Once again, let me throw my weight in the demeaning reading culture among our people. From time immemorial, scholars have always attributed reading to a tool that enables anyone to be informed, entertained and even achieve academic heights in the case of learning. Reading adds to our existing stock of knowledge, builds the enthusiasm and skills for lifelong learning.
In a world where knowledge grows at a supersonic speed, we all need to catch up with the rest of the world if we are to remain relevant. They say ‘anyone who does not read books will soon be out of touch with the real world.’
Books are powerful vehicles through which ideas, opinions and attitudes are shared, transformed and disseminated. Most of us have grown up seeing books around us. At school, books were part and parcel of life.
School texts are read as a matter of routine and may never have stopped to give a thought to the power of a book. Contrary, a growing number of people seem take books for granted and so fail to see what a wonder a book is.
We have often been told or read stories of great writers and poets who influenced and changed the dynamics of our thoughts. These fellows obviously went through many grueling books to become who they are. Their biographies and autobiographies have inspired millions into their own dimension of greatness.
Unfortunately, as ‘Whatsapp’ and other social media platform become our sole sources of information, especially for our younger generation, the culture of reading has tremendously gone downhill. It is now necessary to develop a reading culture alongside gluing ourselves on these smartphones, or otherwise use them to read online publications.
Someone holding a newspaper, novel or set book is hardly to come by as it used to be while travelling, attending functions and so on. This trend as well is slowly depriving us future authors since he who does not read extensively cannot write creatively.
Leading world nations like in Europe and America are proud of their endorsement of reading and see the high level of literacy in their society as being one of the major sources of their efficiency and growth. Unfortunately, this is not the same observation in most of our African countries.
Rwanda for instance seems to score relatively very low in this area compared to its neighbouring countries. My journeys to Kampala and Nairobi always give me a chance to see how people crave for newspapers in the morning. Hardly would you find a newspaper vender on the street past midday in these cities as he or she will have no copy left. There is no doubt this is not the case in Rwanda- we somewhat have a poor reading culture.
Back then in 2012, in a bid to improve the reading culture, the US Embassy launched the, ‘Everybody Reads Rwanda campaign’ that was aimed at promoting the reading culture in Rwanda. The Embassy distributed 500 copies of a book titled, ‘A lesson before dying, something that was expected to bring a new dimension in creating love for books. Several other interventions have since been put in place for instance, the launching of Kigali Public Library. However, the results on the score card are still minimal since rarely do these libraries get visited by other readers apart from students.
We should acknowledge that readers are leaders and leaders are readers because there are always stories behind the glories. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body! Just as physical exercise keeps someone fit and healthy, reading is mental exercise that makes a mind to become exposed, fit and fresh.
To develop a reading culture, we must rise above only borrowing books to read, to buying books to keep. Books are tools that come in handy from time to time, and they are a good heritage to leave for our children.
Availability and accessibility of instructional and pleasurable books stimulate development of reading and attainment of permanent literacy. This not only include technical books of Chemistry, Biology, Physics and so on, but also other interesting story books that bring humour and other experiences that we may not find in other materials.
Rwanda has elegant values and strong unity that makes it very easy to adapt to any changing needs. We just need to sensitize our staff at work-places, students in schools or colleges, and colleagues in businesses to acquire an intrinsic positive attitude towards a reading habit.
A reading nation is an informed nation; we must consider reading as an essential leisure activity besides watching movies, swimming and also understand that poor reading habits directly affect our children’s performances at school.
Let us inform the present generation on the advantages and significance of reading so that they develop the literacy skills needed to function effectively in their contemporary world. Of course, reading culture is a valuable asset which improves human capital, boosts thinking for more innovations and creativity.