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Published On: Wed, Nov 12th, 2014

Evaluating Nigeria’s dwindling reading culture

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nigeria-students-readingThe shocking and sad truth is that readership has been declining over the last couple of years. Young people just aren’t reading much to the detriment of scholarship in the society. Rachael Maza reports on the dwindling reading culture in the country.

here is no doubt that understanding is at the centre of reading. Scholars have described reading as a process that requires the use of complex thought processes to interpret printed symbols as meaningful units and comprehend them as a thought unit in order to understand a printed message. It is also a total integrative process that starts with the reader and includes the affective, perceptual, and cognitive domains.

A former Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC) Professor Peter Olubukola once affirmed that, through reading, humans have the tools to transmit knowledge to each succeeding generation; it allows one to listen to the wisdom and people of the ages. This is emphasized by many different religious traditions. The Apostle Paul admonished Timothy “study to show yourself approved unto God (11 timothy 2:15). Islam holds acquisition of knowledge (literacy, reading, etc.) in high esteem. The holy Qur’an reveals that the first communication (injunction) between Allah and Prophet Muhammad was knowledge-based, – Iqraa, meaning “read” or “recite” (Qur’an 96: 1-5).

Similarly, it has been asserted that every child must become fully competent in reading to succeed in school and discharge responsibilities as a citizen of a given society. Reading is the foundation of much enjoyment in life and is closely related to vocational efficiency. Students and employees in every field must read to keep abreast of what is happening in their fields. They must rely on written or digital word to convey information and data. The ability to read well is absolutely critical to success in life.

According to education experts, reading is the only form of entertainment that is also an essential life skill. Reading is a skill that must be nurtured from a one’s earliest years. Once someone knows how to read, they still need support to reach their full potential as readers. Most people with learning disabilities have problems with reading and related language skills.

However, it is an established fact that reading is gradually dying down with most people preferring to while away time on frivolity than reading to widen their intelligence. This was supported by a saying that if you want to hide anything for a black put in a paper. This decline in reading among people has been blamed on offshoot of technological advancements that have brought about overall changes in family, social, and economic conditions. Poor reading habits occur in children and young people because reading is not considered a relevant leisure activity as it does not form part of children’s social interaction and reading is considered a solitary pursuit and is not attractive compared with interactive activity on the Internet. There is also an overriding desire amongst young people to spend more time with their friends than to remain at home reading. Adults and children alike may enjoy television and films as a way of enjoying their leisure instead

of reading. There is unprecedented rise in the price of books, while DVDs are becoming more affordable.

Peoples Daily investigations revealed that children with poor reading skills receive poor grades at school, get easily distracted and frustrated, have behaviour problems, seem to dislike school, and often fail to develop to their full potential. It was also established that children with poor reading habits have a higher chance of anti-social behaviour. Delinquency; school violence, bullying, hacking computers, and even examination malpractices have a correlation with poor reading habits. This does not mean that those with poor reading habits display such behaviour; more so , poor reading habits are associated with such behavioural patterns while good reading habits help develop a steady and constructive mind.

When you read, you think. But when you stop reading you stop thinking creatively. Reading in general is very vital to human beings as long as you are breathing, because it helps in acquiring knowledge, keep you updated on things that are happening in your environment or society. Checks by Peoples Daily on why people find it difficult to read reveals that most people are lazy and prefer sketchy write-ups on the internet.

For the National Coordinator of Reliable Transformation Group (RTG), Mr. Edward C. Odinfe who is very worried by the trend said the only solution to the problem was to go back to the value system by embracing the grassroots that will bring the good old days when people read hard to satisfy their curiosity.

His words, “My take is that we need to go back to our value system. We need to go back to our grassroots, we need to entertain that culture of reading and that has to do with innovation that will encourage readership”.

Continuing, Odinfe tasked parents to live up to their responsibility by encouraging their wards in imbibing reading culture that will sustain their ability to learn, saying that for any positive change to take place parents must be deeply involved.

“Parents have to be deeply involved to make sure they supervise their children to go back to reading culture that will make them think. They should go back to books instead of watching television, watching movies and should use every opportunity to read books even from tender age.

“In those days before a child goes to bed parents use to tell those stories that are burn out of the books they must have read or experiences they must have gathered from their own parents. So in that process they have been entrenching that culture or storytelling and it builds children’s intelligence. It encourages that child to listen, learn and read”.

