Reading stimulates imagination, encourages quick learning, curiosity. It expands horizons, enhances acquisition of skills for the handling of complex ideas or issues. In fact, every piece of writing is the manifestation of experience garnered by a writer over time.
Sadly, there is an increasing downturn in Nigeria’s reading culture over the years. Gone are the days when people, regardless of age and gender, flaunted how the bedrock of their greatness was by reading. It became a reason for many to see education as a ‘golden fleece’ and what must be acquired.
It has however become alarming how in recent time, reading, which used to be wide spread among Nigerian students, youth and even adults is being eroded from our society at jet speed. This sharp fall in our reading culture has been attributed to a number of factors in our society.
Currently, about 70% of the country’s population live under $1 per day. This implies that a larger proportion of the population cannot afford the basic educational foundation that will enable them read and write. These category of people struggle to feed, and would show less interest in what to eat than what to read. This explains one reason why poverty has been pointed as one of the great challenges of Nigeria’s reading culture.
The schools where love for reading should be encouraged, are not even conducive for learning. Many of our schools are full of distractions like over-population, located close to motor-parks and several other factors which impede the smooth flow of learning. In effect, these places of learning do not add value, instead they compounds the illiteracy level in the country.
Statistics according to the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal education indicate that there are still 63 million illiterate adults in Nigeria. The high rate of this syndrome has contributed greatly to the poor reading culture of Nigerians, and an undue importance to fame and wealth. There is also an increase in the pursuit for fortune among Nigerian youth. The path to greatness no longer lies in boasting about knowledge acquired through reading, rather, there is a preference for the lucrative entertainment industry, which usually, does not require a test of your intelligence quotient. Our society is not helping matter in this regard, as more people now celebrate mediocrity at the expense of intellectualism. This is manifest in the rush for material things, with more people abandoning their educational careers in pursuit of wealth. It has also become fashionable to abandon educational careers in the quest for ‘quick money’, which they believe they can get doing quick business, entertainment and politics.
The advent of the new media has changed the paradigm, as it has diverted the attention of many youngsters, and even adults from seeking for knowledge through books. People now devote more time chatting, uploading photos and commenting on irrelevant write-ups on the social media, than seeking for materials for self-development. Rather, people hardly read serious-minded articles online, they would rather read very short and humorous pieces, than read articles that are informative and rich in knowledge.
The new media has also shifted the interest of our students from even studying for examinations. Many of these youngsters spend long periods meant for reading on the internet. This translates into a penchant for examination malpractices, which is fast turning into a norm in our education system. Today, we have students and parents looking out for ‘miracle’ centres where they can enroll for WASSCE, NECO and UTME examinations. If all these are not checked, the present and future generations in Nigeria are at the risk of losing grip of knowledge, and the country is also at a risk of raising a mediocre-minded generation. This will spell doom for us because there will be a huge vacuum for technocrats who will pilot the affairs of our father land.
It is indeed important to re-introduce a good reading culture to our educational system, and we can achieve this by putting all hands on deck. Schools should be encouraged to inculcate library periods into their timetable, while also ensuring that the timetable is followed accordingly. Government should ensure that every school is equipped with a good library system even down to the nursery school level. Little children have picture books and if their interest in books could be captured at that stage, reading culture would easily be developed in them.
Government should also re-invent the readership campaign programme organised by the National libraries to sensitise both young and old on the gains of cultivating a healthy reading culture. In the past, people read at leisure times by spending time in the libraries. The government should make libraries comfortable and conducive for reading thereby motivating people from all walks of life. They should reposition the libraries with internet facilities to enhance the reading culture.
Reading is the supreme light-giver that opens the eyes to the past and offers insight into the future. Reading adds quality to life, provides access to culture and cultural heritage, empowers and emancipate, citizens, and unite people. We need to re-incorporate the reading culture in our people as the gains in reading cannot be over emphasized.