As a viable way to literacy, reading liberates both an individual and society at large. It molds people into dependable, reliable, and innovative citizens.
In the past, I used to see a young girl, who rode in the same school bus with me, reading a book every day during the bus journey.
Out of curiosity, I once asked her, “How long does it take you to read a 500-or so page book?” She replied, “Two or three days.”
As a book lover who needs one or two weeks to finish such a book, I was astonished at how fast this fifth-grader could read books that are as long as Harry Potter’s novels.
When I travel to Gisenyi, in Western Rwanda and every time I go to the beach, I see foreign tourists reading books while they sunbathed; books seemed to be their best companions.
I have some friends on Facebook, most of who place reading on their profile info as their hobby. This passion for reading is not merely a hobby, it is a culture. Reading has become a cultural habit for many people in developed countries.
This culture is usually cultivated in the early stages of a child’s life. A mother reads aloud to her newborn baby. She continues to read aloud until her child is able to read by for themselves. This activity is believed to help the baby develop language skills.
Reading is a very important language skill because of the benefits an individual or community can obtain. In schools, good reading skills lead students to become successful learners.
According to Florence Otewa a Librarian at Adventist University of Central Africa, the skill to comprehend written language is very important in academic life.
“We read for a variety of esthetic and academic purposes; for enjoyment and relaxation; to get information; to develop skills; to follow directions; to find our way about; and to help develop an understanding of ourselves and of the world,” she said.
Reading also encourages people to become successful lifelong learners, as books can be enjoyed throughout a lifetime.
Reading stimulates people to be creative and innovative. Innovation results from the combination of ideas and concepts. The more we read, the more ideas and concepts come to mind.
Take Japan as an example: The high level of reading in Japan has made it one of the most innovative nations.
The need to establish local libraries or reading houses (probably at a sub-district level) is a matter of urgency. In fact, it may be argued that the low reading interest results from inadequate access to reading materials.
Let’s hope that the sight of more Rwandans reading books on buses, trains, at airports, and during recreation will be a common sight.