By Ifeoluwa Akinola
Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols to derive meaning. Humans can alternatively use reading to communicate, receive and acquire language, information and ideas from one generation to another.
You can imagine how reading helped us to learn and sustain the tenets of socialism, liberalism and democracy- the ideologies that keep our political systems together.
Reading is one of the hallmarks of literacy which enhances social, economic and political inclusion of an individual in the society.
According to the International Literacy Association (ILA), reading is recognised as a fundamental and inalienable right of a child. Although it is an essential skill needed for academic success, it is a lifetime activity. People read for different reasons that include recreation, self-development, and self-actualisation.
Reading not only impacts the life of an individual, but it also improves the chances of development in society by enhancing educational growth and development of the nation.
Developing a reading culture in the society doesn’t happen haphazardly. Developed countries that we can all mention got to where they are partly by making policies that ensure access to education and literacy.
In the absence of this kind of deliberate effort, such challenges as we face in Nigeria will continue to make reading a herculean task for many and in the long run, inhibit national development.
A study by Henry (2004) revealed that in Nigeria, 40 per cent of adult Nigerians never read a non-fiction book from cover to cover after they finish school.
The average Nigerian reads less than one book per year, and only one per cent of successful men and women in Nigeria read one non-fiction book per month. Another study showed that a large number of Nigerians graduate from high school with poor reading skills.
An article by Muiz Banire in a national daily chronicled the effect of poor reading habits among Nigerians on national development.
According to Banire, the poor state of reading among Nigerians affects the quality of engagement that the citizens give their leaders.
More so, he also names the decline in the quality of media contents on the low reading habit of Nigerians. Adding that Nigerians are only disposed to reading sensational materials hence the media, for economic reasons serve sensational contents. Again, this evidence by Banire points to the shallowness in our literacy culture-if any exists.
Some underlying problems in the Nigerian society that researchers blame for the poor reading culture in Nigeria are poverty, corruption, language interference, poor funding of education and misplaced priority on wealth rather than knowledge.
Just recently, the World Poverty Index shows that Nigeria is the capital of poverty in the world, overtaking countries like India. The implication of this is that a larger population only lives to eat and not for self-development.
This explains why we have a lot of out-of-school children, and those in school do not have access to quality education. It is sad to know that Nigeria’s budgetary allocation for education declines in every administration. The current administration only separates 7.05 per cent of its budgets to education.
All these points to the fact that Nigeria will remain underdeveloped if it doesn’t take literacy and education seriously. If the educational system is made to standard, Nigerians can overcome the issue of language interference and more people will be interested in education and eventually in building a reading culture.
It is said that in Nigeria, having a reading habit is considered an elitist culture. There is the saying that if you need to hide anything from Nigerians, keep it in a book. This shows why a lot of Nigerians act ignorantly on their rights and responsibilities.
We can also blame this ignorance on the level of poverty, which excludes many from social, economic and political benefit. The Chaos that we experience now in our leadership is traceable to allowing leaders who do not read to create solutions to rule us. Hence, our underdevelopment and the poor reading habit in our society are two sides of a coin.
Poor reading slows the rate of an individual’s development so that they remain poor and excluded from opportunities to be literate. It is said that national development is an accumulation of the improvement in the lives of individuals in a society.
Therefore, our society will not develop, if individuals have failed to develop themselves at an individual level. Conversely, when society fails to encourage the individual to develop, perpetual underdevelopment becomes inevitable.
The result of this entanglement between underdevelopment and low reading culture is that few persons have access to control and redistribute the wealth of the nation, while the majority remain excluded. These exclusions explain why terrorism, banditry and thuggery remain on the rise in Nigeria.
Young Nigerians that are denied access to quality education that could transform their minds and enable them to be innovative to create wealth, become consumers and hooligans. In the long run, the poverty cycle remains unbroken.
The purpose of this article is to advocate the promotion of book clubs. Book clubs can be online or physical. They make reading a social activity rather than a boring task. Kids should be motivated by parents, teachers and guardians to join a books club that makes reading an attractive, rewarding and interesting social activity.
Book clubs help connect kids from different backgrounds to read, swap books and brainstorm on multiple ideas. A book club will not only help a child read books but also help the child perceive reading as a social culture that is acceptable to others.
The book club will enable kids to develop constructive connections, where they can have a ‘books-pals’. In spite of the opinion that reading is required solely for academic success, kids who are given access to a book club are likely to have a faster cognitive development, stronger network and the potential to become great leaders.
The generation of kids that join a book club will over time become leaders and will break the cycle of poverty. These kids are the generation of kids that guarantee the hope of national development. Join and promote a book club today, to know that reading is fun and rewarding.