There is this widespread belief that Rwandans have no reading culture, which is a bit of over stretching a myth.
The problem was that for a very long time, there was little access to books outside the classroom. Until recently, there was only one bookshop to speak of; Librairie Caritas run by the Catholic Church which had very little choice of reading material outside religious publications.
Until the early ‘90s, there were only two Kinyarwanda newspapers but few could afford them on a regular basis. But once a copy was available, it could be read by a whole village. So as people waited for their turn to have it in their hands, the radio was their only option.
Today it is a completely different matter; apart from having a multitude of publications to choose from, the advent of the mobile phone has tipped the reading scales. Every where one looks, someone is bent over their phone busy taking in the latest news or gossip.
But the “reading culture” truly is alive.
It was quite a breath of fresh air to see – during the launch of a reading campaign – a seven-year author unveiling his book on the proper usage of Kinyarwanda. Who could have asked for better proof that the future of reading is in very safe hands?
What writers have to do now is to exploit the current technological advances and create more content, preferably in the local language. Otherwise the audience is there and will continue to grow.