Titles like Eze goes to school, African Writers Series, Things Fall Apart, Oba Ovanwenren, The Lion and the Jewel, The Gods Are Not To Blame, Weep Not Child and writers such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy among others were every student’s delight and prized possession many years ago. Many of us recited quotations from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar , As You Like it etc. One question readily comes to mind when I think about the current reading culture in Nigeria. Is it possible to enjoy reading or be encouraged to read when there is no electricity? That is a thought for another day!
The advent of computer games found in play-stations , smart phones and the iPad as well as the easy internet access to information seem to have taken over the minds of students today. I have to say that I am guilty of giving such access to my children as well but I draw a thick line as much as I can. Why? It is because I understand that we collectively have more to loose if I don't safeguard the reading culture in my home. My three year old daughter loves books so I intend to introduce a lot of books and read more to her.
I was talking to a friend earlier today about this topic and it suddenly dawned on us that we don't have a single library in the part of Lagos we live in! Is this not telling of where our reading culture is going? A lot more people are lacking content these days - no wonder the now popular saying "IT IS WELL" thrives in our vocabulary! I am worried!
There has to be some drastic move towards rekindling the passion to read among young children and students. Where are the people who will build libraries not 'high-rises'? Where are the people who will set up book clubs even if it were to be in the small spaces in their homes if possible?
Why is the sustainability of the reading culture important? It is no longer news that the Nigerian reading habit is generally low and this has been confirmed by several experts and as part of efforts to stem the tide, the federal government launched the Bring Back the Book, BBB project on December 20, 2010. This initiative is a brilliant idea as I hope that it is sustained.
Some of the plagues to hit us if we don't act quickly will include low intellectual capacity, illiteracy, uninformed youth and additional poverty of the mind among others.
When a people read, you have:
- a country of avid, lifelong readers who read widely and value literature and varying cultures.
- an education system that integrates reading, library use and information at the core of the curriculum at all levels
- a system that encourages reading for pleasure and lifelong learning.
- a flourishing writing and publishing industry to support the increasing demand for books and other reading materials
Our families are at the epicenter of this matter as it has become imperative to start correcting this ill from home. From their early childhood stage, begin to share books with children and read with them. Read billboards, sign posts, street names, labels, newspapers and books together! You may just be harnessing the skills of Nigeria's next Nobel Laureate! Recently, the Vice Chancellor of a university said to his students, "leave Facebook and face your books"....funny but true.