It was indeed refreshing to learn from this newspaper that the government through the Ministry of Education has almost completed the massive distribution of text books to schools. The exercise is described as massive due to the switch from French to English as a language of instruction.
This created a surge in the need for English language textbooks which were very few and in many schools non existent. This exercise will definitely go a long way in addressing the problem of scarce reading and teaching materials in schools.
Apart from text books, the problem of a reading culture remains one of the biggest challenges faced by the education sector in Rwanda. To address this problem a concerted effort from various stakeholders is needed. There have been several campaigns and efforts to this end but more needs to be done.
No amount of investment in the education sector can replace the value of loving to read. Precisely, the love for reading is actually the love to seek knowledge. People read because they wish to know more. It is a waste to teach those who do not love knowing. We have to start by teaching them to love seeking knowledge through reading.
The problem of a vibrant reading culture is not unique to Rwanda and we ought to find out how other countries are trying to deal with it directly or indirectly. For example, in some countries, street booksellers are given space and tax incentives in order to boost the reading culture.
At the beginning of the year it was reported that the first public library being constructed adjacent to the American Embassy in Kacyiru would be ready for use by April. We are now already in August and we continue to wait for the library to operate.
Even without a public library, there is a lot that can be done to improve the situation especially if several small steps are taken. About two weeks ago, I had an interesting discussion with an American friend called Heather Padilla who is so determined to help by gathering used books in the US and sending them to Rwanda.
Her objective is to have the books in the hands of random individual Rwandans that love to read as opposed to sending them to libraries where they more often than not, just end up on shelves gathering dust. She strongly believes that the move will go a long way in making reading a cool hobby and thus endear it to more Rwandans with time.
It is also a proven fact that parents and guardians stand the best chance when it comes to nurturing a reading culture. Most of the adults who love reading will point to their parents as the source for that love. Personally, I am grateful to my mother who always asked me to read to her stories that appeared in the newspapers she brought home each day.
Parents with young children should start by reading them bedtime stories and asking them a few questions to ensure they are following and showing interest. Regularly buying easy-to-read books (as opposed to text books) for your children can also help a lot. The non academic books help to inculcate the culture of reading as a hobby as opposed to reading for the sake of exams.
And by the way, efforts to develop a reading culture need not be only about books. For example, if you are driving with your children, why not ask them to read the various sign posts and billboards by the roadside and explain the messages where possible. Such a small step can mean so much in developing what I call ‘micro reading.’ This to me is the urge to read anything written like notices and billboards.
It is now holiday time and time for parents to play their role in developing the reading culture of their children.