Reading culture: Parents must be partners and not clients to schools

It’s assumed that perhaps one of the underlying causes of our poor reading habits is entrenched in our cultural morals because we are an oral society.
Stephen Mugisha
Stephen Mugisha

It’s assumed that perhaps one of the underlying causes of our poor reading habits is entrenched in our cultural morals because we are an oral society.

However, this argument might not be convincing enough because if we have evolved to embrace other values which were not part of our culture, why haven’t we embraced the culture of reading as well?

There could be various answers to this rhetoric question depending on one’s perspectives.  But one of the actual causes why a reading culture has remained elusive to the majority of Rwandans could be found from Steven Pinker’s own words.

He said thus “babies are born with the instinct to speak, the way spiders are born with the instinct to spin webs. You don’t need to train babies to speak; they just do. But reading is different.”

Reading is different indeed! It’s different because reading is a value/habit that is formed overtime right away from childhood through adult life. It is a long life learning activity.

The words of Emilie Buchwald the award-winning children’s author confirms that a reading culture is a long life experience as she puts it “children are made readers on laps of their parent”.

From this quotation by this literacy expert it’s apparent that parents have a unique opportunity to provide a nurturing and motivating atmosphere that fosters their children’s intrinsic desires to read and write in an informal setting.

Consequently parents have the primary responsibility to facilitate their children’s growth as readers and writers, in order to increase their opportunity to become productive and informed citizens of the world.

 In addition research shows that as children’s first teachers, parents also play an important and primary role in showing to their children that reading and writing are important and worthwhile activities.

Also what is unknown to most of parents is the fact that we should be co-teachers. Therefore as co-teachers we are supposed to track and follow up closely academic progress of our children beyond providing scholastic materials.

So, between “business” and partnering with teachers and school administrators for quality and solid education of our children, parents have a choice!

As such, as mentioned already parents should lay a solid groundwork for their children especially when it comes to developing reading and love for books.

Current research works show that children benefit from their parents reading for them stories which make them good listeners and good readers. When parents read a story, their “accompanying verbal and nonverbal behaviors convey important instructional and affective messages about reading” (Baker & Mackler, 1997).

When parents read expressing enthusiasm and enjoyment while reading or discussing literature, their children build positive attitudes about reading and value for books.

In fact, the motivation children have towards reading is strongly affected by the beliefs, values, attitudes, and expectations their parents have about literacy and books.

 I will conclude this article by thanking parents who make efforts to partner with teachers and school administrators to promote and track academic progress of their sons and daughters.

I also wish to thank those institutions and organisations which have realised the vacuum of the poor reading habits and moved in to fill up this gap! However, given the extent of our poor reading habits which stem from our oral nature, there is a strong need for vigorous campaigns to promote reading.

The role of parents in promotion of a reading culture and the whole education process of their children must be visible-parents must be seen as partners in education process of their children than being clients in this regard. We must always remind ourselves that quality goes with price.

We shall not attain quality education by only lamenting, as parents we need to go beyond providing school fees and other scholastic materials, let us be partners and get involved in education process of our children.

We have got to pay the price before we get the prize-the price here is getting involved! As Abraham Lincoln once said “the things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I haven’t read.”

The writer is an educationist, author and publisher.

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