Show me a youngster reading a novel and I’ll show you what rarity really means. The fondness for reading is dying a quick death, and Dr Shaukat Mahmood describes why it needs to be revived.


We have to think seriously how the growing generations will find time to read. While technology is taking control steadily over individual lives, the reading habit is fast vanishing into thin air. I used to sigh at the city libraries presenting a gloomy picture of gradual decline in voracious readers who used to flock in the evenings.” Habit of reading books has been a great help in acquiring information and knowledge. Unfortunately today our teachers as well as our students have little regard for books though reading habit survives in a different way. Today, in an age when browsing the net, playing with disconsolate handsets and passing non-stop SMS with stupid abbreviations and symbols seem to have become normal chores of students. Even when the students are sitting in the class and the lecturer is delivering his lecture, students are often seen busy in messaging. The internet  facility and craze, interactive medium of images through Whats App and TV are the engagements of our youth today. More than often these engagements are useless pursuits taking majority time of our students.  I have often been to various colleges and universities’ selection boards as a subject expert. A question which I always asked the candidates was,

“Which book you have read recently?

 Without any exception, the answer was long silence. There are sufficient reasons that account for this silence and the decline in reading habit. Students think that reading books consumes more time than referring to computers. Computers seem to be more attractive to them than books. The question of spending money on books is over- ruled by the thought that everything is available in a computer so students prefer to spend money on something else than spending on books. With every house having a number of TVs and every TV having number of channels, sometime exceeding a hundred, TV and internet are more  attractive than sitting in a corner and reading a book. But for a student who is seriously involved in studies sitting in a corner and reading a text-book or a book related to subject has no alternative.


Often internet has no response to what we want to know. This applies particularly to the subjects which are of very local nature. Modern life style of visiting places and other recreations or hobbies occupy most of our time these days. Change in lifestyle is the reason for the decline in book reading. Decades back there were a lot of magazines and books kept on the table in houses for the use of parents as well as kids and even guests books and magazines used to be on the tables in the waiting rooms of doctors, bus stations and railway stations. People had time and there was no other way to pass time. But today the situation is different. Our students lack the knack to visit book shops and libraries. This has resulted in a considerably decreased number of quality bookshops. There are no really large bookstores in a city like Lahore. Free distribution of laptops by the

previous government did not improve our education standards albeit it further marred the interest of our students in books. Students often claim why to carry a burden (of books) unnecessarily when there is a laptop available? Many complain that in this fast life where to find time to read. Everything has become instant and students are losing their patience to spend time in reading, for them computer or laptop is the best and the quick response. Not many years ago parents used to encourage their children to read books and students used to discuss about what they had read which induced others to read. But today our students read nothing thus have nothing to share with their classmates. This is a very sad state. Today many Pakistani parents think that reading books will divert the attention of their children from their serious tasks and goals of achieving high marks in examinations. Only high marks decide the future of their children. They have to work seriously on their text books to get high marks. For them reading books is a waste of time! This attitude has to be defeated.

Our established social fabric has been completely eroded by progenitors and posterity of the Noumea rich particularly in the political circles. Ninety nine percent of them have got their hands on dirty-big money via illegal means. Parents belonging to this category we see in our assemblies. Once I saw an interior minister who could not recite Sura al-Ikhlas at the beginning of a cabinet meeting. At another occasion a member of the Senate could not recite Suara al-Fatiha. I also saw a reporter of a TV channel, standing outside assembly building, asking MPAs contents of our national  anthem. Not a single MPA

Today, in an age when browsing the net, playing with disconsolate handsets and passing non-stop SMS with stupid abbreviations and ridiculous symbols seem to have become normal chores of students

could narrate even two couplets of the national anthem. These are the parents of our misguided youth. These rich youth join colleges only for the sake of fun, a pastime and not for education. Books to them mean nothing. They are obsessed by the mania of riding heavy motor-bikes for one-wheeling. They love to ride their bikes without silencers. They drive Pajeros, Land Rovers and Land Cruisers at high speed violating all traffic rules.

This category of our youth is serving as a bad example for those who really want to study and those who love books. They ridicule the bibliophiles directly or indirectly. For them liaison of friendship means materialistic give and take – amity ends as soon as the wheeling and dealing is over. Our youth must return to books whether related to their courses of study or not. Even books on scientific, mythological and historical themes can widen outlook and knowledge. The younger lot should get back to the habit of reading not because it has to, but because it wants to. As Dr Suess famously put it: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.


Dr Shaukat Mahmood is a well- known writer and the man behind popular Maxim cartoons. He is currently heading Research Center for Doctoral Studies at University of Punjab. He can be reached at