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Reading has been the passion of the greatest personalities of all times. Humans have been reading since ages and thus words of knowledge have been passed on through generations. The reading habit influences in the promotion of one's personal development in particular and social progress in general. Regular and systematic reading sharpens the intellect, refines the emotions, elevates tastes and provides perspectives for one's living; and thereby prepares a person for an effective participation in the social, religious, cultural and political life. Reading fires the imagination of the person. It adds new sight to eyes and new wisdom to mind. "A dumb person becomes a communicator and a lame climbs mountains of knowledge through reading" is an old saying. Reading loads the mind with new software (Satija, 2002). The individual who reads well has at his command a means for widening his mental horizons and for multiplying his opportunities of success. Reading is a vital factor affecting intellectual and emotional growth. Sir Richard Steele has logically quoted, "Reading is to mind what exercise is to body".
The definition of reading has undergone through many changes. In the past, reading simply meant to extract visual information from any given codes or systems. However, thereafter, reading became much more complex and involved the understanding of a whole text composed of written signs. Smith & Robinson (1980) defined reading as "an active attempt on the part of reader to understand a writer's message". According to Toit (2001) "Reading is as a process of thinking, recalling and relating concepts under the functioning of written words." Devarajan (1989) defined reading as the art of interpreting printed and written words. Irvin (1998) describes the reading process as "The interaction of what is in the head with what is on the page within a particular context that causes students to comprehend what they read" Thus, reading is the ability to recognise, and examine words or sentences and understand the information within. It is a cognitive process of understanding a written linguistic message and to examine and grasp the meaning of written or printed characters, words or sentences.
Reading Culture in Kashmir Valley
Kashmir valley has been a seat of learning since ages. Right from the very ancient times, Kashmir was a clearing house of spiritual knowledge, a laboratory of scientists and a place of thinking personalities as is evident from the ancient writings present on stone- slabs, copper plates and coins found in Kashmir (Iqbal, 2007). Kashmiri are proud of their literary glories of the past. They had produced masterpieces of history, poetry and philosophy. The Rajataranini speaks of many literary personalities who flourished in ancient Kashmir and who thought and wrote with ability on different branches of knowledge. The noteworthy among them are Vasunanda, Candaka, Matrgupta and Vakpatiraja (Roy, 2005). Presently, in spite of all odds, the students of Kashmir Valley achieve greatest highest in literary world.
Review of Literature
Reading has increasingly been the object of empirical and theoretical investigations since a long past. Norvell (1950) as cited by Hanna & Marriana (1960) identifies that sex and age are the two principal factors affecting reading habits. Moyes (2000), Stenberg (2001), Ross (2002) and Abram (2007) report female as more heavy reader than male. Clark & Foster (2005) reports that girls enjoy reading greater than boys and boys tend to hold more negative attitudes towards reading than girls. McKenna, Kearn & Ellsworth (1995) and Hassell & Rodge (2007) reveal that girls have more favourable attitudes than boys for both recreational and academic reading. Hopper (2005) depicts that (67%) of girls were reading compared with (54%) of boys. Sahai (1970) results make visible that more than (90%) of the users read newspapers and magazines and the percentage of women is higher than the men. Kendrick (1999) discovers that over half (56%) of the middle grade boys do not enjoy reading and (86%) of them complain that parents do not read with them. Yilmaz (2000) finds that the majority of the students (77.8%) don't have reading habits whereas the smallest ratio (6.5%) belongs to the heavy readers. Hastings & Henry (2006) reveal that more than half of respondents (56%) spend less than an hour a day on reading and (13%) says that they do not read at all. Igun & Adogbeji (2007) report that nearly two-thirds (61.5%) of postgraduate students are motivated for study & reading primarily by the desire for knowledge and skills, while (22.5%) study mainly to pass their examinations and tests and for self development. Cabral & Tavares (2002) study concerning the students reading habits reflects that students read for academic purposes (97.8%) almost as much as they use reading as a hobby (97.2%). The study of Hassell & Rodge (2007) depict that (72%) of the students are reading in their leisure time in which 22% read constantly and (50%) read when they get a chance. Blackwood (1991) indicates that students are reading about 2.5 hours each week for pleasure during academic session and slightly more during vacations. Tella & Akande (2007) disclose that the majority of the students (53.3%) spent between 1-2 hours per day on reading. The Department of Education, Hong Kong (2001) points out that the students are spending 2 or more hours on reading in a week. Sheorey & Mokhtari (1994) results reveal that students read an average of 4.75 hours per week. Karim & Hasan (2007) identify that the students spend about 7 to 9 hours per week on average to read. Kaur & Thiyagarajah (1999) reveals that while many students prefer spending as much as 3-5 hours per week in reading yet the breakdown of the responses indicate that (69.8%) of them spend this amount of time on literary works, (28.6%) on newspapers and (25.4%) on novels. Devarajan (1989) reports that irrespective of the socio-economic background, the majority is interested in reading literature (51.96%) especially novels followed by Science (34.66%). Clark & Foster (2005) report that 83.9% of pupils admit mother teaches them to read, followed by their teacher (72.2%) and their father (65.0%). Their mother (42.5%), teacher (38.5%) and father (32.4%) are also the most frequently cited reading partners. The mother (57.4%), father (42.1%) and friend (39.9%) are the top three people with whom pupils discuss their reading. De boer & Dall Mann (1960) is of the opinion that it is the task of the teacher to bring the child and book together. They further insist that the techniques of improving a child's voluntary reading should in general be those of enticement and persuasion rather than those of coercion. Shokeen (2005) is of the opinion that it is the duty of parents and librarians to promote a love for reading among students. However, all parties concerned- parents, teachers and librarians should work together to infuse a habit of reading in children at the young age when the mind is most impressionable.