Restoring Reading Culture in Nigerian Schools
The concept of reading culture is a subject that is as vast in scope as it is worth giving urgent and serious reckoning. Hence, the neglect suffered by reading culture, as it were, requires a divine touch in Nigeria. Else the people in authority are leaving us to wallow in the menacing bane it portends overtime.
Reading culture is a habit or process of seeking knowledge and information through reading. Such practice and process can be acquired by reading books, journals, magazines, newspapers, etc. By reading we get acquainted with new information and experiences about different spheres of life endeavours. Different people have divergent reasons why they read. Apart from the common purposes of passing examinations, grabbing particular information from the pages of a newspaper and for leisure, we read to answer specific questions; for critical evaluation, spatial description, maximum retention and recall; to understand the writer’s mood and purpose; and to follow directions in written communication. Through reading, people broaden the scope and understanding of life.
Basically, the inculcation of reading habit should start from childhood by the parents; from there a whole new world will be opened for exploration into a world of knowledge. By reading, a child’s creativity will blossom and the tools to explore their talent will be given to them while learning about themselves and society. The English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) asserts that “reading maketh a full man.” This implies that without reading we are less developed because our ideas are limited in scope. Little wonder readers are leaders and great leaders and writers are ardent readers.
It is however galling that the reading habit which encapsulates the reading culture in Nigerian schools and the society at large is fast waning. The degree of apathy in the system leaves a hovering question mark in the air. What could be the source or the problems? Who do we blame for this scourge? Is it the parents, the teachers, the students, the system, or the government? In trying to proffer an answer to these questions, let us examine what has happened to the old conventional methods of teaching with books like Queen Primer and Ladybird series of picture books. Since these books disappeared from the book shelves there have been no alternatives to replace them.
Even the era of didactic TV children programmes have completely gone. In its place are substandard, highly immoral and sometimes fetish Nigerian home videos. I think both parents and the government should take a fair share of the blame here. Students’ lethargic and lackadaisical attitude towards reading boils down to the fact that the system has failed the present generation of Nigerian youths. Most of our libraries are sheer image of decrepitude. They are ailing and need urgent revival. Inadequate funding of educational institutions, poor economy and low standard of living couple with lack of parental guidance, mentorship and counselling are major contributors to this lack of reading culture. The quest for quick riches and the examination code cannot equally be ruled out.
The quality of teachers being churned out to teach in our schools is a source of worry – they are half-baked and unqualified. Imagine what will be the fate of a product of a sub-standard manufacturer in not too distant future. The truth is that you cannot give what you do not have. Otherwise, what can a teacher who passed his or her school certificate examination through ‘miracle centre’ and went ahead to ‘sort’ his or her way through the institutions of higher learning offer a hapless and ignorant student? Yes, a teacher who has nothing in his or her intellectual kitty has no business teaching others. He or she is already deficient, and a catalyst to the declining reading culture.
The big question now is how can we stimulate or reignite the dying ember of reading culture? The libraries have to be funded and stocked with up-to-date books and modern digitalized facilities that also aid reading. More libraries need to be established – in schools and communities (public). Book seminars and symposiums must be organized alongside reading competition where prizes will be given to the best students as a motivation to others. Reading breeds writers. The scores of writers in Nigeria today is as a result of their proficiency in reading, hence writers should be encouraged by publishing companies to publish their written works.
Sometime ago, the President Goodluck Jonathan launched an initiative, ‘Bringing Back the Books,’ which main aim was to enhance reading culture by emphasizing the importance of reading vis-à-vis acquisition of knowledge. He summed it up thus: “we have no choice but to read and encourage ourselves to read and read and read again.”
In conclusion, the imperative should be to restore the basic reading methods to our schools in a more modernized form through modern techniques. Parents should help in the crusade of taking their children on reading exercises at home so as to reduce to the barest minimum this home video indulgence. Non-governmental organizations should be encouraged to sensitize the people through lectures on the value of reading. With these, the spirit of reading culture will be reawakened again.
- Mr. Ifechukwude is a Special Adviser on Media to the present Transition Committee Chairman of Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State