letter to Lord Mountbatten, the Governor General of that time. You can find that letter here. When Mountbatten used that opportunity to demand the Maharaja to annex Kashmir to the Indian Union (letter here), the then Indian Prime Minister, left it to the people of Kashmir to decide (letter here) and till date they are undecided. You can find a lot of transcripts in this website and in this page.
After the war in 1947 that lasted for just 3 months, in which the Indian troops drove away the Pathans (supported by Pak army), India requested UN’s intervention and the world community to understand the ulterior motives of the then leaders of our neighborhood country and help to establish peace in Kashmir. This is re-iterated in this letter to the Security Council. So India never had an intention to bring Kashmir into Indian Union by force. The question that lingers in most of the Indian minds is resonated in this article in - Why did India gave back POK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) even after winning the war with Pakistan? You can read various perceptions in these answers, if you ignore some silly ones. In multiple wars that followed, we kept the promise of respecting peace in the valley and we do so even now, by conducting fair (?) elections. 

Unfortunately no other country in the world had really had any interest, neither in the peace of Kashmir valley nor in respecting the sovereignty of that princely state. Whether this first war in 1947 or the subsequent wars, we always respected the sovereignty of the Kashmir state and expected same from the international forces of that time and the UNO. However they did not think in the same way. Read this account of an American on the 1965 war and the comment by Roger at the bottom. An interesting read.

Personally, I really don’t bother whether Kashmir is in India or stays independent. It’s up to the people of Kashmir to decide and the world should respect that decision. It can be a Switzerland of Asia, if the neighborhood nations cooperate and the people of Kashmir have the ability and courage to decide.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Teach Maths the right way - II (Fractions, decimals and Percentage)

 Past week has been a real nightmare for me. Guess what? I was trying to teach fractions, decimals and percentages to my 5th grade son. Hope it the same with many other parents. 'Maths for Mums and Dads' book came to my rescue again. I just flipped through the pages but devised more ideas of my own and got few from my sister who is a Maths teacher.

Problem lies with parents. We always teach Maths only with the text book in hand and make children work out Maths with a paper and pen. Isn't it boring for children? Be it any word problem, the first thing that springs up in a child's mind is to think of whether the numbers have to be added, subtracted or multiplied without thinking of a logical solution. He does not understand 50% of 120 is just 60 and ends up with a tedious calculation of 50/100 * 120 .

Yesterday, my son added 1290 and 158.56 and gave the result as 171.46. As there was no decimal place in 1290 , he just kept a decimal point after 2 digits and added it up. If he had thought logically as to how could addition yield a smaller result, he would not have given such an answer. Paper and pen cripples the child's thought process.
Unlike other subjects, Maths is part of our daily life. We use Maths while cooking, shopping, dining outside, playing, partying and even when we travel. Then why teach it separately? Let Children learn Maths in a fun way.

Teach fractions through food. When distributing a chocolate bar among family members, ask the child what is his share. For ex. if a chocolate bar has 12 pieces and there are 12 people, the child would be able to tell that each one's share is one twelfth, i.e 1/12. So she understands fraction is nothing but division. If the same chocolate bar has to be distributed to 15 people, then it becomes 1/15. Hence the understanding that 1/15 is less than 1/12 automatically creeps up in his mind, as she gets less share than before.

When walking to a shop, ask the distance of the shop with reference to the bus stop. Suppose, bus stop is 3 kms from your house and the shop is 1 km from your house, then the shop is in 1/3rd distance with reference to the bus stop. So it is 1/3 of 3 kms , which is 1 Km. Understanding concepts will remain in their memory forever rather than practicing more exercise problems. However large numbers have to be worked out but it becomes easier if the underlying concept is clear.

Once the child understands fractions, then decimals is like a cake walk. Decimals is nothing but place value which is 1/10th, 1/100th etc. So, as in the example of adding a whole number with decimal number, a child would not get confused with 10th and 1/10th position. Allowing the child to go for small shopping and to ask him to get the correct change would also help in learning decimals. If an egg costs 3.5 , what is the cost of 8 eggs?

Teaching Percentage is a real challenge. Though in curriculum, a child learns percentage in grade 5, it starts from the stage when the child scores marks for his class test. If he gets 5 on 10, he gets 50%. He also knows 50% is nothing but 1/2. Whenever your daughter comes up with her test results, ask her for her percentage. So it would not be anything new, when she comes across it in her subject. Best way to teach percentage is while buying clothes at a discounted price. A shirt costs Rs.800, there is discount of 20% , what is the shirt cost? You can even promise to buy him the shirt if he tells the correct price :-). He can always relate this example, when he has to do complex problems.

Eating out? A percentage of it gets added to the bill. Ask your son to tell the bill amount with the tax added. By the way, they also get to know that there is something called tax that is added to whatever things we buy or eat.

If you start thinking, you will get lot more real time problems.

My son did his math to tell me the bill price , when we ordered Pizza online. This time he came out with the correct answer, as he enjoyed doing it. If you like your son/daughter to enjoy it the same way, then teach maths the right way !!!