Mr. Odinfe who said he is worried as a parent due to the fact that is taking a tool on the character of children we are having today told Peoples Daily that low of readership among youth will definitely threaten the peace and stability of the society as some of them will end up being a terror to the society.

“It gives me worry because of type of children we are training these days, when you look at them it tells you how the future will look like. If the children are not well brought up, when they grow up definitely you will not have an organized society. Rather, you will have a society that is made up of miscreants and insurgents. So we need to go back to basics, capture our youth, our children now before the situation gets out of hand”.

He therefore, urged stakeholders in educational sector, parents and faith based organisations to brace up in restoring reading culture that will bring back that era of reading.

Speaking on the topic, John Okafor, a Bookshop proprietor at Nyanya market, a suburb of Abuja, confirmed the gradual erosion of reading habit amongst the people. Okafor noted that it is evidenced by the low patronage his business has seen in recent time.

His words, “Very few people patronize this shop to buy novel due to the fact that they prefer to use the social media which is short and concise in writing”.

He went further to blame the new trend on poverty by explaining that the income demands of the people is high and due to low income they cannot afford to buy books.

Okafor may be right as the impact of poverty in Nigeria is deeply felt. Only a few people live above the poverty line. About 80% of Nigerians live under hazardous conditions. The per capita income of an average citizen in Nigeria, “the giant of Africa” with its abundant natural resources, is two dollars. This, in no little measure, affects the reading habits of Nigerians. Many are too poor to send their children to school. They lack money to buy books and pay school fees.

While collaborating Okafor, Ajaero Washington Nnanna an upcoming comedian said that most people find it uninteresting reading books when they know they can watch the movie of the same book.

According to Nnanna, “most people know that reading consumes time, needs concentration, focus and with a sound mind. Youth of nowadays believe that goggle has most of the answers they can find while reading on social networks and the internet”.

But Tabitha William, a civil servant would blame her not-too-well reading attitude on health ground. William said “I don’t like reading because of my eye problem caused by my old age rather, I prefer to listen and watch television and listen to radio to update myself on information about things happening around me” she said.

Contributing to the topic, Abdullahi Hashim Minna, a military officer residing in Karu, Abuja would rather blame parents for being responsible for the dying reading culture in the society.

Minna informed that parents are too busy running after things that will keep the home going. “In short, they don’t have time to encourage their kids to read because they comeback from work late when children are already asleep.”

He maintained that lack of effective library has killed the desire to assess books and that poor school calendar do not include reading times in their time table stressing also that inadequate power supply has discouraged people from reading.

Mercy Bulus, a student of University of Abuja, who lamented that most books now misinform readers instead informing on right subject stated that people find it difficult to read because things are not working based on what they read in the literature.

“For example, we the students no longer read to understand or learn but to pass in examination. This occurred due to the fact that some lecturers always demand the students to give them back their words. It is known as garbage in garbage out (GIGO)”.

This does not encourage students to research and read more books to their knowledge rather to read to pass their examinations. It is a practise that will never allow the student to learn from the critical analysis of their own experience.

From the foregoing it is obvious that people find it difficult to read because of lack of planning, other activities use to take more of their time making them not to devote their time in reading. Social media has taken over reading, people especially the youth which influence them to watch rather than read.

But the fact is that, lack of readability among the youth and society lead to the failure of education individually and the country in whole. There is need for the nation to develop the habit of reading or learning for better tomorrow as there is a nexus between literacy and economic prosperity.

Today reading culture is gradually dying down with its consequences showing clearly in the falling standard of education. In a study carried out in 2011, it was revealed that 40 percent 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 percent of successful men and women in Nigeria read one non-fiction book per month. The same study showed that 30 million Nigerians have graduated from high school with poor reading skills. Some Nigerians may not read because they are not working in the right field(s). If regular reading and studying is a required condition of your job or profession, this in effect means you read, even if it is under duress. The magnitude of this problem jeopardizes the future of our public schools. What is most frustrating is that much of this reading problem can be prevented if government, libraries, and teachers apply what

is known as reading instruction or techniques. The vast majority of the world’s information today is not digitized; it is in print form, mostly in books. Reading per se among young adults is not exactly on the wane, but the delivery mechanism has changed Peoples Daily gathered.

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